Running a user-group meeting on a hot day
It's 44C here today in Adelaide. Yesterday made it to 43.2C, and my lunchtime session of the Adelaide SQL Server User Group had its lowest attendance for a long time. There were a few influencing factors which I will need to learn from:
1. The heat. When the forecast says 41C and you're hoping that people will leave their air-conditioned offices to come to a meeting (albeit in another air-conditioned office), you're probably hoping for a miracle. Mind you - I'd happily be there today. I'm waiting for a plumber before I can turn my the water back on after a shower tap died last night. Once the water's back on, the aircon can come back on. Next time, I'll have to buy ice-cream for everyone.
2. The day of the week. We have recently moved our meetings from the second Thursday to the fourth Tuesday, for reasons beyond our control (venue hassles which are now sorted). So people will still be adjusting to that. Some people may have found that Tuesdays just don't work for them, other people will have dismissed the group a few years ago if Thursdays didn't work for them. Changing the days just doesn't work, and the sooner people get used to the new day, the better.
3. The public holiday. No, I didn't run the group on a public holiday - that would be crazy. But Australia Day was on the day before, which effectively made the user-group run on the acting-Monday. Lots of people will have been playing catch-up from the weekend.
4. First day of the school term. Most schools in South Australia started the new year yesterday. My boys didn't - they started today. In fact, Samuel came along to the UG (again - he's been to three or four meetings now), and even helped in a quick demonstration of Windows 7.
5. The presenter. I presented. I talked about PowerShell and SQLPS - showing the types of things that seem appropriate uses, and the types of things that don't really. I doubt that my presenting would've worked against the attendance much, but there is a degree to which people hear me speak and give the odd tip or two every month, and so wouldn't've been quite as keen as if someone were coming from interstate.
6. The short notice. I didn't end up advertising this meeting until very late in the piece. January wasn't that good a month for me - my back had been playing up (even spending half a night in Sydney Hospital when I was there), and I'd even spent a bit of time on Valium (which helps my back, but makes me fall asleep like an old person). I guess I'd been a bit distracted, but that's no excuse for not getting things done.
I'm sure that there were things I could've done to help my January meeting. Without shifting the day to something irregular, there was nothing I could do about the public holiday or school going back. I also think having me present was probably the right thing to do - I wouldn't want an interstate visitor to have the smaller January crowd. But yes, I should've adverised it sooner, and organised ice-cream. I honestly think that if I had've kept my eye on the weather forecast, and bought ice-cream for everyone, then attendance would've been better.
I've been to less attended groups before - but I've got used to having a larger crowd at the Adelaide SQL Server User Group than yesterday. Next year Australia Day falls on the 4th Tuesday, so that meeting will have to be moved. Oh well, can't win them all...