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Pimp my meetup : building and retaining your community

Our event space is the heart of our external community. It has become a place of collaboration, social interaction, sharing and learning. It is literally booked up almost every single day. We have hosted everything from Business Bootcamp for teenage entrepreneurs to the National Monopoly Championships. In between? Meet ups. So many meet ups. I have watched some grow from a few initial members to consistently pulling in at least 60-70 attendees at the quieter nights. I have also watched more than a couple flounder and fail to get off the ground. Heres a few tips on running a successful meetup that I have picked up along the way – from me to you. 


1. Utilise Social Media

I am a little old school and the first to admit that I struggle with maintaining a consistent social media presence, but that said, I see first hand every day the value of a strong online voice and encouraging your members and community to actively contribute to that voice. Make sure that your meetup group has a twitter page, and that each event has a hashtag associated with it – then display these clearly on the night, along with the handles of your speakers, organisers and venue. Sharing key insights, debates and pieces of advice on twitter in real time can contribute massively to creating a lasting buzz and online conversation around your meetup group. 


2. Don’t be afraid to ask for a donation for events

Granted, meetups are generally free to attend, but the reality is, that leaves the financial responsibility for providing drinks and nibbles on the organiser and this is not always realistic. Asking for a koha is totally appropriate. It allows attendees to contribute whatever they can afford and means you get to provide better snacks and something slightly more than half a cup of speights on the beer front. Perhaps even more importantly, it instantly makes the event something that people have actually invested in – which means the rsvp drop off rate won’t be so high. 


3. Community, not attendees

It sounds obvious, but the way that you view and treat the people who come to your meetups will mean more than anything else in determining whether or not they return. From the very first event, you need to be warm, welcoming, inclusive and super open to different perspectives. Make an effort to remember peoples names and learn about them. This is another time where twitter comes in really handy – when someone offers up a new viewpoint, give them a shout out! Any way that you can help people feel like they are an important part of your community is going to help you grow from strength to strength, and gain you way more support. 


4. Less is more – choose content over ‘packaging’ every time

Don’t create unnecessary stress for yourself! It is the content that is the gold of meetups, not the catering, decorations or over the top slideshow presentations. Keep it simple, and keep it relevant. One good way of making sure that your community retains interest is by changing the format up. I’ve noticed Agile Auckland are masters at this. They have two meetups per month. The first is a presentation/introduction to a specific topic point, the second they call the ‘deep dive’ – where they delve much deeper into the subject and consider the different perspectives, what works and what doesn’t etc. During the deep dive, they often have different ways of approaching debate – check out fish bowls, charettes, lightning talks, and fireside chats if you need some inspiration. 


5. Choose your wingmen/women wisely. 

Keep your team of organisers small and committed. Many people commit to more than they can realistically manage, and many more have great intentions but no follow through. Pick a couple of people that you know you can rely on, and wait for others to prove themselves over time. Meet every couple of months to plan meetups and topics in advance, and work to your strengths. One last thing. Make sure your team feel appreciated. Say thank you, show your gratitude and give support when its needed. Its amazing how many people forget how much the little things really matter.

As the Community & Events Co-ordinator at GridAKL Casey knows everything about making an event or meet-up work. Interested in getting in touch with Casey? Flick a message through our contact form or events page.