A while ago I was asked by a friend of mine in SoCal (Southern California) about how to start a user group. After answering his email I decided it would be nice to have it in a blog post, so here it is.
There are a lot of components to starting a user group. The biggest are location, time and theme and keeping them consistent. Consistency is important to a successful user group.
Your location should be consistent. It is OK if you are starting and trying to find a new place to settle in, but once you settle in, keep it that way. Try not to bounce from place to place.
The time you meet needs to be consistent. Have it at the same time of the month. Ex: 4th Thursday of the month, 2nd Wednesday. Try to keep in mind other user groups in the area (I know SoCal has tons) and when they meet. It is difficult for most people to go out more than once a week.
The theme should be consistent also. Are you going to be focused around Azure, C#, General .NET, Cloud, etc. See if there are other user groups in the area with the same interest.
Another thing to keep in mind is communication. Try to get a domain, Twitter, Facebook account all with the same name like SEVDNUG (my user group) so that people can remember it. In the beginning, you will need to send out a lot to build up the group.
Try to solicit help. Starting and maintaining a user group is difficult to do especially for one person. Try to get other people to help you.
Sponsors Getting sponsorship is hard, especially in beginning, until you have the contacts. Most local recruiting companies are willing to help sponsor pizza and such for a meeting. Most third-party vendors have contacts in their marketing department on their sites. They are always willing to provide SWAG. You can also check out the offers page on the INETA site.