If you are an organizer, first-time organizer or planning to start your own meetup here are the few tips for you.
My name is Neha Sharma, I am the organiser of JSLovers . I am doing meetups from last four years and able to expand it in four cities. So, far I have hosted 100+ offline meetups, hosted from local to international speakers as well as JSLovers got the opportunity to be invited to Meetup HQ, New York. I also got the award for running the Meetups.
1. Organizing Meetups are frustrating!!
organizing meetups are very frustrating.
It takes lot of time and energy. Do it only if you have a passion for meetups and meeting new people.
Organizing meetup needs a lot of efforts from getting speakers, venues, sponsors, maintaining RSVP list, available 24x7 on social media, emails etc. Organizer’s job is like a full-time job. If you have a full-time job as I have and in parallel, you are thinking to start a Meetup group then think hard. I enjoy doing Meetups and doing it for the last 4 years. Every month I do at least one meetup. Now, we are in four cities and hosted many first-time speakers, international speakers, focused group to a large audience. I also get burned out, I also get frustrate and for that, I just take a small break and in December we don’t do any Meetup.
2. ‘The venue’ is the deciding factor
The venue is one of the deciding factors for the attendees to decide to attend the Meetup or not. The venue should be accessible by public transport. If the travel time to the venue is a lot then most probably no one will come. The venue should be at the center location, accessible by public transport, if it is in some company, do share the rule and regulations with attendees such as they might need to carry ID proof for security, should be easily reachable by Google Maps, do inform the attendees about parking space and rates of it.
3. Day and time of Meetup
In India, people prefer to have Meetups in the morning as compared to the west where the preferable time could be evening too. Even the most of the Meetups happened only during weekends and not on weekdays. The reason is people have an office and prefer to keep weekends only for Meetups. As well as, for females attendees, make sure the Meetup ended at the right time and safe for them to travel back.
4. Curious Case of Dropouts
Golden rule : Never ever go with the number of RSVPs at the event page.
Even if you have paid event, people will pay and still won’t come. So, as an organizer always ready for dropouts. I plan my food and venue on the approx. count of people would come. My all meetups are strictly inviting only though people dropped from that also but it is always 50–60% attendees will come.
As well as, I keep telling people to inform organizer ASAP if they are not coming as there are a lot of people in the waiting list and we can offer their invite to them.
Speakers will have an emergency and they might say no at the last moment. It happened with me twice. Luckily my co-organiser and I were technical. So, we both able to fill-up the speaker place but not with that quality.
So, if this happens with you, inform ASAP to attendees, if you are canceling the Meetup or speaker got changed or agenda is getting changed. Important is to keep communication transparent.
6. Social Media is important
Golden rule : You are the PR of your own Meetup.
To get new members, speakers, sponsors you need to be on social media. You will get your new target audience on the social media platform only. Initially, I was only on Meetup.com. Thanks to JSLovers members who suggested us to make the Twitter profile, Facebook Page, etc. We have now a lot of new attendees coming from other social platforms too.
7. Code of conduct is very important
Golden rule : Have code of conduct for yourself.
I learned this after having 2–3 learning experiences. Code of conduct is important especially if you are growing or even you are just starting. Code of conduct is guidelines to bring everyone on the same page of how to behave and what to expect.
8. Food brings people together
Food is the global language of love and care. You need to understand people will be traveling to your Meetup and staying there for 3–4 hours. They will be hungry. Plan snacks or beverages whatever suits your budget. At JSLovers we always serve lunch and no breakfast and we mentioned that clearly in invite email. As well as, we keep our menu simple with only one choice — veg only.
You need to mention allergic items and avoid food wastage always.
9. Talk to each and every member
As an organizer, you need to connect with each and every member. I know it is tough to communicate with every member especially if the count is 50+. This is where the skills of an organizer come in.
I am/was not pro in talks but when you want to create a community you need to come with a good idea to break the ice. I always make sure I talk to each and every female at Meetup at least. We always do introductions and give name tags. Why? after this everyone knows each other in the room. We also ask one random question with introductions, it helps in breaking the ice too.
10. Put your real picture and profile
Remember you are trying to convert online audience to offline audience and it is going to easy at all. Especially if you are trying in a country like India and wants more females to attend your Meetup. You need to connect with the online members so go ahead and put your real picture and profile at your Meetup profile or community page. Putting your real face will build trust and confidence.
