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12 classes from 5 years of operating a tech meetup

12 classes from 5 years of operating a tech meetup

2023-12-05 07:29:47

In 2018, I began a Meetup group for a similar motive I begin any new mission: I wasn’t capable of finding an present one which checked all my containers.

I used to be uninspired by attending meetups in poorly lit places of work with drop ceilings. I couldn’t sit by way of yet another dry tech speak that put me to sleep and made me surprise if I ought to’ve spent my night time in another way. I knew there needed to be a greater catering choice than at all times consuming cardboard pizza and ingesting Pepsi like a highschool Halo gamer.

In some unspecified time in the future in my profession, I finished caring a lot about particular applied sciences. I’m extra interested by how issues work, and why the individuals who make them work made the choices that they did. I wished to listen to tales of the minds behind the brightest firms and people within the Cleveland space utilizing tech to additional their trigger.

I wished to be taught from different builders, designers, managers, and creators who assist to make the web.


With nothing greater than an thought and a ardour for making issues occur, I began a brand new group on referred to as We Make the Internet, and started selling the primary social occasion at considered one of my favourite Cleveland breweries, Noble Beast. It was clear that the group was hungry for this sort of factor: about 40 individuals confirmed as much as that first occasion.

The promotional banner I designed for my first Meetup event
The promotional banner I designed for my first Meetup occasion

I’ve realized quite a bit since that first meetup. Right here’s an inventory of all the pieces I want I knew going into it to assist information the kind of occasions I’d come to place collectively:

1. The bodily house the place you host issues

I at all times attempt to host the meetups at a venue the place individuals is likely to be seemingly to hang around anyway, even when there wasn’t any occasion occurring. Noble Beast has a stunning inside, offering such a feel-good vibe that places attendees comfortable. Being snug in an area is half the battle, so attempt to discover venues that supply nice lighting, the best noise ranges, comfortable seating, and so forth.

Interior photo of Noble Beast Brewing Company in Cleveland, Ohio
Inside photograph of Noble Beast Brewing Firm in Cleveland, Ohio

2. You’re promoting an expertise that doesn’t exist but

Earlier than the occasion day even comes, you could paint the scene of what your visitors will expertise and what they’ll take house in the event that they select to spend the night along with your group. Attempt to suppose cinematically. Don’t simply share the dialogue matter — as an alternative, describe the speak in additional element. Inform a narrative.

I take advantage of the occasion description pages and OG photos as a possibility to work on my design expertise. They’re not pixel good by any means, however they do thematically characterize what we’ll be speaking about on the occasion, kinda like a e book cowl or film poster.

AI picture turbines are getting fairly good lately. In the event you want inspiration, you possibly can strive beginning with one thing like Ideogram and enter a immediate to generate some concepts for a poster. I used this strategy with the Topgolf meetup and took the output into Photoshop for some gentle cleanup. I used the 10×16 format with a immediate a film poster, a golf ball on a tee surrounded by digital concentric rings, minimal, depth of area, cyberkinetic, textual content: "The Tech Behind TopGolf", illustration, poster

After some endurance, various generations, and a few trial and error, it spit out this picture that I believed had potential:


I took that into Photoshop and made a number of touchups to stick to the featured picture dimensions. Right here’s the ultimate outcome:

These posters might be a number of enjoyable. Be playful, let your creativeness be free, and see what you possibly can give you.

I additionally wish to snap a number of photographs on the occasion and add them to the occasion web page afterwards. This builds belief, exhibiting that your occasions fulfill what you’re promising within the description, and helps future attendees get a way of what your occasions appear to be IRL.

3. Over-communicate your occasion logistics and agenda

Folks wish to know what they’re getting themselves into. That is true for everybody: audio system, sponsors, attendees. If there’s one space the place you possibly can’t present an excessive amount of data, it’s the occasion description.

I’ve an outline template that I reuse throughout occasions. It begins out with a narrative concerning the matter and walks the potential attendee by way of all the pieces they’ll have to know concerning the occasion. I alter out the particular particulars which are distinctive to every occasion and venue as they arrive up.

Right here’s an instance description from the tech occasion I hosted at Topgolf:

Rise and shine, you will have an early tee time.

Topgolf’s fascinating know-how has modified the sport of golf. The place else are you able to go to make use of a standard golf membership to play a sport of Offended Birds? And who the heck got here up with that concept, anyway?

There are numerous transferring elements and unbelievable improvements in place to make this wild thought occur — and this month, you will have the chance to listen to the story for your self firsthand.

On this one-time-only morning instructional session, you will hear from Kevin Matejka, Services Supervisor at Topgolf, on the historical past of Topgolf’s know-how journey, the trajectory of the sport, and get a sneak peek at the way it all comes collectively behind the scenes.

