Organizer tips

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The OpenStack User Group HOWTO is intended to serve as a guide to founding, maintaining, and growing an OpenStack user group.

Starting a new OpenStack User Group

Based on the experiences gathered by other OpenStack user groups, like the San Francisco User Group, the questions and answers below will help guide you to creating a sustainable user group. We have an Ambassador Program, which you can ask for help for mentoring through the process.

Here are the steps to create a new OpenStack User Group:

  1. Contact your local Ambassador, they're here to help you through the process!
  2. Add yourself to the mailing list for community organisers.
  3. Check the User Group List to double-check there is no existing group nearby. If there is a group in your city, contact their organisers and offer to help. Note that some countries have an umbrella group that covers the entire country.
  4. It takes a lot of work to start and operate a user group, so make sure that you get at least one additional person to help you and act as a backup.
  5. Find your audience. Who do you want to attract to your user group meetings? Where do they live and work? What will their skill level be? What content do they want?
  6. Ask for more volunteers - many people are willing to assist with tasks like registration, contacting lecturers, hosting meetings, sending reminders, taking photos.
  7. Register a new group in the Groups Portal. Ensure you fill in the description and add all the details to allow your audience to find you. Once your Ambassador approves the request, add your co-organisers as administrators.
  8. Announce the new group on the openstack mailing lists and any social media that is popular in your location.

Working with different skill levels

Even though you may be an OpenStack expert, not everyone who comes to your group will be. Here are some tips for the various skill levels we've observed:

  • Beginner: If you want to attract new users to OpenStack then you will want to discuss the architecture and the basics of how to use OpenStack. There are many suitable presentations available online.
  • Intermediate: Developers and operators that want to understand how to make OpenStack production ready for their organization need a place to discuss setups, review and share topics like details on APIs, package installation, and configuration. You might teach new attendees how to use devstack, or hold bug squash hackathons for developers.
  • Advanced: Some groups tend to call this a ''devOps meeting''. The topics are generally about blueprints, advanced operations, or specific deep dive into part of OpenStack like Neutron. You may ask OpenStack developers for assistance with the advanced meetings, even if they can only present remotely.

Planning your meetings

A surprising amount of effort goes into making an informal gathering successful. Here are some quick tips.

  • Attendance: For free events, it's not uncommon that 30% of people who register don't show up, so plan accordingly. Track the no-show rate for improved planning.
  • Sponsorship: There are many vendors in the OpenStack community who are happy to provide space, food and drink, or money in exchange for placing their logo on your group page, putting up banners or giving a 5-minute pitch. Go through the list of companies and contact who you can in your area. If the company is serious about being involved they will help you out! Ask them if they can do a short talk on their company's involvement with OpenStack.
  • Food and drink: If you can afford it or have a sponsor, it makes the meetings much more sociable.
  • Promotion: Look for local sysops/sysadmin/network ops email lists or online forums and promote your events there to get folks along. Also write to the Heads of Schools of the University IT faculties in the area and invite them and their school along.
  • Content: Your topics will your different types of users who attend. Have a look at other user groups on the groups portal to see what they have done recently, or ask your ambassador for help. An interesting user story is always a good bet. Once you have an idea of content, you can contact potential speakers.
  • Location: This is critical part of your user group. It makes your life much easier if you can find a location that will be there long term. There may be a local function room that is under-utilized early in the week, or cloud computing companies in your area may have a conference room. Local universities, technical colleges or co-working spaces may also be interested. Check other non-OpenStack user groups in your city. And ask your friends, relatives and colleagues about other meetings they have gone to. Free spaces can be found basically everywhere in the world.
  • Materials: there are some basic meeting materials you will want to go ensure are present. White boards, projectors, tables and chairs are the basics. The location you secured may have a few of these things, but don't assume they do.
  • Other Venue Preparation: Consider after-hours heating or cooling, lighting, and security. A small room can get hot or cold, very quickly with the air conditioning turned off. Sometimes our security forgets the event and locks our doors.
  • Reminder Announcements: A lot of OpenStack User Group use Meetup to announce their meeting, since it automatically sends reminders. You can pick the tool you prefer to organize your events.
  • Afterward: keep the conversations going online after a meeting. In order to support those who couldn't make it this time, collect materials such as speech scripts, photos, video, and reports and make them accessible online as much as possible, Collecting the material immediately at the event works better than chasing speakers afterward. Write a blog post and share the materials.

