Boosting attendance...?

Hallo! I’m one of the organizers of the Portland MoT Meetup, and I could use some advice from folks who have and are organizing meetups.

We’ve been having a mostly social Meetup for a while now. Attendance has varied between just the two of us who organize it, and at our largest, maybe 12 people.

What have you found to be successful at getting more people to show up? It sounds like there’s a need for how/what we are doing, and have been told so regularly, but it’s not bringing folks out.

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Can you tell us a little more about the meetup?

So venue/time/refreshments available (are they provided by a sponsor)?

The types of talks/things you have there?

Are there other Meetups in the area on other things, such as different software languages or Agile, that can give you an idea of numbers? That way you can see if it is a common thing to the Portland area, or it is specific to your Meetup and might simply need more awareness?

I’m in Portland (Hi Alex!) and have attended the MoT meetup several times. It’s free-form and held at a bar (everyone pays their own way).

There’s lots of big, tech oriented meetups. Probably the two closest competitors are the Software QA UG and the Rose City Software Quality Engineers. They’ve got 533 and 373 members on Meetup (compare to the 126 that the MoT group has).

I go to the SQAUG one regularly, which is monthly, has a social half hour with pizza provided by a local recruiting firm, a speaker present, and then some folks go to a bar afterwards (this last bit appears to have stopped happening with the current officers and location change). This group probably averages around 20 folks.

I’ve only gone to RCSQE a few times, and they seemed to have fizzled out, but a similar format of pizza followed by a speaker. There were maybe a dozen folks at the two I went to.

There are definitely other tech oriented Meetups in Portland that draw large numbers. On any given night, you can likely find at least 3 groups meeting. Some of these are large (e.g. NewTechPDX has 7108 members on Meetup, requires RSVPs, and has waitlists for almost all of their monthly talks, even with a $10 to $25 admission fee).

I like the MoT and have generally been going to this group since I want to see it grow (I missed the last one as I was out of town), but drawbacks for me are:

  • location - while I really like that Oregon Public House is not-for-profit and whatnot, it’s a bit remote. Most of larger Meetups happen in downtown locations, closer to where many tech folks work.
  • content - I understand the need for free form discussion/networking, but there’s not a large enough critical mass to make this really valuable. With it being the same 3 or 4 of us each time, there’s really not a ton of value.
  • numbers - I realize this is exactly the issue you’re trying to address, but when there’s easily 3 or 4 other meetups on a given night, with at least one or two having significant attendance, speakers, etc, it’s hard to ask others to come to MoT.
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From this feedback I’d suggest:

  • do you promote well in advance? Like a month in advance?
  • make it super easy location to get to
  • have it in a place where a talk can happen, and an interesting one
  • then reach out to people, even if it means personally doing it. Message people on the group. Reach out to other local groups. Look for people locally (on LinkedIn for example).

Some times meetups need that extra push to get things going. It doesn’t mean you’ll have to do it forever.

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Hi Ernie! Thanks for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I think Laura (the co-organizer) and I need to sit down and come up with a concrete plan that puts us in a more central location with quality content – then promote, promote, promote (as Rosie is suggesting).

And I really appreciate your point, Rosie, that the initial grindy bit isn’t always going to be that way. I think that’s been a big deterrent for me trying to change things: the idea in my head that it’s going to be a large amount of continuous work to get things going.