2010 is certainly turning out to be the year of the meetup – particularly in Australia. If you’re a little unsure of what a ‘meetup’ actually is or involves, taking the literal meaning: a face-to-face encounter/connection from your average dictionary sheds the obvious light. Basically, it’s a gathering of people who come together to connect over a shared cause or passion – or even just for social purposes. Often attendees have never met each other before and usually there isn’t a charge for attending.
For those interested in starting a meetup of their own, I thought I would share some of my insights and advice from experience. Believe me, it’s very easy to start a meetup – the net is an amazing facilitator and there are practically no barriers to entry. The difficult part is running a meetup consistently over an extended period of time, offering unique experiences in a cluttered space and championing people to keep on coming back. There are a lot of organisers around Melbourne that do these things very well!
So, without further ado:
10 Meetup Organising Tips
1. First of all, starting a meetup is often the logical and organic progression of discovering a want or need that isn’t currently being met in your local area. Do you want to hang out with a bunch of people who knit? Do you want to swap comics? Do you want to chat business techniques with other freelancers? Do you want to meditate with others? Find the area you’re passionate about as your starting point. If you start your meetup for any other reason (e.g. self promotion or making money), people will see through it and are likely to not go along.
2. Research, research, research! Once you have your idea, check there’s not already a group out there doing exactly the same thing. I’ve witnessed people double up countless times because they didn’t research properly and it’s always better to work together than fragment further. This will also save a lot of time and energy in the long-term.
3. If you want to launch a ‘competing’ meetup – don’t! Well, that’s not always true… unless the pre-existing meetup is being poorly organised or isn’t servicing particular localities within your city/area – go for it! Often offshoots spring from the original meetup because the demand increases or the commute is too great for some attendees. This is completely natural and fine.
4. Build a community online first. As obvious as this sounds, to host a meetup – you need people! You need to find these people, connect with them and reach out to them with the idea of getting together offline. Don’t just whack a date in an online event program without building the community first. You need to breed and seed!
5. Use your tools wisely and don’t be tool myopic. By tools, I mean the tactical execution of media channels used – largely social networks. I recommend using a variety of them to reach your community. As hard as it may be to believe, there are a lot of people who don’t use Twitter, Facebook or even the web in general! Consider your audience – for instance, if you want to start a hiking or walking group, try reaching out in your local community newspapers or noticeboards first. Then encourage the group to communicate via online channels.
6. Make your meetup regular! Of course, you’re welcome to meetup only once but the real benefit of holding a meetup is to allow people to build amazing, ongoing relationships. This takes time and repeat encounters.
7. Have good intentions. I mentioned this briefly before, but starting and running a meetup is done on sweat equity – on passion. You’re welcome to make a meetup sustainable by charging an attendee fee if you have costs, but it’s rare that your community will allow you to monetise them for your gain. Especially without their knowledge or consent. If you want to make an income, consider running more of what I’d call ‘monologue’ style events. You provide a good or service to your audience that they deem valuable enough to pay for. As meetups are often about the ‘dialogue’ between group members, the value proposition is dispersed and therefore not necessarily owned by anyone.
8. Be inclusive! Successful meetups are open. Successful meetups want new attendees. Successful meetups want to expand their community. It’s amazing what effect the simple phrases: “all welcome” and “open invite” can have an a person. I’ve often not joined a meetup group or attended an event, because I felt the ethos was too exclusive. If you want to hang out with a group of mates – don’t promote the meetup or even call it a meetup for that matter!
9. Attend your meetup consistently. A no brainer, but if you can’t find the time or energy to attend yourself – why would anyone else?
10. Experiment with the style and frequency. Socialmelb started off with a weekly coffee, however many couldn’t attend… cough… hated the early mornings. So, we then started doing monthly dinners and are now trialling weekly after-work drinks. We also joined forces with Mashable for Worldwide Social Media Day, which saw 160 Melburnians come out from their winter caves.
Above all, have fun and be grateful for the opportunity to connect with awesome, like-minded people.
I hope to see you at your meetup sometime soon.