By David Fekke
May 5th, 2021
A couple of years ago I wrote a post on Medium for the Node.js Foundation on how to start and run a Node.js User Group. A lot of people have read this post over the years since I wrote it and used it as a guide.
I have been running different user groups for several decades, and I currently run the JaxNode User Group here in Jacksonville, Fl. This last year has been the most challenging year so far for running the group. I wanted to share some of my experiences with hopes that this could assist others who are running or would like to start a user group.
March 2020 😱
In March of last year I received an email from the company that has hosted our meeting for the last several years. They informed us that they would no longer have any public events until they received CDC guidance that it was safe to reopen to the public. Around that same time Meetup.com, the site we use to advertise our meetings, added a feature to list a link for online meeting software like Zoom.
We did not meet for a couple of months after our location was closed to our group. At that time we were hoping that pandemic would go away after a couple months, but as we know now, the restrictions did not ease after a couple of months.
Last Summer we transitioned to using Zoom.us for our meetings. Our meetings are usually held on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 PM. We continued meeting at that same time and the same day of week, just virtually.
There are a lot of different software options for virtual meetings with different features and costs. Here are some of the options;
While all of these options are good for online meetings, they still lack the feel of meeting in person. For now, they will have to do until we can meet in a physical location.
Advertising upcoming Meetings
The ways we advertise our meetings has not changed that much during the pandemic. We primarily use email and Meetup to notify our members about upcoming meetings. The week before a meeting I will send a note out about the upcoming meeting. I then send out an additional email the day before the meeting to remind our users about the meeting. Since we started using online meeting software, we have also been sending out a message right before the meeting starts with the login information.
I spoke recently with the company that used to host our in-person meetings, and they are not planning on returning to the office until the Fall. Right now we are continuing to use Zoom for our meetings.
One of the requests we have had from our members is once we start in meeting in a physical location again, some would like to continue to meet online as well. We are fortunate because the company we host our meetings at is already set up to use Zoom in their meeting space.
One of the side benefits of using the online meeting software is we can now record the meetings. Since we started meeting last year I have been posting our recorded meetings to Youtube on our channel. So now any user that misses a meeting can now watch the presentation online.
Here is a Youtube video of our last meeting.
Meeting online is not ideal. I am happy that our users still have an outlet and a sense of community with our user group. The other nice thing about the online meetings is that users that do not live in our location here in Jacksonville, Fl can still attend out meetings. Please feel free to attend our next meeting virtually.