How I plan a new meetup
I organize a lot of events and I think it is so much fun! It is fun bringing people together about topics that you yourself are really passionated about. Working online and collaborating is awesome, but when you meet people face to face and can share stories that is even better.
However, organizing events is not something that everyone does every day so I wanted to write down a few thoughts and workflows for how I organize meetups. I also wrote a little bit down why I like going to meetups here.
What you need for a meetup:
- a venue
- drinks & snacks
- a day to do the event
- social media
Finding a venue can be difficult and without a venue, the event can really not take place. You can skip some of the other parts but venue is the only necessary thing.
When your group is smaller companies may not find your meetup, so at the start, you have to reach out to companies and friends at companies you know. Location is also important, it needs to be in a central place that is easy for people to travel to. If people have to travel out of the city after a long day at work, it can be difficult for people to get there on time.
It can be a good idea to reach out to companies and get to know them, creating community events is something long term and creating good connections can be really valuable long term. It is a lot easier to host a meetup at a company you have hosted before, you know the entrance, the setup and all.
Beware of hosting a community at the same place, part of what I see a good community meetup is getting to see new places. If you host a meetup the same place too many times it is easy for people to get accustomed to it and take it for granted.
Drinks and snacks
Providing something to drink and eat at a meetup is a nice way. It depends on what time the event is at. I like that the meetup is after work, that it starts at 5:30 pm. It is enough time that people can leave work and not be late, but still early enough that they don't need to go home before going to the event.
So after work, it is nice that there is something to drink so the attendees don't become thirsty. Something to eat is also nice, it is not necessary but makes for a nice relaxing event.
It is great collaboration if the company that can host the meetup can sponsor the event. Companies want to sponsor tech events if they are looking to hire developers, but it is a really fine line as you don't want to turn the event into a recruiting event. I try to be honest when I tell companies how I see it and what I think is okay regarding promotion of job posts, everything is best nuanced.
Ordering pizza's can be easy as it is easy to be delivered and often don't break the budget. It can sometimes even be done at the event when you know who many people have shown up. Do know that Pizza restaurants can be unpredictable when they actually show up, I have a plan of writing a machine-learning algorithm to calculate how far advance you have to order them.
Finding a date for the event
It can be difficult to choose a date to do an event, it needs to be far enough in the future that everyone has time to approve it. I have tried organizing events too far in the future, but it is mostly the other way around.
Organizing an event 3 months in the future does take some serious personal calendaring personally when you normally plan week to week haha!
In Denmark Monday to Thursday is best, Friday people are often busy and weekends people spend with their families.
I try to put up the meetup 1 month in advance, it is enough so people can start putting it in their calendar. Less than 1-week notice and people don't know that the event actually happened. Announcing it 2 weeks before is kind of ideal for the majority as people usual can determine with high certainty if they actually can participate. If people press "attend" 2 months before the event there is a high chance they will forget about it and don't show up.
Finding speakers for events can be a fun challenge, it is about being available and open if people ask if they can give a presentation, but also about reaching out to people you know and don't know yet and asking if they want to come and talk about something they are passionate about.
This is here where the more focused your meetup group you help organize is, the easier it is for people to understand why they should speak at your event, however, if it is too focused it can be difficult to consistently find speakers that speak just about that particular topic.
It often becomes really a drag to organize a meetup after the first 3 months, after you have asked the people you knew to give a presentation, but continuing after 3 months is where the value really begins to kick in, the consistency in a community is highly valued and continuing putting work into it is highly appreciated by others in the long term.
There are also other formats of meetups, some cater better for smaller groups than large ones. It can be difficult to do a workshop with 50+ attendees unless you have a really big location with enough space for people to bring their laptop.
Workshops also work best if there is a few to help with the workshop topic. It is a lot of work but also a lot of fun! Helping somebody with learning something new that they may not had the courage jumping into alone is such a great feeling!
Social media - spreading the word
If people don't know that your event is happening people can't attend it really so it is important to share your event on a few relevant platforms.
meetup.com is a great platform, it doesn't give you many stats but what it gets right is that you can see who shows up to the meetup on the right column, a community is its members
facebook is great to reach people especially in Denmark where 90+% is using that platform daily. Facebook is great at showing you how many people you reach and it is easy for people to share your event with their friends.
Twitter used to be more popular in Denmark between developers but I think the majority of the usage has been taking up by facebook, Instagram and other instant messaging tools between friends instead
Your own website may not be the best place to notify people at the start, but it is really important! It is important because it is the only platform you are 100% in control of, all the other platforms can either delete you or your natural reach (where you don't have to pay) can dramatically decrease. Building your own community website is an invaluable asset and you can easily add a newsletter.