12 November, 2014

5 steps to organizing a meetup

For both beginners and pros a meetup around a subject can be a great resource. It's a wonderful opportunity to ask questions, share ideas, practice or work on things together and and of course meet new and interesting people.

Most people think organizing a meetup is a big deal, that you need to know a lot about the subject at hand and so on. This is most certainly not the case, and to illustrate that, let me simply share 5 simple steps to go through to organize a meetup.

1. Have a goal or subject

Of course, you have some idea of what the meetup should be about. Make it a bit more concrete: come up with some questions you'd like to get answers to, some things you find difficult, strange or simply interesting. This will form the basis under your meetup! Especially for a first meetup, a concrete thing-to-discuss helps both attract people and makes it easy on the spot to have a satisfying conversation.

A speaker isn't mandatory but it can be helpful if you find somebody who can introduce the subject, or do a little demo of the product/technology you are here for. Of course, you can easily do this yourself. It is no problem if you don't know the subject through and through, the others in the audience will certainly point out what else there is. You're certain to learn something new, and so will the others!

2. Pick a date, time and location

The practical things, then:
  • find a venue!
      Small is OK, you don't have to start big. A meeting room at the company you work forspace, universities and schools often have space and a café or restaurant isn't a bad option either.
  • pick a time after work. 7-9PM works usually fine.
      Friday nights are great for a release party or such but for regular meetups, a weekday is often better.
  • Make sure you have coffee, tea and perhaps cake.
      Don't bother with anything more complicated - you can always ask if people want to order food and arrange that on the spot. You can even ask people to bring something to drink or snack!

3. Find participants

The key to your meetup is simple: interest in something. For sure, there are others who feel the same and you just have to find them! Certainly you already know some people, and by looking for more you can grow a little address book of people to invite. Ask the people you already know to look for others! Other tricks include looking on social media, searching for similar groups and inviting people there.

Set up a facebook and/or google event page, maybe a blog and/or mailing list (google groups!). If you organize a KDE, ownCloud or openSUSE event - each of these projects have informational pages, mailing lists and other communication channels that can help you promote your event. Just click the links!

Don't set the bar too high - a meetup with handful of participants already makes for a fine first meetup! But if suddenly 50 people RSVP, don't worry - it just means they will keep each other plenty busy and you don't have to worry about content.

4. Have the meetup!

When people come in, welcome them and get to know them a little. If you're like me, you'll forget names at once but it might help to let everybody introduce themselves and why they joined.

Then do the introduction of the subject and ask if people have something to say on it, or other things they would like to bring up. Now you might feel there is a risk nothing happens, but believe me: this just won't happen. Bringing people with a similar interest together is all that is needed for an interesting conversation! Once the evening starts rolling, you'll feel you have over-planned and over-worried for sure.

5. Keep it going

After the first meetup, you need a line of communication to keep it up and running. There are different options - meetup.com is one, another way is handling it by hand with a wiki, blog, mailing list or google groups. In all cases, it is smart to put ask visitors at the meetup to write down their mail addresses so you can inform them about future meetups!

Getting one or more people to help you out is a good idea, too. They bring in their own network of contacts and interests. But at this point, you're up and running! I've blogged earlier about building a local community with more tips and ideas and you can find some other tips on the ownCloud meetup pages as well.

Have a lot of fun!