At LeedsJS we've been lucky enough to have sponsors willing to offer up prizes for us to give away to our attendees. We've tried a couple of ways to give them away and I thought I'd write up a post to discuss them.
Where to get prizes
I guess this should be the first step, because you need to have stuff to be able to give away stuff. I know of a few ways to do this:
Ask companies to give you stuff. When I first got involved in LeedsJS I reached out through Twitter to one of the developer advocates at Google and after a few emails I had some Google merchandise to give away.
Get sponsors to buy you stuff. If there are companies interested in sponsoring your events, an alternative to getting them to buy the food or drinks is to ask them to buy some prizes. This could be books, subscription codes or software licenses, but that's something to discuss with the sponsor.
Conferences will sometimes give you a ticket to give away in return for a bit of promotion, so it may be worth asking. They will also sometimes have a discount code that you can make available to your members.
Ways to give your stuff away
With LeedsJS we've tried a couple of ways to give our prizes away.
Originally we started setting challenges around the main talk, so if we had a talk about Angular then the challenge would be to build something with Angular.
We'd get a couple of entries around some of the more interesting topics, but usually struggled to get anybody to enter. Ultimately we gave up with challenges because of this.
The current way that we're doing our giveaways at LeedsJS is through a prize draw. As part of the introduction to the event, I have a slide with a link to a Google form for attendees to fill out. At the end of the event I then run a script attached to the form that will pick a random entrant as the winner.
If you feel like this is the right approach for your group, then I have a template form that you can use to get started. The form has the script attached to it already, so all you have to do is make a copy, customise it to suit your giveaway and then share it. When you come to select your winner, click on the puzzle piece in the top right, select "Choose random responder". You'll need to auth with your Google account so that it can read the data. You can get the form from this Google folder.
Currently this form only asks for the entrant's name, but after a discussion with my friend and former co-organiser Chris Manson I may update the one for LeedsJS to ask for some feedback about the event/group too.