How to build a community and run kick-ass meet-ups

A step by step guide to running successful meet-ups and building a strong community.

If you want to run successful meet-ups and build a strong community, it is actually quite simple and can be summarized as:

  1. Have a good venue
  2. Invite good speakers

And that’s it!

As with everything that looks simple, it can be time consuming to put in place and needs consistent effort. Let’s break this down into simple steps.

6 to 8 weeks before: Define your goals

Are you trying to sell your products, to grow your brand awareness, to tighten the relation with your existing clients? Needless to say that the very nature of the event will considerably impact the event itself.

Try to tie up as much as possible measurable KPIs to the events itself. To give you an example:

  • Brand focus: attendance size
  • Grow market share: leads generated
  • Up-sell: additional revenue streams generated

6 weeks before: Communication materials

Plan your communication needs in advance.

The very minimal setup being:

  • Design a flyer to promote the event on social networks
  • Banner and logo in digital format
  • Standing banner to put at the venue entrance
  • Eventually, sticky tags to give to attendees for their name and job

4 weeks before: Choose the venue

Location, location, location! The most important factor for a venue is that is has to be in a good location.

When visiting the place, keep in mind the following:

  1. Check projector system: position, luminosity and connectors if it’s a projector.
  2. Check sound system: ensure sound is sufficient (for example bars get really noisy).
  3. Ensure the space is appropriate for your expected crowd: an empty room is worse than a packed one.
  4. From experience, bars work better than co-working spaces since people can drink and network.

4 weeks before: Find speakers

Finding good speakers can be another challenge, however as the community grows it gets easier. It’s not a magic recipe: the more engaged your community is, the easier it will be for you to find speakers.

  1. Start with your team - it’s a chance for your staff to be heard and become opinion leaders in their community
  2. Start with your team v2.0 - ask your team mates who are their influencers. We all have a favorite tech journalist, developer, technical blogger. Ask your colleagues who to invite.
  3. Leverage your friends - if you’re organizing UXUI events, there’s a good chance that you’re connected. Start with your personal, reliable contacts.
  4. Give a platform to your clients - your clients might have strong tech leads, design leads or product designers that would love to promote their brand with smart knowledge sharing.
  5. Leverage your previous meet-up communities to get your first batch of speakers. Give them visibility, don’t make it sound like there’s nothing to gain for them.
  6. Outreach, find speakers where they are - social media might work, other meet-ups, popular blogs. Nothing like a good brainstorming the dots to find where these awesome speakers are.

Communicate the meet-up guidelines to your speakers - no self promotion, no sales pitch - and clear actionable value.

3 weeks before the meet-up: Reach out to the community

Now that you have the perfect location, awesome speakers and know what will happen, it is time to reach out to your community! Make sure you provide important information without spamming your members. It is one of the best way to aggravate your members and loose them.

  1. Update event homepage (meet-up homepage) with:
    a. Venue location
    b. Speakers
    c. Schedule
    d. After party info if any (bar discount, bar location, etc.)
  2. Reach out to your audience
    a. Export emails list from the meet-up platform to your newsletter platform (Mailchimp, Hubspot, etc.) and save users under the same group.
    b. Send a reminder
     I. 2 weeks before,
     II. 3 days before,
     III. the morning of the event.

Be consistent with your communication and extend your channels if needed. But keep in mind that building your member list is very important if you want to run successful meet-ups.

D-day: Running the meet-up

When preparing the meet-up you need to put an agenda down, validate it with the speakers and broadcast it to the community (see next section).

While putting your agenda make sure to:

  1. Give enough time before, between and after the talk for people to mingle.
  2. Target around 1 hour for the total event length. When it gets too long, people gets distracted, they also come to meet each other and discuss.
  3. Enforce the timer for the speakers. While not letting them go on too long, do not stop a presentation if they run an extra minute.
  4. Include a community section. Ensure the members of the community can come and speak about their current work, opened positions or announcements.
  5. Provide an incentive to join with a raffle. It also allows the organizers to gather contact information for future events (that should not be used for outreach outside of the community).

An example of such agenda.

19:00 - Networking, Snacks, and Drinks
19:25 - Check-in Closes
19:30 - Welcome
19:35 - Speaker 1
19:55 - Q&A
20:05 - Short 10 min break
20:15 - Speaker 2
20:35 - Q&A
20:45 - Community Minute, Jobs, Winners
20:55 - Thank you for coming - Networking after the event until 21:30

Run the event

It is the big day! If you followed everything, and you have a good venue and good speakers, this is the easy part. To make sure it goes smoothly, keep in mind:

  1. Come in early, validate the venue is ready and check again any hardware you will need.
  2. Make sure to organize the food and drinks in a way that allows for discussions. Food is a good ice breaker before the meet-up and drinks after the meet-up.
  3. Have someone at the door to checkin your members and answer questions if needed.
  4. Engage the whole community. Give juniors a chance to present and push them softly to discuss.
  5. Make sure you get direct feedback and react to it.
  6. Take care of your community: no growth hacking, no sales pitching.
  7. Keep someone close to the speakers to support them and indicate them the time.
  8. Make sure the organizers stay behind to help clean. It usually does not take long and is always very appreciated.

And that’s it! You finished your meet-up. Now make sure you keep the momentum and build on your success!

1 week after: Follow up with the community

Make hay while the sun shines and prepare your next meet-up directly.

  1. Send a Thank you email right after the meet-up with a feedback form.
  2. The day after the meet-up, reach out to the community to find next meet-up speakers (if needed).
  3. Send an email with speakers slide links within 7 days after the event, while ideally already giving a heads up about the next meet-up.
  4. Answer people whenever and wherever they reach out.

1 week to 3 weeks after: Iterate

  1. Don’t move in the dark, take time to understand people’s feedback
  2. Define next steps to improve your event
Quentin Berder
President
Posted on November 27, 2018 in Events

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