Friends Forever: Your Meetup And The Conferences

Partnering with relevant local and international conferences is a very good idea for your usergroup. Let me share my ideas, and give some advice, based on my personal experience (I run three large meetups and two conferences in Nordics).

Why is it valuable for my community?

Help your people to broaden the horizon by finding the hidden gems — excellent tech events they’ve never heard about. Keep them updated about important milestones: CFP deadline, start tickets sales, etc. Finally, provide a ticket price discount (sometimes quite noticeable) or even some free tickets to your members. Have a closer look at the conference websites (again, here and after, I mean only the relevant conferences)— often they have a Community Partners section. And if the logo of your group is not there — it’s a miss for your community members.

Why do conferences go for it?

As a tech communities organizer AND a conferences organizer I confidently declare: this is win-win situation. You have the most valuable conference’s treasure: proper audience. I can’t imagine the event not interested in promoting itself for the enthusiastic developers (we have only this kind of personalities in our communities, right?) :)

How does it work?

The scheme is super simple: you share the information about the conference for your usergroup, the conference contributes back by:

  • discounts for you members (almost always)
  • free ticket(s) for the raffle and/or for the organizer (often)
  • placing your logo on their website (if they have the corresponding section)

The set really depends on each specific case. But the details of the flow are important.

What will be the proper conference?

Probably you know some noticeable events relevant to the scope of your meetup. It could be direct or adjacent topic. For example, if you run Angular meetup, The criteria is simple: if you feel, that visiting this event will be useful for the majority of your members — this is the proper one.

How to start the collaboration?

The best option: you have received a partnership request from the conference itself (as a conference organizer I spend much time by looking for and contacting relevant developer communities). If not — take the initiative, and contact the organizers! It’s not an issue to find the way to do it — tech conferences have the nice websites with detailed information about the team. Please, do not perceive this article as a call to send a hundred of emails to all the events you’ve googled :)

In your message (please, make is as personal as possible) be brief, honest, and clear. Introduce yourself, your community (do not forget to mention the location), and ask if the organizers want to spread the word about the event in your area (I bet — YES!), and if there are some special offers they can give to your community.

Pro tip
Keep the “brand identity” of your meetup ready: logo (hi-res PNG with transparency is the best) and a text file with the info to copy-paste: meetup’s name, url, a very short description.

As a rule, the conference is ready for this kind of requests, so they will send you their standard conditions, you just have to take a decision — if this will work for your group or not.

How to announce the conference for your meetup?

Rule #1 (and only): try to minimize the number of emails you send to your usergroup. Personally for me, email is the most obtrusive way of communication. Please, keep it for something really important (or urgent). Acceptable option is to accumulate these offers (as well as other community news) and send it as a digest, say, monthly.

Another, much more unobtrusive channel is Twitter. having the one for your meetup is a very good idea. You can announce the collaboration and then remind your members about important conference milestones I mentioned earlier. One nuance: if you have the discount code, please ask the conference organizers if they are good with sharing it publicly. I mean, it’s always fine to send it by email or post it in Facebook closed group, but sometimes conferences prefer to not to have the code available on the open channels.

For my communities I defined a simple strategy: if the conference provides the discount for the members (i.e. some special conditions), I put the announce (incl. discount code) on my next summary email.

Pro tip
The best (working) announce is
- no longer than one paragraph
- rewritten by you: just write about why do you think this conference is useful
- including the obligatory attributes: title, date, location, link to the website

In addition to email and tweet, I put the announce on the special page I created for the each meetup community I run. Here is an example: https://www.meetup.com/AngularJS-Oslo/pages/19651078/Conferences/

What if there are no special conditions available for the community members, but the event is still relevant and very useful? Well, I prefer to not bother my people with the emails then, I only tweet about it. It always makes sense to explicitly list all the ways you are going to use for announcing, to avoid false expectations.

How to hold a ticket raffle?

I prefer to draw the free tickets during my offline events. It always brings the positive emotions to all the attendees. Before the event start, I share the link to the simplest Google Form (name and email fields, just to identify the attendee). It’s important to mention: “Please, take part in this raffle ONLY if you have the wish and possibility to attend this event” (and repeat the dates and location). Also mention about travel expenses (which are not covered, as a rule). Right before the event wrap up (keep the suspense!), I go on the stage to draw (give one extra minute to last-second submitters). Project your screen, open the spreadsheet with the responses and pick the random number.

Pro tip
Use http://random.org to generate a random number. Do not perform a dry run — you will make these “virtual” winners sad.

The key point here is a transparency (your shared screen shows it), this is obvious.

What if I wish to get a ticket for this conference myself?

Just ask! You can ask for an extra ticket, or about the possibility to grab the “raffle” ticket (if there are other perks available for your community). Expect to hear “no” in some cases — this is absolutely valid answer. Play fair in any case.

Bottomline:

  • As a meetup organizer, give back to your community by providing the special conditions for visiting the best conferences
  • Be proactive, friendly, open while contacting the conference organizers
  • Be very careful with the way you announce the collaboration. Always correlate the practical usefulness and uniqueness of the information with the obtrusiveness of communication channel
  • Have fun and make new friends by contacting other passionate like-minded community heroes

I can’t wait to see your meetup logos beside my ones on the best tech conferences Community Partners sections!