Want to start a new R User Group? We've helped dozens of local R user groups get established, and have put together these tips on starting a new group.
Step 1: Create a group on Meetup.com.
Visit meetup.com and create a new group, for example "Springfield R User's Group". It costs a small amount to run a group on meetup.com, but in our experience with other R user groups has convinced us it's worth the investment. Among other things, meetup.com helps you with scheduling a meeting and tracking who will and won't attend. It also provides you with a group mailing list and a place to store shared files (such as presentations). You don't have to use meetup.com, but recommend the service.
Step 2: Pick a date for an informal get-together
Your first meeting is easy to organize: make it an informal get-together, rather than a formal meeting with a pre-arranged agenda or speakers. You might want to arrange to meet at a bar, a coffee shop, the library, or similar public venue. The goal of this meeting is simple: meet other R enthusiasts in your area, and decide when and where to hold your first formal user group meeting. Meetup.com offers some good tips for setting up this initial get-together.
Step 3: Get people to your get-together
The next step is to promote your new group. An easy way is through word-of-mouth to other R users you know locally. Social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can also help. Do you have a local college or university with a Stats department? They may be able to provide a meeting area.
Step 4: Get together and organize
Now's the time when you meet with the other R enthusiasts who have signed up. Relax, introduce yourselves, and get to know each other. Find out what people want from an R user's group in your area. In particular, make sure you decide the following:
- Who will be the group leader / organizer (if not you).
- The date of the first formal User Group meeting. Suggestion: a morning or evening on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday about a month after your meet-up.
- The location of your first User Group meeting. Someone in the group may have meeting space available at their office, or your local library or community center may have meeting rooms available. Meetup.com has some other suggestions.
- The format and theme for your first User Group meeting. Suggestions: panel discussion, one long in-depth talk, a couple of shorter talks, open-mic "quickfire" talks
- Speakers/Presenters for your first User Group meeting. Someone from the group would be the best choice for your first meeting; later, you can cast the net wider for "guest" presenters.
- Logistical details: does the venue have a projector, or will you need to borrow/bring one? Will there be refreshments, and if so, who will bring them? Who can be a cellphone contact if attendees can't find their way into the venue? (Put there number on signs outside.)
- Financial details: decide if there should be a charge for the meeting, to cover meetup.com costs, venue costs, cost of refreshments, etc.
Step 5: Publicize your first user-group meeting
With the meeting theme and speakers decided, schedule your meeting. If your meeting is listed on MeetUp, we'll automatically list it on the R Community Calendar, and we may also mention it on the Revolutions blog. If you're using MeetUp.com, make sure your group is tagged with the "R Users Group" tag, to make it easier to find.
Step 6: Seek Sponsorship and Donations
Microsoft offers sponsorship to data science groups, including R user groups. You can apply for sponsorship for your new group, to help pay for meetup.com dues or provide refreshments to your members, and receive goodies to help promote R and your group.
You can also ask for donations from your group members to help pay for costs. You can charge membership dues or for individual meetings, but we recommend simply asking for donations from members to help fund the group. If you're using MeetUp, you can receive donations via PayPal from your group's page.
Step 7: Run your first User Group meeting
Good luck, and enjoy meeting and interacting with R user groups in your area!