Meetups - how I got started
Great so you are thinking of starting a meetup, I can tell you from personal experience its one of the most rewarding things you can become involved in but before you post your first event there are a couple of things you should think about first.
What do you want to achieve from your meetup?
I had just come from a Test Bash and I was buzzing from the great talks but more from the community, I was having a rough time as the only tester without an ally (or at least it felt that way) and the enthusiasm and passion the community installed in me was something I didn’t want to lose when I went back to work.
Every meetup is started for different reasons, be it knowledge sharing or networking, understanding the reasoning is important. Meetups take a lot of effort and you need to understand your drivers or the effort will start to feel like a job over time.
Do we really need another meetup?
I thought there was a gap in the local area for a Testing meetup as the closest one was 60 miles away but you should do your research, work out if you have a similar interest that you could ally with.
If there is one established what makes you unique, whats the gap you are looking to plug.
There might be similar interest groups to watch for too, we have a Lean Agile Group here which is massive, we never schedule a meetup on the same night as it hurts our attendance, the same can be said for the other MOT meetup. I avoid the same weeks as we get the same attendees.
When scheduling your meetup, think about who you are targeting. When would be convenient for them? In Scotland most meetups happen after work to enable people to attend. It might be better in some regions to do it during the day or at weekends, it’s something to consider.
The practicalities of running a meetup
I knew someone who would be willing to be our main speaker for our first event, that worked well and got us going. After that we had a few offers but I also asked on linkedin and twitter.
Over time people who attend have started speaking, doing lighting talks and such. Great way to get started and hopefully it becomes self sustaining over time.
If you dont have a speaker, MOT can give you access to the Pro Dojo to pull down on some of the test bash previous talks.
Alternatively, a speaker could Crowdcast remotely to the meetup. Using the Crowdcast app allows for MOT to record the session and add it to the Club
I find not having a speaker means we get less attendance, it doesn’t always get the best feedback, the activities do but people don’t turn up for activities only.
There are always buzz words that bring people in, we alternate topics and a lot is driven from who are our speakers. The good thing is to ask the attendees what and who they would like to speak about or just pick something you are passionate about.
Maybe your company, ask, ask and ask some more. Dont be shy about it:). Linkedin, Twitter always good start. Think about the companies in your area who might be recruiting or want to promote themselves in a forward thinking community light. I approached recruitment companies and test consultancies we used to see if they would be interested initially.
To help sell the idea i created an infographic to show the business benefits of being involved in the MOT community based on how well the other meetups were doing.
A link the the club discusses just this.
And a template to ask
ALWAYS ask at your meetups for volunteers and sponsors.
On Volunteers, you can never have enough. You are not a superhero and you don’t have to do this yourself. Spread out the load to a team.
There is a great link here on food
But dont forget, what will people eat off and will you need napkins?
Other practicalities worth mentioning
- Access to buildings, some companies (like mine) require visitors to be signed in and passes to be worn.
- What happens if someone wants a smoke?
- What happens if someone turns up late, are the doors locked?
- What happens if someone turns up and isnt on the list, will the venue be OK with this?
- Where are the toilets
- Is the building accessible?
- Coats and bags, where will people store them
- To Beer or not to Bier, that is a question (you could say wine but it doesn’t work)… Again some venues are not allowed to consume.
- Size of the venue, Athens has 300+ attending (yes thats not a typo), the venue has to cope with your numbers.
On numbers, if 60 people sign up. Assume 20% will not show up. There is no practical way around this. Just top your venue count up by 20% and order the lesser amount of food (unless it doubles as a breakfast).
What format will you do for your meetup
For me this changes each meetup, my meetup is focused on community and interaction. I can watch people speak on youtube but its the community that draws us together.
We do something like this:
18:00 - Doors open - Networking
18:45 - Welcome message!
19:00 - Lightning Talk - Feng Zhu
19:10 - Lightning Talk - Jo Mahadevan
19:20 - Sowmya Ramesh - 10 Cs Towards Becoming a Testing Practitioner
20:30 - Post Meetup Social (AKA pub)
We try not to have two lighting talks and a main talk but they were on a similar subject, you can tailor to what you need but you need to watch the energy doesn’t drain out of the room.
Speaker checklist, there are some great ones that @tzenburgkaro stoltzenburg posted some great links in
For us its all about community so a lot of our activities are linked to the talk as much as possible.
Where we dont we use Lean coffee to fill this in.
How will you reach your target audience? and promote your meetup?
I had gauge’d interest by talking to people i trusted in the local area to see if they would be interested in supporting by promoting, sponsoring or attending the meetup. Other ways I’ve used are =:
- Word of Mouth
- Other contacts in the industry
- Local influencers who could help promote?
- Eventbrite (i repost the meetup in eventbrite)
- Do you know local influencers who could
Always ask for feedback, it’s so useful. I use Surveymonkey to get good feedback although meetup.com has some feedback its not that useful.
One other way you could do this is to have a flip chart with a Smiley face, a Neutral and Sad face to see how people feel on the way out.
Don’t forget to congratulate yourself too