Meetup Tips for New Organizers

watfordgap's picture

Meetup Tips for NetSquared Organizers

Starting a new NetSquared group? Net2 Midlands (and Net2 Ambassador) Paul Webster has compiled this helpful set of tips. You can download as as .pdf here.

The things they never told you in the classroom

Organizing a NetSquared Technology for Good meetup can be very rewarding, if a little daunting at first. But with a little planning, it can be a great experience! Here's how to bring together a room full of technology people changing the world through social good and nonprofit folks eager to learn more about digital tools and websites.

To help you, I've compiled this list of useful tips, tricks, and ideas for organizers using the meetup.com platform. They will make your task easier and your events run smoother. You can also find event templates and guides in the Organizer's Handbook wiki.

Before Starting to Organize a Meetup, Ask Yourself …

  • Do I know a community of inquisitive nonprofit people who want to find out more about digital technology and a network of technology people doing amazing things that effect social change? Can I find the intersection of these two communities and make some technology for good happen?
  • Do I have the time and commitment to make a meetup happen? Have I got friends and colleagues who I can politely ask or bribe with cake who share this vision?
  • Why do I want to run a meetup? Sounds odd, but is there a need for it? Has the community asked to meet with similar organizations? How can it help sustain existing work?
  • What's my goal? How many meetups do I want to run? How many attendees is a "success"?
  • When is the best time? Tricky one! Many meetups take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but the best option is to consult with your intended audience and go with what works for them.

Organizer's Handbook resources: http://organizershandbook.wikispaces.com/Set-Up

OK, I'm In! What Needs to Be Done First?

  • Organize a team of co-organizers — deciding on content, contacting speakers, sharing the workload, and planning the tasks are much easier if there are two (or three) people involved.
  • Add your meetup to the meetup.com website, even if you only have minimal information at this stage. Let people know the date — nonprofit people are busy; get the date on their calendar now.
  • Find a venue that fits the scale of your expectations. Small meetups are good; very large meetups can be impersonal with less chance for meaningful mingling.
  • You can edit the title that you refer to members as — if they are nonprofit superstars, call them that.
  • On the "About" page, explain what the meetup is about, including a very broad outline of the event and who the organizers are — don't leave people guessing.
  • What's this RSVP thing all about? Let people know in the description that this is the way that you reply to say you are attending — RSVP fits better on the button than long instructions.
  • Add more information as soon as you confirm it — venue, speakers, program, etc.
  • Use a hashtag for the meetup. Share it, tweet it, and advertise it on your meetup.com page.
  • Use the discussion section — try to keep the conversations flowing between meetups.
  • Ask questions when people sign up to find out useful information about their motivation, background, and email address — useful as a basis for segmentation.
  • Download member details to a spreadsheet — very handy.
  • Customize your page on meetup.com with colors, sponsor logos, and your own logo too — own it.

Organizer's Handbook resources: http://organizershandbook.wikispaces.com/Using+Meetup

People Are Signing Up — What's Next?

  • Use the "Announce" option for your meetup — let people know it's happening so they get an invite.
  • Ask questions when members RSVP to a specific meetup — find out about dietary or accessibility needs … or if they bring particular or unusual skills to the meetup.
  • If you need to, set a limit on the RSVPs, because you don't want to overfill your venue — but give members the option of bringing guests too.
  • It's a good idea to set email notifications to "on" for your personal meetup.com profile so you are notified about new members or RSVPs. You don't want to miss that important comment on your meetup when someone offers to supply cake!
  • Add your next meetup(s) to the website before holding the current one. That shows group members this isn't a one-time thing and gives them the opportunity to sign up, even if they can't make this meetup.
  • Find other sponsors: a local tech startup, the venue host organization, or a larger charity. Offer a two-minute speaking slot at the start of the event, flyer space on a table, and their logo on the meetup page. In return, ask if they will cover the cost of the beer and pizza or tea and cakes (maybe even both!).

Organizer's Handbook resources: http://organizershandbook.wikispaces.com/Locations-Venues

In the Week Leading Up to Your Meetup:

  • Confirm with the venue staff members that they're expecting you and the correct room and layout is booked for the number of attendees expected — there's "being social" with attendees and then there's "too cramped to move!"
  • Check catering arrangements are in place — it's thirsty work talking at a meetup.
  • Send out a personal reminder to attendees — make them feel special (you can do this from your meetup.com page).
  • Make sure attendees can find you. Arrange signage — you've included directions on the meetup.com page, but where do people find you within the building?

The Big Day Is Here. Things to Do During the Meetup:

  • Breathe. No seriously, this is quite important!
  • Greet attendees with a smile as they arrive and use the meetup.com app on your mobile to check in members. Ask new members who didn't register to sign up on the website — no more paper lists.
  • There's no right format for a meetup – however, we've found this works well for a two-hour event:
    • Mingle –> Welcome and Sponsor Slot –> First Talk –> Leg Stretch –> Second Talk –> Interaction (Hands On/Q&A/Small Groups) –> Lightning Talks –> Wrap-up and Notices –> Mingle –> Pub.
  • Thank your sponsors — they appreciate the love (and may take away the pizzas if you don't!).
  • Take pictures — you'll be happy you have them later.
  • Grin in a silly way — OK, you'll probably find yourself doing this anyway as you hear passionate people sharing their technology for good stories and see new connections and networks being built.
  • Thank your helpers and co-organizers — you don't want to lose your friends!
  • You don't want to scare people away, but can't run this alone. Ask for more co-organizers or speakers to come forward from your participants — you'll be surprised about the response you get.
  • Enjoy the meetup. Find time to listen to the speakers' talks; it was your idea and you invited them!

Organizer's Handbook resources: http://organizershandbook.wikispaces.com/Running+an+Event

After the Meetup Has Ended

(maybe give yourself until the following day to recover!)

  • Say thank you and good to see you to your attendees on meetup.com. It makes them feel special and actually it's their event, their chance to meet up and mingle.
  • Upload pictures; tag people in them if you have permission.
  • Try to capture thoughts and even a blog in the discussion pages of meetup.com. Ask other attendees to blog too, or to share their images, presentations, and handouts. Create a Storify record of the tweets. The event on the day is only a part of the story!
  • Get ready to do it all again. You enjoyed it so much this time; you know it makes sense!

There are also other useful ideas and tips on the meetup.com site.

  • The Help Center has all the answers — it really does.

Organizer's Handbook resources: http://organizershandbook.wikispaces.com/Documenting+Events

 

Paul Webster August 2016

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.