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First Time Attendees At User Groups

Several years ago during the first iteration of the Orlando SQL Server Users Group I talked a friend into attending. It was a small group of 10 or less most months, and we strugged for speakers. I had been probably 6-7 times when my friend attended and gotten comfortable - enjoying seeing new friends. When I asked her the next day about the meeting, the feedback was disheartening - we hadn't done a good job of introducing her to the group, the presentation was so-so, and nothing about the visit made her want to return. Does that suck or what?

That lesson has stuck with me, so when we reformed the group after a hiatus last year I've tried to work extra hard at greeting everyone and asking who was new at each meeting. Probably I could still do better, but it's better than it was before and it's fun to see people return a second time.

But there's always another lesson. Recently I had an email from someone who had heard about our group and wanted to know what to expect. That's really an incredibly good question. We're all human, and as humans the majority of us are nervous about new social situations. I emailed back the format of our meetings, details on the food, and asked them to be sure to say hello to me when I arrived if I wasn't the one that greeted them at the door. Our new person did show up for the meeting, we got to talk briefly, and at the end of the meeting I checked back to see if we had met the expectations I set in email, and clearly we had in his view, so I'm hoping we'll see him again.

So one task is to get something on the web site that better sets expectations, and I'm even thinking of a special raffle or gift for first time attendees. Another - harder - is to get our regulars to learn that lesson too, and change their approach from 'come see the great technical presentation' to 'come meet a great group of SQL professionals'.


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


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