In the first issue of event.Handler() we spoke about the different types of developer events. Today, we’re going to look at running your first meetup.
For the basic meetup you need the following ingredients:
- A reason for people to gather
- A time and place for those people to meet (in person or online)
- Some tasty content
First you need communicate your reason for people to gather clearly in your meetup’s name - this is often a specific technology (CSS, Ruby, Kubernetes), social cause (Environment, Access to Tech), or a demographic (Women in Tech, BAME People in Tech). This is often coupled with a specific region - people are both less likely to travel for these more casual events, and want to meet others near them.
Next day of the week you plan to run your event on. Fridays are often the day where people already have social plans (or just want to get home to their families). Monday’s are hard for many folks. Tuesdays through Thursdays seem to work better, in our opinion.
You may want to spice up your meetup by offering some extras like food and drinks. Providing food has become a common feature of tech meetups but don’t feel obliged to - this is a nice to have. Either way make sure to communicate with your attendees what the deal is. If you provide food make sure to factor in dietary requirements of your attendees (ideally by asking on registration). Try to think about breaking out of the ‘beer and pizza’ mould by providing non-alcoholic drink options and food which is a bit healthier. In fact, many people in our networks prefer events which don’t provide alcohol at all.
For a little helping hand with creating the perfect meetup, reach out to the local tech community. Many companies have offices with event spaces and may be happy to host your group. Make sure to ask with plenty of notice and work with them to create a lovely experience for attendees. They’ll often want a few minutes at the start of the event to make themselves known and talk about their business, but that’s a small price to pay for a good event space. They may even be willing to fund the food and refreshments.
We’ll talk more about content, food and venues in future issues.
Now combine your reason for people to gather, time and place, and tasty content together and serve up your delicious event announcement. Voila - chefs kiss.
Now consider your content, whilst having talks isn’t necessary if your meetup is more about networking, we advise a dash of content to help draw in your audience. Usually this can be achieved by two or three talks of interest to the audience. Talks also provide a great topic of conversation during the networking portion.. Keep an eye on who is speaking and make sure you have an inclusive lineup of speakers.
The final step is to arrange a place to run your event. An in person venue should be easy to find and fully accessible. The ideal place will have a space for people to listen to talks (preferably with comfortable chairs for everyone) and a space to network. Your job is to create a welcoming environment for people - so make sure any background music is at a suitable volume, that people know where the facilities are, and they can easily leave if they need to.
Whilst the basic recipe of putting together a meetup is probably one of the more lighter event organisational tasks, it is not without challenges. You’ll still need to do some prep work before cooking up your event, here’s our recommendations for the things to think about to make your meetup as successful as possible.
Find your Audience
If your network isn’t already filled with people who will be interested in your event, this is probably the most difficult bit of setting up a new meetup. Get in touch with other local groups to see if they’ll promote your event to their audience, and consider using a platform where people are actively searching for new events to attend (like Eventbrite or meetup.com).
When considering how many tickets to make available (and your food order) be aware that 30-60% of those who register won’t turn up. This exact percentage will be different depending on your region and audience - ask other local organisers about their experience with this.
Decide the Frequency
Make sure you are confident about how often you’ll be hosting your meetup and communicate this clearly to your audience, this gives people plenty of time to register. Note that a meetup can be a one off event and you don’t have to over-commit. Common cadences are monthly or quarterly, and we recommend opting for quarterly if you are just starting out as this gives you more time to organise content and venues in advance. Remember this is not set in stone and you can always change it later on!
Creating a Positive Space
Another important piece of preparation is creating an environment that is welcoming to everyone, this isn’t just about having an accessible venue. It starts with setting out your rules of engagement in a code of conduct, and making sure your attendees know where to find it and how to report an incident should something happen at your event. (We will be talking about these documents and processes in more detail in a future issue).
Checking in with attendees during the networking also helps maintain a welcoming environment, a friendly “hello there, have you met [other attendee’s name]?” can be a big help for folks that are finding it hard to join conversations.
Encouraging participation is another way to ensure a meetup is open and accessible; it is great when your attendees feel comfortable enough to step up and speak at future events. Be careful with this though, without an intent to keep lineups diverse you may find your set of speakers looking rather homogeneous. Speaker selection is a topic we have much to say on - watch out for this in a future issue!
A Final Word
Meetups are a great way to step into event organising, as they can be quite low maintenance and really wonderful ways to build a community around a particular topic. Remember it doesn’t have to be a flashy event, you just need the three core ingredients to make a start. Just like baking, you might not hit on the perfect recipe straight away so hang on in there and don’t feel disheartened if your first one doesn’t rise to the ocassion.
Like what you’ve read so far? Give us a share using https://handler.events or tweet us at @eventHandler_. We also want to make this as useful as possible, so if there is a topic you’d like us to cover, let us know.
See you in two weeks!
Kevin (@_phzn) & Amy (@RedRoxProjects)