One fun way to promote your community is to consider what upcoming conferences, seminars, conventions, events, or meetups appeal to your community and represent an opportunity to attract new, high quality users who love this stuff as much as we do!
There are a bunch of ways the community team can support your events; to date we've done the following.
One simple method of promoting your community is to have a one-page color flyer available to hand out to interested folks at events. We've created a few of these already, both for public sites and for beta sites:
Stickers and T-Shirts
Of course there are Stack Exchange t-shirts, stickers, hoodies, bags, and lots of other awesome goodies in the Stack Exchange store -- and we're happy to provide any Stack Exchange swag you need for the right event. But we've been busy creating site-specific goodies for the top users on each site, too!
Naturally if you want to promote your Stack Exchange community at an event, you'd want site swag! We don't have it for every site in the network quite yet, but we're getting there -- you can browse all the metas for questions tagged swag to see what's currently available.
We've also begun creating custom business cards for each Stack Exchange site, mostly for the community moderators. We've been posting about it on each site's meta as we go. But these don't have to be exclusively for community moderators; if you'd like to promote your community at a specific event and you feel handing out business cards is the way to go -- just let us know and we'll get you set up!
Sponsoring the Event
We have also formally sponsored a few events, which not only helps subsidize the event for the entire community, but also lets us officially get the word out to attendees that we have these fantastic, high signal to noise Q&A; sites.
We can provide high-res versions of the logos of any site to place on programs, signage, and other sponsored items. We have a preliminary logos page set up, but if you need any other site art, just post on meta and we'll be happy to set it up!
In some cases, there are membership opportunities in related organizations which we can pursue:
We're happy to join groups to support the activities of these key organizations and underwrite the membership fees, as needed, of top users. Discuss it on your meta to determine what you think makes the most sense, and we'll try our best to make it so.
Sponsoring Community Leaders to Attend
Depending on the circumstances and location, we can also sponsor community leaders to attend an event on behalf of their site. We will subsidize your costs to attend, within reason, and provide you with a bunch of swag to use as an ice-breaker when introducing yourself. No, really! We've already piloted this with three community leaders from GIS, GameDev, and Security -- and we'd love to do more!
In return, we do ask that you write up the highlights of your experiences at the conference on your blog, or on your respective site's meta, so that others in the community can participate vicariously. Nothing giant, just 4-5 paragraphs is sufficient with anything cool you learned or particularly interesting that you saw, and naturally mentioning the sponsorship.
Also, during the conference, if you hear any questions (implied or actual) that would make a great question on your site -- don't hesitate to ask those questions on the site! Either in helping experts get answers to their questions, or even asking and answering your own questions. Whatever inspires and interests you at the event, try to turn that into a small public artifact that everyone in your community can learn and benefit from.
Anyway, no pressure, the main goal of attending is to go and enjoy yourself -- while spreading the word about our community a bit -- with a minimum of fuss from us.
Sponsoring Community Leaders to Speak
Now this one is a bit bigger ask -- but if you can speak at an event on behalf of your community, we're willing to go a very, very long way to support you in this. We call this program Speakers Bureau and we've posted about it on some of the top site metas.
Under a Speakers Bureau sponsorship, we reimburse immediately for the following expenses:
ticket to event
hotel room for each day of event
travel expenses (possibly even worldwide)
$75 per diem
In return, we ask that you give the talk dressed as a giant Stack Exchange logo. No, just kidding, we only require Stack Exchange face paint. But seriously, the point of the Speaker's Bureau is to show off your expertise in the field. Teaching and learning from your peers is what we're all about, and speaking at an event is a completely natural extension of that. We're happy to look smart by association with you!
How do we Get Started?
It's not enough to just drop a "We should send someone to a conference" post into meta and wait around for someone else to organize it. We've had some tremendously successful conference sponsorships, but most ideas don't go much beyond the suggestion stage. Here's what we recommend:
A meta post is the first step. It’s up to you to raise a discussion on meta to determine which conferences, seminars, conventions, events, or meetups appeal to your community and would be a good way to publicize how great your community is to people who love this stuff as much as you do, but have probably never heard of your site. Or Stack Exchange.
Do some research. What is this conference about? When is it? How many people? What are the costs involved? What are your opportunities for speaking, giving away swag, or otherwise raising awareness of your site?
Rally support. Bring your ideas to the community. Explain why "this is a good idea, we should do this!" Be really specific and persuasive, and make sure you encourage feedback and ideas. We'll be looking to this meta thread when deciding which conferences and activities are worthwhile.
Bring it to our attention. If the idea has merit and community support, ping us with the details and participants to email@example.com. It's up to you to sell us on your best ideas. The more details you have, the more likely we'll be able to sponsor your community and provide whatever support you need to make this event a great success.
And remember, please tell us about conference sponsorship options well in advance of the actual event. It is possible to scrounge things up last minute, but it isn't as likely that we can do something substantial if there isn't enough time.
If there's an event coming up that's interesting to your community, talk about it on your meta, and keep the above "menu" in mind to see what fits -- we're here to support you!