One of my coworkers and I have been disagreeing about how to start a group [e.g. a community of practice or user group]. I say that it's incredibly simple--pick a date, a time, a location, and invite people. He says there's more to it and that I've oversimplified things. In the past, I've grown a fraternity chapter, started a local alumni club, co-founded a national alumni club, created committees, and grown user groups.
The truth is, the process is very simple, and the effort to create a successful group can be very hard. Here are four tips to starting a group:
- The invitation matters. Who are you inviting, and why should they care? Does it inspire their passions or curiosity? You're creating something new, and the invitation needs to find its way past a person's normal life and compel him to show up for something unknown to him. Whenever you can, make the invitation personal.
- Pick a good location. Consider a central location, parking and other logistics, noise and ease of finding you. Most of all, pick a place you like. You know you'll be there for sure, so at least choose somewhere you feel comfortable spending time.
- Be happy with whoever shows up. It might be one person; it might be five. Odds are, it won't be many at first. Be thankful to meet someone new. Whoever shows up is the right people. Get to know each person and connect. People join people.
- Don't give up too easily. It's difficult to create a new group, and the progress will seem slow--find a friend to attend every event with you. Remind yourself of the connections you've made with the people who have shown up so far. You never know who will show up next or when a larger group will emerge, so stick with it.
Am I still oversimplifying? Tell me what the other hard parts are.