Take Your Group to 2.0: Make It Personal

User Groups 2.0

One of the best things about being part of a Mac User Group is the sense of fellowship and camaraderie that comes with getting together with people of similar interest and enthusiasm. However, most groups get together only once a month for a few hours, new members join and group membership waxes and wanes. As a result, while you probably know the faces, the names escape you.

A 2.0 User Group leaders should make it a point to try to learn the names of as many people in the group as possible. Few things make people feel more welcome than when they are recognized and called by name when they arrive or leave a meeting, or are called upon during a question and answer session. It also facilitates the banter that is characteristic of a a healthy group.

If your group is going to survive, thrive and prosper, then you need to make it personal.

You could spend time trying to meet and chat up new and existing members and guests at each meeting, but that’s hardly practical, so take a cue from the major trade shows and give attendees of your meetings a name badge.

I can hear the groans from here: “Not name badges! They’re too expensive, they’re not cool, they’re hard to read, they peel off and end up on someone’s….ah…seat!” Let’s dispel each of those in turn:

“They’re too expensive!” Consider this an investment in your group, not an expense. If you get reusable name badges and encourage your members to recycle them each month.

“They’re not cool!” No, they’re not, but they get the job done. If you meet with resistance, consider having a “Membership Night” where you have everyone badged. They will more likely accept it at a special event and then you can integrate it into your regular meetings later. Or maybe you’ll decide that one “Membership Night” per quarter or even year is enough. Your call, but the more often you do it, the sooner you’ll get to know your members and they’ll get to know each other.

“They’re hard to read!” That one is in the eye of the beholder…literally. To simplify things, have the members print their first names only and encourage them to use all the space on the tag. (Be sure to use landscape orientation, to maximize the name size.) Better yet, if you have someone with excellent handwriting, see if they would consider doing the printing as the members arrive.

If you are truly inspired, use a merge program to print a roster of member badges from your membership database on paper or card stock and have them ready for your members to pick up. If you use that option, print the member’s first name on top and make it large (do NOT use upper case, please. It is harder to read), with their last name in a smaller point size on the bottom. (Hint: This might be used as a way to encourage expired members to renew their memberships, since you’ll only have printed badges for those in good standing.)

“They peel off!” Right. That’s why you aren’t buying the peel-off kind. Get a badgeholder with a clip: pins are not fun to handle in bulk and poke holes in clothing. Corded or lanyard-style badgeholders get tangled up.

One simple little change to your procedures can give you the ability to start to know your members by name and face, and for them to be able to greet each other at the meetings and elsewhere, rather than just trying to remember where they‘ve seen each other.

We often talk about how special and unusual the Mac community is, and especially the Mac User Group community. A big reason is the people who make it up and their attitude toward other people. That’s why a 2.0 User Group should experiment, adapt and make their interactions with and between their members personal.

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