I am thinking about starting an area user group to discuss and share information on a variety of technology topics surrounding programming practices.
Any suggestions for finding attendees, space, sponsors, speakers, etc. - and managing all of this?
I run the London Java User Group and we did a number of things to get it started and then to keep it going.
It typically starts small: You, your friends, your colleagues. It's not hard to grow as long as you are willing to be 'social', which means:
Be very, very, very careful with this. I've seen far too many sponsors ruin technology groups. Make sure you get real value and not just get a mandatory sales pitch every month.
The list here is likely to be your local workplaces and your local vendors (oh, and book publishers). In all honesty, you don't actually need much sponsorship until you get to a certain size and/or want to hold sizeable events.
Once you get to a certain size you'll also find yourself simply having them almost arrive on your doorstep.
I'd start with a couple of people who have a very clear vision and a drive to make that vision succeed. Later on you can form a much larger group of associates that can help you run things (think of it as an open source project).
Make sure you're an efficient user of online collaboration tools. Google docs, mailing lists, Google groups, meetup.com, whatever.
Events you can hold are:
Hope that helps!
You need interest from people first. LinkedIn might be a good place for finding people interested in your tech in your area.
Your own colleagues and their personal networks might help too.
What type of speakers you would have may be a chicken and egg situation
Only then can you figure out space, and sponsors.
Universities/colleges nearby. Where I am, we already have these at the university. Perhaps a cooperation with one of those?