Jerry Nixon on Windows: It’s all free! Here’s $500 for your user group, and all the swag you want, and free Facebook advertising. No catch.

Jerry Nixon's blog

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It’s all free! Here’s $500 for your user group, and all the swag you want, and free Facebook advertising. No catch.

imageMicrosoft has a kind of love affair with its developer community. As a result, the Microsoft developer community worldwide is the largest and most cohesive community you could imagine. It was Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, who said, “Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers!”. That set the tone for the importance of and relationship with developers to Microsoft.


In Colorado, if you live far north of Denver you will find the Northern Colorado Microsoft User Group that meets in Fort Collins that Eric Liprandi coordinates. If you live closer in, there’s the Boulder .Net User Group that Ely Lucas coordinates. Downtown Denver has the Denver .Net User Group that Andreas Taber coordinates. In Denver’s Tech Center, there’s the Visual Studio User Group run by Chris Wallace. And down in Colorado Springs, Ben Hoelting runs the Southern Colorado .Net User Group. There are also SQL-oriented user groups, SharePoint, BI, Software Testing, and more. Communities abound in Colorado.


There’s also my Colorado Microsoft Developers Meetup where I keep a calendar of all the Microsoft-sponsored events in the hopper.

Volunteer Leaders

No community in any location is possible without community leaders tirelessly working to support and organize their local, Microsoft developer communities. Someone has to work out the venue, locate some swag, get funding for food, recruit speakers, host the evening, and so much more. If you have enjoyed a community event, those volunteers deserve your support and gratitude for their contribution. Sometimes we take them for granted.

Microsoft Technical Community

The ways in which Microsoft supports local communities has varied through the years. Today, it’s 100% through technical communities (MSTC) and your local developer evangelist. MSTC is a site where community leaders can “register” their community group and schedule their monthly or special events. MSTC rewards community events with $250 sponsorships (twice a year), gobs of swag (for every event), and Facebook or LinkedIn marketing (for every event) – all 100% free. This sort of lush support helps simplify any community leader’s plate of work. If you aren’t using MSTC, you’re missing out.

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NOTE: MSTC is not just for Microsoft user groups. It is for any user group that has an event or two discussing Microsoft tech like Windows or Visual Studio. Even groups that may only have a single Microsoft-oriented event in the whole year. MSTC is for you.

The MSTC Guide

There is no cost and no “catch” to MSTC. We’ve put it in place as a way to help leaders get the support that makes them more successful. Having said that, sometimes specialty web sites can be confusing to use at first. But I don’t want that to be a barrier for any community. As a result, I have put together a step-by-step guide in the form of a PowerPoint deck. I have attached it below along with some of the common questions around each step of the process. After today, there is no excuse – you should be leveraging MSTC for your group.

Let me sell you

MSTC has the concept of a qualified event. It means you host an event talking about Microsoft products like Windows and Visual Studio. Twice a year, you can request a $250 sponsorship for a qualified event. For every qualified event you can request $100 of LinkedIn or Facebook marketing. And, for every qualified event you get 50 “points” that you can spend in the swag catalog – which has books, pens, shirts, mice, keyboards, and even the Surface Pro. 

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Let’s add that up for a typical Meet Up. Two sponsored events is $500 a year in money for venue, food, speaker cost, or whatever. $100 in advertising each month is $1,200 in annual advertising benefits. Then if points are worth about $.50 – which might be close – then that’s $25 per event or $200 in swag all year through. Add it together and it’s nearly $1,900 for your local, community group. And what does MSTC ask in return? Just register your event in their calendar – and in return your event will show up in the official MSDN, too. All for free.

  1. $250 food/venue sponsorship for any event 2X a year
  2. $100 Facebook/LinkedIn marketing for each event
  3. 50 swag points for each event & the swag catalog

In addition, MSTC typically has a special event or sweepstakes of some kind your group can take advantage of to earn money prizes or bonus swag points. Right now, MSTC is running the APPortunity Sweepstakes: “Publish a new Windows 8 or Windows Phone app, then enter the sweepstakes for monthly cash prize drawing of $1,000.”

No such thing as a free lunch

The reason there is no such thing as a free lunch is because, in the end, someone has to pay for every lunch. In the case of the MSTC lunch, you aren’t he person paying, Microsoft is. As long as your event is Microsoft-focused, then you are good to go. And if Microsoft is just a secondary or tertiary topic, those events can qualify, too.

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The purpose of MSTC is to make local, Microsoft developer communities more successful. But it’s also a benefit for Android groups talking about Visual Studio’s cross-platform compilation capabilities. It’s also a benefit for Hacker communities talking about Azure Websites as a free way to host their web solutions. It’s also a benefit for New Tech when they talk about the BizSpark benefit that gives free software to startups. MSTC is flexible.

How does this work?

Here’s a slide show that should get you through the site easy enough. If there’s anything I would give you insofar as advice, it is that MSTC isn’t an instant service. Everything you do will need some lead time. It might take a week or two to get your group approved. It might take a week or two to get your event approved and receive your sponsorship money. So, don’t wait until the last minute. Having said that, don’t avoid MSTC because every event you add to the calendar means you get swag credits to order fun prizes for your group.

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Best of luck!