# Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Today I host my first meeting as president of the Great Lakes Area .Net User Group (GANG). I've been an active member of this group for a couple years and I've always been impressed with the way it was run. Still I had ideas about ways it can be improved and I've lately given a lot of thought as to the direction I want to the group this year. In this column, I'll share some of my goals for GANG for the year and discuss how I and my team plan to meet those goals.

Below are my goals for GANG for 2010

  • Get members more engaged and involved
  • Increase meeting attendance by 50%
  • Increase supporting membership by 30%
  • Continue to attract high-quality speakers
  • Increase sponsorship by 100%
  • Finish year in the black financially
  • Here is how I expect us to meet these goals

Goal: Get members more engaged and involved
For the next few months, we will give members an opportunity to present a Lightning Talk prior to the main presentation. A Lightning Talk is a technical presentation lasting 10 minutes or less. It gives the group a chance to hear a new voice and a new topic; and gives the presenter experience at public speaking in a safe and friendly environment.
We will designate 20-30 minutes prior to each meeting as "networking time". Food will be served during this period and members will be encouraged to meet and talk with one another. We will provide name tags to facilitate this networking.
Typically a few of us go out for a drink after each meeting. Going forward, we will announce this to the group, so that anyone is welcome to attend. Note that this is not a GANG-sponsored activity (translation: buy your own drinks and be responsible for your own actions)
Between each meeting, we are sponsoring a pair-programming session known as Motor City Codeslingers. This is a chance for developers to get together with their laptop and discuss coding issues or work on programs together. The next meeting takes place Monday February 1 at 6PM at Biggby Coffee House (26185 Evergreen Rd in Southfield)

Goal: Increase meeting attendance by 50%
Southeast Michigan has thousands of .Net developers and we are reaching only a small fraction of them. I believe we can increase our attendance by reaching out to the following groups: Developers active in nearby user groups; Developers in corporate IT departments; graduating computer science students; and independent developers. We are asking our current members to advertise their friends and co-workers to tell them about this group. I plan to contact local universities to promote the group to graduating seniors; and I have been reaching out to leaders of user groups in Michigan and Ohio, offering to promote their group in exchange for them promoting ours.
As an attendance incentive, we are running a promotion the first half of 2010. In June, we will have a drawing for a Zune HD. You can increase your chances in this drawing by attending meetings and by bringing guests to meetings.

Goal: Increase supporting membership by 30%
It costs money to put on a user group. Our dues are very low relative to other professional organizations. The renewal rate 2010 will be $40 per year. This is the first increase the group has ever had in its existence. If you are currently a supporting member, you remain a member at the until your next renewal date.
In the past, we haven't done a good job of thanking our members and reminding them when it is time for a renewal. We will address both these by including a slide in our presentations listing and thanking each supporting member and displaying their renewal date.
We also offer a new gold membership level for $100. This is for members who wish to contribute more to our organization. Gold members will be recognized publicly at each meeting.

Goal: Continue to attract high-quality speakers
This is something that GANG has always done well, so I have no intention of changing how we get our speakers.

Goal: Increase sponsorship by 100%
Printing, communication, web sites and food at meetings all contribute to the costs of running a user group. Most of this cost is offset by sponsorship.
Due to the weak southeast Michigan economy, sponsorship dropped off significantly in 2009. We have set an ambitious goal this year of doubling the amount of money and merchandise we get from sponsors during 2010. We have already secured two new sponsors for the year and look forward to retaining all our sponsors from last year.
This year, we will display our sponsors more prominently. At the beginning each meeting, a slide show will loop to announce the speaker, the topic, and the sponsor for the meeting. We will also have a framed sponsor flyer next to the attendance sheet during the meeting. Of course, we will continue to promote our sponsors on our web site and in our monthly newsletter.

Goal: Finish year in the black financially
This sounds obvious, but at the end of last year, we borrowed money to cover the cost of food at some meetings. As a result, we owed money at the end of the year. This year, we have decided to be more responsible: We have resolved not to purchase anything until we have money to pay for it. If a meeting has no sponsor, we may end up foregoing food or limiting ourselves to chips and pop.

And Now... Meet the gang behind GANG!
We have a great leadership team this year at GANG. No one holds the same position as last year, but three of our officers have served on the board in the past.
John Hopkins is a former President of GANG and is now the Vice President. His biggest project this year is recruiting sponsorships.
Kent Feribach served as Secretary last year and is now the Treasurer. In my opinion, this is the position with the most responsibility.
Gerhard Weiss is new to the GANG board but he has brought a lot of energy and fresh ideas to the group in the short term he has held this position.

So we hope you will consider being a part of this group and our goals. We meet the third Wednesday evening of each month at the Microsoft office in the Towne Center in Southfield, MI.