Monday, November 27, 2023

🚪 8:45AM – Doorways open
🎤 9:00AM – Kevin takes the mic
💬 9:30AM – Q+A and Wrap-up
🏌️ 10:00AM: Palms-on with the Topgolf tech
🚗 10:30AM – Again to work

5820 Rockside Woods Blvd N
Independence, OH 44131

This is the Google map so you will discover it simply

There is a large car parking zone proper exterior the constructing, you will don’t have any hassle discovering parking

What to Convey
pens, area notes, questions, laptops, some money, feedback, suggestions, and a smile are all acceptable companions

Meals + Drink
Breakfast muffins, seasonal fruit, and yogurt parfait shall be supplied courtesy of our sponsor, Mux. Espresso, water & scorching tea can be found courtesy of Topgolf

Vital to Know
We’ll meet within the foyer and can transfer upstairs to the convention room for the presentation

The venue is supplied with elevators and is an accessible occasion house.

If the parking state of affairs is especially difficult, I’ll embrace a map to point out the very best areas to verify for a spot, together with a path to observe to scale back stress.

A venue street parking map that shows safe spaces to park for event attendees
A venue road parking map that exhibits secure areas to park for occasion attendees

At the start of the particular occasion, it’s a good suggestion to deal with the group because the moderator and do some housekeeping + set the bottom guidelines for the night. If there’s a chat taking place, I put collectively a very short slideshow to deal with quite a lot of subjects:

  • welcome of us in
  • intro myself as organizer and some extent of contact + point out our code of conduct
  • level out venue particulars (share the place the meals/loos/water are positioned)
  • share WiFi password
  • speak concerning the occasion sponsor or present 2 minutes for them to talk in the event that they’re in attendance
  • inform of us concerning the Cleveland Tech Slack group the place they’ll be part of to proceed the convo and keep in contact
  • share particulars of subsequent month’s occasion, if any
  • share any potential after-meetup happenings (plans to seize drinks wherever?)
  • introduce the speaker and handoff the mic

All this element is supposed to clear up any questions and confusion earlier than it occurs, resulting in a low-friction night for everybody concerned. It’s additionally the place, because the organizer, you possibly can die by one million papercuts. I’ve discovered that templating this out is an efficient approach to keep in mind all the pieces you could talk to make for a profitable occasion.

4. Watch for and search out probably the most fascinating tales

I’ve a reasonably excessive commonplace for who I’ll hand the mic over to for the night. I’m not in search of gross sales pitches or fluff content material. The story being advised must be fascinating, instructional, and related.

Selfishly, I at all times ask myself: would I be excited to attend this occasion?

I’m a member of an area tech group Slack group. I watch the #intro channel fairly intently, and can make word of recent members who appear to be they’ve an fascinating story to inform.

Typically, I’ll discover or hear of an area firm performing some fascinating work and can attain out to them by way of their web site contact type.

Hunt down these whose tales you’d discover most fascinating and easily ask them about collaborating. Right here’s what my chilly outreach message appears to be like like:

I am Dave, organizer of the We Make the Web meetup. Do not consider we have met, good to satisfy you!

I take advantage of this group as a possibility to be taught from completely different firms and people within the Cleveland space which have some type of story they could share about their on-line contributions, whether or not it is one thing about their workflow, their strategy to a selected mission they needed to sort out, their tech stack, one thing they just lately realized and so forth.

I feel _____ is an fascinating candidate for collaborating. Do you will have any curiosity in your finish?

There is no tremendous formal approach it must be run, we might strategy and construction it nonetheless we might like – I feel it would be a great way to provide quite a lot of devs, designers, entrepreneurs and so forth. some perception as to what you are as much as.

Wanting ahead to listening to from you!

5. Discover dependable, recurring sponsors

I struggled with this one for a very long time. Once I began the meetup, I labored in a single-member LLC, so tapping my employer for assist actually simply meant cash popping out of my private pocket. Don’t try this. There are firms on the market who will discover worth in having their title related along with your occasion. You’re not begging them for cash to help the group. You’re giving them the chance to put their emblem and provides their pitch in a room of 30+ educated professionals who would possibly develop into their future buyer or worker.

At first, getting firms to commit {dollars} for occasion consumables was robust. I forged a large web looking for firms that might have an interest. For some time, I had a brand new sponsor for every occasion. This was painful.

See Also

As soon as I took a job at Mux, I floated the thought of sponsoring the meetup to my boss they usually have been instantly in. I’m tremendous grateful for his or her help and speak up the product and firm at any probability I get.

If I have been beginning this journey once more as we speak, I’d choose my employer + three different tech firms or bootcamps who confirmed curiosity and establish which a type of have been most dedicated. I’d then negotiate a long term slot for sponsoring, like a 3-event bundle. I’d make certain to speak again after the occasion about their placement and supply a common abstract of how the occasion went, who was in attendance, and the rest related that helps them to justify their spend.

That is about once I realized why most meetups solely supply pizza and chips: it’s cost-effective for big teams and it travels effectively. In considered one of my earlier meetups, I supplied catering with Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Not solely was it round 2.5x the worth, however once I went to choose it up, the store forgot about my catering order and needed to make 60 subs whereas I waited of their seating space. JJ’s is likely to be freaky quick for one sandwich, however 60 took awhile. Additionally they obtained somewhat soggy by the point the occasion rolled round. I received’t be doing that once more.