Example Planning Schedule

This is an example planning schedule from the SFBay OpenStack User Group.

1. Establish dates and times at least 6 months in advance
2. Schedule speakers, assistants at least a month in advance
3. Schedule tweets and emails to go out 7, 2, 1, and 0 days before the meetup reminding possible attendees of the meetup.  Examples below
  * T-7 day 11:30: @[[OpenStack]] #OSSFO hackathon meetup happening next Thursday at #Yahoo Sunnyvale, RSVP via ow.ly/g2V3u, webex avail
  * T-2 day 11:30: @[[OpenStack]] #OSSFO hackathon meetup happening next Thursday at #Yahoo Sunnyvale, RSVP via ow.ly/g2V3u, webex avail
  * T-1 day 11:30: @[[OpenStack]] #OSSFO hackathon meetup happening tomorrow at #Yahoo Sunnyvale, RSVP via ow.ly/g2V3u, webex avail
  * T-0 day 11:30: @[[OpenStack]] #OSSFO hackathon meetup happening today at #Yahoo Sunnyvale, RSVP via ow.ly/g2V3u, webex avail
- Schedule an email to go out to the community mailing list with the same content
  * To: community@lists.openstack.org
  * Subject: [[OpenStack]] SFBay hackathon next Thursday
  * Body: @[[OpenStack]] #OSSFO hackathon meetup happening next Thursday at
  * #Yahoo Sunnyvale, RSVP via http://meetup.com/openstack, webex avail. More updates via @sarob
4. Book your meeting space at least 1 month in advance
5. Notify security about the meetup and so they can provide directions so
   visitors do not get lost
6. Order the food at least 3 days in advance. A good gauge is about 70% of the
   RSVPs actually show up. Better topics get a higher percentage turnout.
7. Prep the room about an hour before the meetup. Check the AV equipment,
  power strips, seats, food, drink, and white boards are ready to go. Setup
  the video camera, so you know where the static viewing area is. Line up
  the projector screen to be in the picture. Lay down a tape box where the
  speaker should stand. Dial into the audio conference line. If you are using
  webex or youtube, check for connection to the remote server.
8. Post Meetup: After the meeting, you can prepare a summary blog post with
   images, links to video, marketing updates for the OpenStack blog.

User Groups covering larger geographical areas

The exact spread of a user group, in terms of the area it covers and how it is managed, depends on the needs of the area and its cultural norms. Some regions value independence and autonomy (eg a city taking care of its own needs), whereas others prefer more coordination and sharing (a nationally coordinated group with meetings in multiple cities). This section aims to provide some examples of the latter:

  • Australia - Due to the sparse population, the group is centrally coordinated at a national level, with one group entry and meetup.com page. Local organisers in each city arrange events to post on the central page, and national coordinators help share speakers and organisational practices between cities.
  • China - There are leaders in several cities who organise the local meetup group there, and each city has their own group entry/meetup.com page. However, for national events such as China Day, and to help start and mentor new groups, leaders based in various locations come together to collaborate nation-wide. Some highly respected leaders are granted administrative rights over the meetup.com pages of the local city groups, in addition to the local organisers.
  • India - A strong national-level group helps mentor leaders in many cities, and organises nation-wide events like India Day. Local groups organise events and post them on single group entry/meetup.com page.
  • USA - no national coordination, each city has a completely separate meetup.com group and organising team. Coordinated loosely by ambassadors, using the Official User Group Process to avoid overlapping claims.