Planning your first meeting
Below is a list of things to consider as you get ready to bring your data user group together for the first time. If you have the organizational capacity, consider assigning someone to be a coordinator so your meetings remain consistent over time.
1. Create an invite list
As we mentioned in guiding principles section, think creatively about your topic area and who might be interested in it. First and foremost, consider elected officials and staff in your city government. Consider all the offices that might have an interest in government data generally as well as your specific topic area. Be sure to coordinate appropriately.
In addition, consider community meetup groups, professionals in related fields, local businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions like universities and hospitals, and other city agencies. Put together a list of specific individuals to invite to join your group, in addition to members of the public.
2. Secure a space
Based on the number of people on your invite list, find a space to host your first meeting. Local libraries are often a great option for hosting a data user group meeting, but any neutral public space that's not connected to an organizational agenda will work. You will likely need tables, chairs, and space for a presenter. Consider a diverse range of locations that will expand the discussion to include new people and places. Be sure to also consider what time of day and day of the week will be most convenient for your participants, whether a space is accessible, and your IT needs.
3. Draft an agenda
Create an agenda to keep your meeting goals clear and the group dynamic flowing. Plan inclusive, low-tech activities, including group activities that keep attendees engaged as well as quieter opportunities to draw out individual insights. Introductions, show-and-tell, show-and-tell, guest talks, worksheets, and a sense of humor all help foster a collaborative atmosphere. Here's what WPRDC's user group agendas often look like:
- Review of last meeting
- Show and tell: what's new this month?
- Plans for coming months
- New data: focus on affordable housing needs, housing displacement
- Survey data
- Parcel map
- Proposal for reaction
- Ask audience to prioritize features
- Card sorting
- Road show: individual visits
- Research questions
- Data needs
- Challenges we face in working with data
- What do you want to learn
- Suggestions for us + next steps
If possible, share your agenda with attendees in advance so they know what to expect at the meeting.
4. Coordinate presenters
Are there specific projects you want to highlight at this meeting? Invite the people who worked on them to join you as presenters. Make sure to discuss your goals for the meeting with presenters beforehand, so they can share information that is relevant and focused.
Once you have all those pieces in place, get ready to publicize your event! It's generally best to start promoting it two weeks before the scheduled date. Consider creating a public notice on Eventbrite, Facebook, or other commonly used web platform. Send a personal note to everyone on your invite list and encourage them to join. In addition, if your city or organization has a newsletter or social media channels, be sure to promote it there.