It takes some time to construct belief and make potential sponsors assured that your occasion is worth it, however when you do, procuring sponsors turns into quite a bit simpler. I promise. Within the Cleveland space, you possibly can simply get by with about $250-$300 for pizza, drinks, snacks, plates, napkins and every other smaller consumable gadgets.

On the subject of venues: you don’t have to lease wherever. There are many firms with approach an excessive amount of house simply in search of a approach to put them to make use of and convey individuals in. It’s also possible to begin your hunt for sponsors this fashion as effectively. Corporations are far more prone to sponsor if you happen to’re going to be inside their workplace anyway.

6. Order much less meals than you suppose you’ll want

With out fail, without spending a dime occasions, there’s a predictable dropoff of round 30% of all RSVPs. If I’ve 50 individuals RSVP for an occasion, I’ll assume 30 or 35 will present up.

Additionally, not everybody likes pizza or will come hungry, so until you wish to take meals house with you, you don’t have to order for 35 bellies. Higher recommendation can be to order sufficient to cowl about 75-80% of the expected variety of attendees.

7. Depart blocks of free time to be social

Whereas I attempt to give you high-quality audio system and talks for my occasions, generally they’re simply an excuse to get individuals collectively in the identical room. I’m intentional about leaving empty house earlier than and after the talks for individuals to satisfy one another and catch up. That is typically when the actual worth of the meetup shines.

I’ll additionally typically point out that there’s a small group heading to an area brewery or restaurant after the meetup if of us wish to stick round for that. I do that with out understanding in any respect if there’s a small group. I assume some individuals received’t be able to go house, and this lowers the barrier for locating others in the identical mindset and retaining the momentum going.

8. Two attendees is a meetup

Persons are begging for excuses to placed on pants and get out of the home, doubly so if it’s an occasion the place they know they’ll take pleasure in attending. That mentioned, don’t be discouraged in case your first occasions have a smaller turnout. Keep in mind that all it actually takes for a meetup to achieve success is for somebody apart from you to attend. It helps to share the small print of your meetup weeks prematurely to permit attendees to plan forward.

Ben Callahan, Sparkbox, April 2019
Ben Callahan, Sparkbox, April 2019
Brad Colbow, March 2019
Brad Colbow, March 2019

9. Ask for suggestions, opinions, and testimonials

Social proof will assist your trigger, and suggestions will allow you to get higher with every occasion. Be express about asking attendees to fill out the suggestions emails that Meetup sends out. These will seem in your public group web page and make potential attendees really feel extra assured in your group.

I additionally ask every speaker to supply a testimonial about their expertise. I take advantage of these quotes to draw new audio system and sponsors for future occasions. Right here’s a quote from a previous speaker:

Nice expertise, very completely satisfied we did it. Personally, I believed everybody was engaged, respectful they usually had nice questions. I solely want we had time to take extra.

— Corey Brunstetter, Senior Software program Engineer, Baseball Programs Improvement @ Cleveland Guardians

10. Maintain the momentum going

If there’s one other occasion taking place subsequent month, tease it on the present meetup. Ship out the announcement e mail proper after your present occasion wraps up. Additionally, ship reminder emails main as much as your occasion. I normally go together with round 5 emails whole. My typical cadence for occasion reminders appears to be like like this:

  1. Occasion announcement
  2. Two weeks prior
  3. One week prior
  4. Three days prior
  5. ( sends an auto-reminder on the day earlier than the occasion)

In my strongest years, I had round 3 or 4 months price of occasions deliberate out prematurely at any given time.

11. Know your causes for organizing a meetup

I’ll be trustworthy: a part of me began this meetup just because I believed it’d be enjoyable. And it has been! However, because the organizer, it’s by way more work than it’s enjoyable. It’s good to satisfy of us in the neighborhood and get out of the home, however typically, logistics get in the best way of that socializing for the organizer.

Luckily, I like to listen to the tales and suggestions from attendees about how the occasion went from their perspective. A few of these tales are finally what have stored me coming again to prepare the following occasion.

  • One attendee wasn’t in tech in any respect. On account of attending the meetup, they enrolled in a bootcamp and finally obtained a job. They advised me the meetup modified the trajectory of their life. That story alone gave me gas to maintain going for not less than one other yr.
  • Most just lately, two attendees met at a meetup and have now develop into companions in a dedicated relationship. I definitely have by no means thought of myself a matchmaker, however right here we’re.

12. It takes a pacesetter

You’ll discover that a lot of individuals say they’re keen to assist, however until you assign out extraordinarily particular duties, it’s best to anticipate meetup obligations to largely fall in your shoulders. See #11.

Occasion day guidelines

Drinks (soda, la croix, water, beer)

Typical Meetup car, Oct 2018
Typical Meetup automobile, Oct 2018
A room full of friends, Oct 2018
A room stuffed with pals, Oct 2018

I’m a dad now, so naturally my priorities are altering, and I don’t have fairly the identical power to place in direction of the meetup that I used to. Hopefully this submit provides a glimpse on the components of what it takes to run a profitable tech meetup for whoever finally comes subsequent to take the baton.

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