Because running a small user group is a labor of love, we look for time savings wherever we can to get done what has to be done. Most of this involves meeting announcements. You've got to advertise the next meeting, and it helps if you can provide little things, like directions, for those who may be coming to the meeting for the first time. Here are the tools we use:
The PASS Provided Website:
Having a hosted presence is nice. It gives a place to direct folks to see the latest meeting announcements, to get slides, and to sign up for future meeting announcements sent via email. PASS uses DNN and so that's what Midlands PASS runs on. This is available for any PASS chapter and we've obviously jumped in with both feet. One other really nice tool that comes with this hosted package is the ability to send out newsletters. When we have an announcement, I can put together a formatted message and shoot it through the interface in a matter of minutes. The solution will even do asynchronous emails and the like, meaning it reduces the chances of being caught by a SPAM filter. This is typically how we advertise our next meetings and other events of important in our area, like the upcoming Columbia Code Camp in January.
EventBrite provides a great interface for providing information on events and tracking those who wish to attend. If your meetings are free, then there's no cost to use the service. That's really nice, because we can provide a landing page for a meeting announcement that includes clear information about what the meeting will be about, where it's at (complete with a mechanism to get directions to the place), and a way to track who is coming to the meeting. The latter is important when we are preparing to get food for the meeting. If you haven't looked at EventBrite, you really should.
Community Megaphone is a great place to announce user group meetings. It's also a great place to find meetings in your area. I don't know if we have picked up an attendee due to Community Megaphone yet, but the interface is very easy to use and sooner or later it'll pay off. If you're in a larger area, it may very well be beneficial immediately. It's another free tool to advertise your user group, the work required to use the site is minimal, so given the price and functionality, it can't be beat.
SQL Server Central Blog or Wherever You Blog:
Obviously, since I blog here, I also tend to post meeting announcements here as well. This site probably provides the most visibility to any meetings we have, albeit the audience is not primarily local to the Columbia, SC area. However, I know a couple of folks who have seen a post on here and have come to the meeting as a result, so wherever your blogging, make sure you announce user group meetings when you can. You never know who might be reading your blog that's local. One of those folks may not even realize there's a user group nearby.