How to start your own AWS User Group aka Meetup?

In this article, you are going to learn about “HOW” to start and create your own, personal AWS User Group. You are going to learn about resources that will help you to get started and a few tips and tricks to get through the first few meetups.
The best thing:
These are all “real world” information that I’ve encountered myself in the last months when starting the “AWS User Group Bergstrasse“.

What is an AWS User Group / Meetup?

An AWS User Group – also known as “AWS Meetup” is a losely-coupled group of individuals that are intersted to connect, network, have fun together and…maybe…also talk a little bit about AWS, Amazon Web Services, Cloud Computing, Serverless, re:Invent and millions of other topics!
Usually, one to two “talks” (20 – 30 min, technical sessions) are presented in an event with AWS specific topics or experiences.

Most of the User Groups meet regularly in a 4-8 weeks cadence. Pre-COVID19, the User Groups where mostly “in-person” events. With COVID19, a lot of the User Groups moved to “virtual” events and not all of the User Groups have re-started “in-person” events.

Why should you start an AWS User Group / Meetup?

AWS User Groups are a great possibility to build up your professional network, to talk to other people that have the same interest or passion that you have – for AWS, AWS Services or any other topic you are interested in.
In the User Group meetings, you will be able to learn from other builders or engineers in your area (or maybe also from further away) – and you will be able to share experiences and improve your day-to-day work.

Wait..there is more…

Usually meetups are accompanied with drinks & food!

…and if you, as an User Group Leader, do things right, they might be “for free” because you have found a sponsor or host for your User Group πŸ™‚

So how do you get started?

Just DO it!

Don’t wait or ask for permission.
Talk to your co-workers or maybe friends or other people in your network and the “Kick-Off” your User Group on a platform that you want to use to host your event.
I personally use Meetup.com and a lot of other User Group Leader do the same.
When you created you “public” group, start sharing and promoting it in your network on Twitter, LinkedIn or other channels.

Now, the users should start “registering” or “signing up” for your User Group.

Ideally, you would have a few people registered to get informed about new events by this stage.

After promoting your group, the next thing is to start planning your FIRST EVENT!

Your first event

Before inviting your User Group members to your first event, it might make sense to use a questionnaire with the “best day” to meet. I did that and got interesting results – so now, our User Group has chosen “Monday” as our “normal” day to meet.
Ask your User Group members about “interests” and “cloud usage” experience – that will help you to choose topics for the first sessions.

For your first event, the most important thing that you need is a location. Ask your employeer, a co-working space in your area or other locations that you can use to “host” your event. The AWS Community page has an FAQ that covers a bunch of additional ideas.

Don’t over-prepare -you can just get started “as easy as possible”:
– get “one topic” that will be discussed at the first event
– think about a “cool” way of bringing your members together – we did an “agile game” in our first event and that brought a lot of fun for all of us.

Cover some introductions in the first event, name tags, so everyone feels comfortable talking and approaching others.
But the most important thing is, as I already mentioned:

Just DO it!

Tips & Tricks for the first few meetups

Use the first event to find out the best cadence for your group and additional topics that the group members want to talk about.
We were able to find speakers within the group to talk about “starting” things and topics: AWS CDK, Terraform, Projen – the most important thing of these talks is to “start discussions” and get attendees to talk about their experiences as part of the “networking” session πŸ™‚

Our second event was in a “Biergarten” and 100% focused on a good networking experience and building relations – that was a great evening! πŸ™‚

Don’t over – plan, if you are able to secure the location for the next two to three events and have at least one speaker, you should be good to go.

Resources to help you

Me πŸ™‚ – feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or through E-Mail.

AWS Community Landing Page
AWS User Groups Overview
AWSCommunity Support E-Mail

…and tons of other very helpful User Group leaders on LinkedIn, Twitter or other channels.

What do you do next?

After you started your User Group succesfully, please LET ME KNOW – I want to hear about your success story and how I can improve this article.

I will also help you to get connected to the AWS Community Management team which will then onboard you to the AWS User Group Leaders Slack, will be able to support you with potential speakers, AWS credits and SWAG! πŸ™‚

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