The downside of this? See below screenshots:
11. Collaborations == Growth
You cannot grow if you will work alone. To grow you need to connect with like-minded people and the community. Collaborations with other communities is a great way to grow and learn. Reach to your local meetup groups and communities and do collaborations in the shared meetup, exchange of speakers, skills etc. We did our first collaboration with GDG New Delhi on Android. So far we have done collaborations with many local Meetups, communities and many speakers traveled from other states to countries too.
12. Ask feedback but take no shit from bullies
Feedbacks are the most important to keep you and your community growing and improving. Always take feedbacks as your next steps and what you can improve. Before closing your Meetup ask for the feedback. People might not be able to give on-spot feedback and .i.e, do not close the feedback thread. Keep the feedback thread open either by sharing a form or just share your email ID and ask them to share their suggestions/feedbacks whenever they feel.
There will be people who will push you to edge who are known as bullies. As an organizer, you need to be people-person but if someone is crossing the line then do take the stand for you and your community.
13. Involve members in Planning of Meetup
One of the biggest mistake I did to try to run the JSLovers alone. It was frustrating with my full-time job. Especially when JSLovers was expanding in 4 cities. It is very hard to do everything by yourself. So, try to build a team of volunteers to run the show, to take care of tasks such as social media, reply on queries on Meetup page, connecting with the vendors etc. The best is to reach to your community members and request them to come as volunteers. They will share the load as well as they will also feel connected to the community.
14. Meetup in the local language
The English language is the global language and most of the Meetups happened in same. But there will be many people who will be more comfortable in the local language.
If you can do the meetup in local language please do it.
Trust me it is going to be the best Meetup. I have done this 2–3 times and the interaction in Meetup was way high. As well as, if the speaker is not comfortable in English then give the speaker the choice to go for the regional language but do ask or inform to Meetup attendee if they are comfortable with this.
15. Understand your audience
You need to understand your audience. it is not going to be easy if your count is more than 1K to decide the future meetups. The thing you can do is to clearly define the Meetup content and target audience for the same.
16. Sharing is caring
You are building a community, a platform with focused and like-minded people. Try to share jobs, freelance works, projects, open sources etc in the community. This will make the community more strong :)
17. Always lead from the back
You are the organizer of the Meetup. It doesn’t mean you always have to speak at your platform or take the sessions. You have built the platform for communities. Always give chance to others and lead from the back. When JSLovers started me and my co-organiser was the only speaker as at that time no one was ready to take session but now we always have speakers and I just lead from the back.
When I want to give sessions, I apply at other platforms to share my knowledge.
Running a Meetup is expensive in terms of money too. You need to pay for the venue and food. I paid for one whole year from my own pocket for the venue and food.
People keep asking me for tips and sponsorship deck , truth is 4 years and I haven’t pitched anyone yet we have 30+ sponsors. How?
Well, I never asked for Money. I always told the company we just need the venue, food, and speakers. When you ask for money there are a lot of legal things come and a lot of headaches. So, simply just ask what you need. Also, if the sponsor takes care of food ordering and venue you have two fewer things to worry about.
Goodies are a good way to promote your community, to attract more people to attend it.
As an organiser you need to think, is really goodies is the real motivation you need to give people to attend your meetup? As an organiser you need to make sure that only motivation of attendees should not be just goodies.
Initially, we also used to give stickers, pins etc to attendees but later on, we realized goodies should be something attendees can use to enhance their skills and we started doing giveaways of books, IOT kits, courses etc.
20. Behind the scenes
When I started JSLovers lot of people were new about the concept of Meetup. My inbox was full of messages that what exactly happen at Meetup? What you do there? How did you do? I was tired of repeating the same answer again and again. So, the solution I came was to write a blog and attached a video of Meetup and put it out there. As a result, fewer questions and more people were interested to attend the Meetup
21. Push first-time speakers
Getting speakers is a big struggle. For the whole year, I and my co-organiser were the only speakers at JSLovers.
As an organiser you need to push the attendees to come and speak. You need to lead from back.
We help first-time speakers not just by giving platform but by reviewing content, dry-runs and in whichever way we can. Today when people come and tell me that they started their speaking journey from JSLovers it really feels very good.
22. Stay consistent
Consistency is the key to success. At JSLovers, we do at least one Meetup in a month. Members every month look forward to it and plan their weekends around our meetups. They know that once in a month on Sunday JSLovers will have a meetup. Every year in December we take off from Meetup
At last, do not forget to have fun. Meetups are the opportunity to meet new people, network and grow. I made many friends from Meetup only. Thank you, everyone, who helped me in my JSLovers journey!!