Since June 2014 I’ve organised a software development meetup aimed at all roles (dev back/frontend, test, ba, product owner, UI, UX) involved in delivering a piece of software. Whilst this isn’t a MoT meetup I thought I’d try share some ideas for what’s worked well for our meetup.
I do not work for any of the companies which I mention below or receive any freebies from them!
Recruiting new members.
I’ve tried hosting my own site for the meetup, I struggled getting people to sign up to the site and many just couldn’t find it…
EventBrite, it was great to get people to sign up to events but it lacked some of the nice features like forums, polls etc to try and build more of a community for the meetup.
Meetup.com has been the best site to attract more members. From experience Meetup.com seems to be the site that drives lots of new members to join the meetup as it recognises similar events and recommend them to members based on topics and location.
If you have over ‘x’ amount of members Meetup.com charge you for their premium plan - what you can do though is host unlimited events from that account. So for example all of your meetups could share the cost and host MoT Manchester, MoT London, MoT Swansea for example all under the one subscription fee and that way you also build up/share a member list who can see all of these events in one place - I haven’t done this but it would save costs if you have many different events (different locations but same brand) - we just have one a month.
Sponsors can help with covering costs for your site or meetup costs - EventBrite is free for free events!
Advertising the new group.
Buffer.com or IFTTT.com provide free options to allow you to automate social media to help spread the word. I did a little write up about this a while back on a zero budget (http://vivrichards.co.uk/marketing/social-media-marketing-tips-tricks)
Hosting those first few events when you have a budget of zero.
Venues: Try to reach out to co-working spaces, bars to get one for free - many have AV equiptment for you to use. Depending on what night you run the meetup, during the week many places will be empty so will give you free space to get people in the door!
Food/Drink - see below.
Look at similar types of meetups on EventBrite or meetup.com, try to contact them and see if they would like to help out. Whilst it may seem a lot to ask somebody to cover pizza/refreshments, the £150 or whatever it may cost is pennies if they manage to connect to lots of awesome testers who may one day want to work with/for them. Many companies where I live give money if you refer people to join their company - anywhere from £500 - £2000. When you think of it like that, a meetup with 20+ testers for example with just a £150 outlay for a company is nothing.
If you struggle to find the best person to email regarding sponsorship, use LinkedIn. LinkedIn will let you find people based on industry, companies and keywords etc so you can drop people a line and let them know about your meetup.
Putting together speakers, and hosts to form events.
The first year of running the meetup it was hard to find topics I felt would be of interest to the group so it was difficult to organise speakers. I asked for feedback and ideas but the group were very shy initially to suggest things.
I decided to host a round table for the first year. The round table consisted of the first 15 minutes of each meetup asking attendees to write down topics they would like to know more about or would like to share with the group that evening. After the 15 minutes are up run through each post it and ask people to raise their hand if they’d like to hear more. Post-it’s would be grouped most to least popular and then we’d spend 20 minutes on each topic until our meetup (usually 2 hours) was up.
The great thing about not having speakers lined up initially was that running a round table means the discussions are relevant to the people who attend on that evening, quite often many people who RSVP will forget - sh*t happens. It is also a good way to gather topics/ideas for future topics/speakers once your ready to change the format.
Again, once you know topics people want to hear more about, use LinkedIn to search for people near by who have skills/knowledge in the topics. I’ve done this many times and it’s been the best way of getting people to come speak at the meetup.
Crafting events that meet the needs of the local software testing community.
Above hopefully covers this?
Soliciting feedback so that the next event can be even better.
Post-it’s and index cards are scattered near the pizza, beer and placed on attendees seats. At the beginning of the evening attendees are asked to remember to provide feedback to help improve the event. Meetup.com also has polls and a forum to help with feedback. You could also capture members email addresses using something like mail chimp and send out survey monkey or google forms for example to gather feedback?
Community building tips.
Be consistent - try to run for example the same time each month (if you meet monthly). Many members for our meetup do not RSVP but know the meetup meets the last Monday of every month at the same time and in the same place.
Recruiting other event organizers to stave off burnout.
Ask people! At each event offer people to get involved.
Ask members who attend most meetups if they would like to help out? For the first two and a half years I ran the meetup on my own which was hard work. After a while I noticed many of the attendees came every single month and so I approached them to ask them to help and they jumped at the chance. Perhaps offer a local company to help out - perhaps this could be part of the sponsorship or something that they have a say in some of the topics for example (obviously it has to be relevant and not a sales pitch!).
Comparing and contrasting the software testing job market in each locale.
We spoke with recruitment companies and asked them to give talks on trends in the software development market. This was also pretty cool as they were able to meet people and provide help for people looking for new opportunities etc.