Know Thy PHP User Group Know The Leeds PHP User Group (LeedsPHP) – “Choose A Sponsor That Is Actually Interested In Promoting PHP In The Community”

About This ‘PHP User Group Interview’ Concept

This is the #1st set of Know Thy PHP User Group in an attempt to create more awareness of:

  • what is $this PHP UG about + get to know the leaders/Founders/Community behind it
  • what is a PHP User Group in general
  • to personally know all the PHP user goups Around The World – that excites me and I hope you too!

This concept is also a good opportunity for new elePHPants to know about PHP UGs.

PS: Are YOU the founder or organiser of a php user group? Get in touch with me for a similar interview, contact me and/or make a comment below with your email. I’ll get back to you!

PPS: We have a similar concept for “Know Thy PHP Conferences

Welcome To The Leeds PHP User Group (LeedsPHP)

The Leeds PHP User Group (LeedsPHP)The Leeds PHP User Group (LeedsPHP)
The Leeds PHP User Group (LeedsPHP)

>> Could you, the leader(s), tell us a bit about yourself

Hi. I’m Craig Willis. I’m a PHP Web Developer based in Leeds, UK. I’ve been a PHP Developer for about 7 years.

>> What is a user group?

In my opinion a User Group is a place where people who share a similar interest can get together to share knowledge.

>> What is your User Group about?

I run LeedsPHP, which is, a PHP User Group aimed at sharing knowledge (ideas/code) in the Leeds and surrounding areas.

>> The exact place where this group resides

We reside in Leeds, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom

>> The web presence of this group

  1. We have a website:
  2. We have a Twitter:
  3. We also have an IRC Channel on Freenode: #leedsphp (come say Hi)

>> Your motto..

We don’t really have a motto as such, but everyone who comes down to our user group knows what we stand for.

>> What are the objectives and aim of this user group?

Our main objectives is to promote PHP in the local community. There are a lot of businesses in and around Leeds that have or are adopting PHP within the development. We aim to promote this by having a speaker each month, with a small discussion that aims to help. We like to promote from within the group in terms of speakers, some of which have gone on to speak at international conferences as well as bringing in speakers from outside to give the group new ideas.

>> When was it first launched?

We first launched in May 2010

>> Number of people in the group

As we don’t actively have a ‘membership’, we usually have approximately 25-30 who regularly turn up to our meetings each month

>> Could you briefly tell us about the key people behind this group and their respective roles

I am pretty much the sole organiser of the group. Although we do have a sponsor, Conex Europe who help out with the room hire and equally importantly, the food

>> Could you lay down some “daily routine” or functioning of this group

The daily routine usually involves finding speakers, making sure that events are listed on Twitter and the website and making sure that the venue has been booked. We will also be slowly rolling out a mailing list and making that a lot more active

>> How is the routine task dispatched among the team?

As mentioned previously, I organise the events. I source speakers, update Twitter and the website. Our kind sponsor does all of the other organisation.

>> How many meetups have been organised till now?

We have had a meetup every month since we started. We’ve even had a get together when the dates fell around Christmas.

>> How do you plan your meetups and what is involved?

The planning of the meetup usually starts the previous month. It usually invloves asking from within the group if anyone would like to do a talk. If no-one is forthcoming, I usually ask those who have done talks at nearby user groups. The good thing about the community is, that a lot of people are very keen to come and talk. We also get people who ask to come and do a talk, who may want more experience or may need practice for a talk that they will giving at another event/conference.

>> Frequency of meetups

We meetup every 3rd Monday of the month

>> The average number of attendees to meetups

We usually get around 25-30 attendees each month

>> The highest number of attendees to meetups

I think our highest was about 45 people. We were in a rather small venue and quite a few had to hang from the rafters so to speak

>> Do attendees comprise only members

I’d say 99% of our attendees are members. The other 1% usually comprises of our sponsors, who turn up every month. We do occasionally get other people from other groups in the region, who would like to promote their particular group/event.

>> How do you go about finding sponsors, what are the key aspects to successfully find sponsors

For about 18 months the group was sponsored mainly by myself. I wasn’t keen on the idea of charging a membership fee, as the group was always about giving back to the community, not taking their money. I was approached by several potential sponsors, but chose one who was actually interested in promoting PHP in the community (rather than their own company). If your members work for companies, then there is always the chance to ask them if they would like to sponsor. Every little helps.

>> Challenges involved in finding sponsors

The challenging thing is always finding sponsors who are willing to help out. Some may only wish to sponsor you for a particular month, so in that instance you have to find regular sponsors. The important thing for us was to find a sponsor who willing to sponsor regularly. Even if was just the venue hire.

>> Do you also organize conferences open to the general PHP Community?

No we don’t. We have 2 large conferences within 2 hours of Leeds. There is also a number of smaller events too, such as BarCamps that people can attend

>> On what criteria does the team select speakers, what are the key areas that you seek to select a speaker?

Our speakers have covered a wide range of topics. We try and keep each month fresh, but have at times had a theme, such as Web Services. Things that I look for are mainly; ‘Will the members be interested?‘, ‘Is the talk relevant?‘. The main thing for me is to try and keep people coming back and learning. We’ve also had lightning talks (4-5 short talks) which have given attendees a chance to talk about something they’ve been working on.

>> Rejection emails, how do you handle them? (softly or ‘to the point’ styles)

We don’t really reject talks. If someone wants to do a talk, then we usually discuss with them the talk content beforehand. If the talk is suitable, then we will schedule the talk into one of our meetups.

>> What unique opportunity does leading a user group, presents?

It gives a great opportunity to promote your user groups aims and objectives. It gets you involved in many aspects of the community. You get to know both the local community and the community as a whole.

>> How is it different from other PHP user group?

I don’t think we’re different from other PHP User Groups. We don’t really change our core ideas, i.e. we have the same venue and the same time. We meetup in a pub, as we feel that this is a more relaxed way of learning (plus people like to have a beer!). I think keeping things simple is key.

>> Things that it excels at, as compared to others

As mentioned previously, I wouldn’t say that we are any different to any other user group out there. What we do well though is having a core number of attendees who come every month. We always have a speaker, who does a talk and have a short Q&A session. We keep the format the same each month

>> Areas where it lacks as compared to others

I’ve not been to other user groups, so it will be hard to compare to others.

>> Lessons learned so far..

The main lessons learned so far is that organisation is key. There’s been many times when we’ve struggled to find speakers, had issues with projectors and venues etc.

>> How is organizing and running a user group different from organizing a conference?

I can’t really comment on running a conference, but both need organisation and structure. Both are time consuming and both are stressful, but hugely rewarding.

>> A mistake that you made and would like to share with us..

There’s no real mistakes that shout out at me, but I guess the whole organisation aspect. Making sure that on the day/evening of your meetup, that everything is ready. There has been times when things have gone wrong, mainly due to a lack of communication between all parties, so I guess that is pretty key.

>> Your message to the people who are part of the group

I’d like to thank everyone who has ever attended LeedsPHP, whether that be an attendee or someone who has come down and presented a talk. Without them, LeedsPHP would not exist. I’d like to thanks our sponsors for helping with the venue and food, again, without them, we not exist.

>> Any message to the external world?

The main message is, if you are in the area, come down. We are a small bunch of people, friendly and enthusiastic and all in the same boat; we all want to learn.

>> Any other things you want to mention/share?

I think user groups are a really good way of meeting like-minded people who, like you, want to improve.

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