How to Run a Successful Meetup at Scale
Do you run a successful meetup group that you’re keen to grow into a larger event? Perhaps you started yours in the backroom of a pub or in a café and now feel like you’ve outgrown it.
Creating a positive community through a meetup is an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s an ideal way to connect with like-minded people, share common experiences, generate new ideas as well as putting back into the community itself. But how do you keep control and preserve the elements that make it a success when growing your meetup?
The recent impact of Covid-19 has forced many meetup groups to go virtual. With the help of technology and our know-how, yours can too! Our guide will take you through the process of moving meetups online with key considerations and tips alongside advice on upscaling physical events.
Growing Your Meetup
Don’t be overwhelmed by the thought of up-scaling your meetup. If you’re considering it, it’s a great sign as it means you already have a core group who attend regularly and enough interest to take the next steps.
A Planning Team
You may be concerned that the essence of your meetup will be lost as it increases in scale. Remember – you and your members already know what works best for the group!
The best way to begin the up-scaling process is to create a planning team. By doing this you know each decision will be discussed and the responsibility shared.
Together you can plan the next five or six events in advance to ensure that you’re always ahead of yourself. This will give you space and time to really nail each event and make it as professional as possible.
Use your new planning team to promote your meetup in style. Schedule your upcoming meetups with the aim of boosting your membership. You could incentivise people to refer friends and acquaintances.
Consider your audience
As you’re planning to make big changes to your meetup, it’s really worth assessing exactly who your audience is and what they want from the event.
You should reconsider the purpose of your meetup and what the most valuable takeaways are for your audience.
Is your meetup focussed on a particular skillset or area of interest? Is it location specific? For singles? The main aim of attending the meetup for these people is likely to be socialising and forging friendships. Growing your meetup for them is a bonus, as long as it includes more of the same relevant attendees and doesn’t become repetitive.
As you move towards up-scaling, consider what sort of new member you wish to attract. If it’s a business-orientated meetup, do you wish to attract serious business focussed members or interested hobbyists? By going through this process, you may realise that actually your current audience is just too niche to upscale. Think how you can broaden the range of people who you attract, without damaging your appeal.
Spice up the Format
Don’t be afraid to shake up the format! If you usually focus on a discussion or a presentation each week, then try holding a panel discussion or workshops instead.
You will probably already have regular speakers who contribute on a more consistent basis, but why not think big? Throw open the field and ask industry or local influencers to speak instead. This will give your event a boost of beneficial PR and refresh things a little.
Be careful though that these new speakers steer away from a commercial angle. People will switch off if they feel they’re being sold to. Remember to utilise your original circle of speakers though as this is the attendee’s bread and butter and part of your meetup appeal.
Also, don’t be concerned about over-booking speakers, as contributors may fall through at the last minute. The more the better too. If you have additional speakers you can create more of a workshop style meetup session.
Do some research into similar events and gatherings in the local area; perhaps there’s a way that yours can add value to others and vice versa. By using other events to cross-fertilise your own, you can grow your meetup and enrich it at the same time.
Use a tool such as meetup.com to manage the RSVP’s to your new and improved meetup group and you can connect with other similar groups on forums such as Reddit. Alternatively, search out niche forums for your meetup, such as Product Tank or CitySocializer to seek out new contacts and groups.
To give your meetup event even more professionalism, create its own landing page on your website to include as many details as possible. Include short biographies of the speakers and links to their Twitter feeds.
As you upscale your meetup, it will inevitably become more costly to run. You may consider charging a discretionary attendance fee, especially if you already have a robust following. For new attendees paying an entry fee will encourage them to avoid dropping out at the last minute, so boosting attendance numbers as well.
If you’re reluctant to charge too much for entry and are keen to upscale on a larger scale, then considering sponsorship for your meetup is a cost effective way of growing it.
This could happen organically, simply by reaching out to your solid base of attendees. Perhaps you have some executives or industry experts who already attend and would be willing to help grow the community.
Sites such as Sponsormyevent.com and Eventbrite can help take you through the process from proposal to finding sponsors and successfully pitching to them.
Challenges to Overcome
So you’ve decided when your next event will be, planned it with panache and have a fantastic set of speakers lined up. You’ve nurtured your existing format and allowed it to grow into something even better. However, it doesn’t seem to be attracting more attendees than normal. Be patient. Up-scaling a meetup can be a slow process, at least to start with.
Promoting a Meetup
Ensuring your meetup promotion is absolutely spot on will do wonders for upscaling it.
Make sure you’re using all the relevant online channels you can, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Meetup and forums such as Reddit. You will already have dedicated social media accounts for the group, but triple check they’re working as well as they possibly can.
Does the branding need a bit of a tweak? Are you engaging with your potential audiences on social media? You could make the most of your current audiences by tapping into their friends and followers. Are there influencers within these groups that you can connect with? Use this tactic to great effect on Twitter, by building lists and watch your meetup following grow.
If you don’t already, ensure you have a process in place for promoting the meetup. Contact all your current contacts, as well as contacts from related meetups and ask them to share with their contacts. Consider using paid social media advertising channels, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, to boost traffic to your event page.
Once you hold the first of your new and improved meetup, make sure you film snippets and share to your social media accounts and your website. If people are considering attending, they will want to see a taster of the experience for themselves.
Utilise Eventbrite too, if you don’t already. This events site is great for promoting and growing events.
Choosing a Venue for your Meetup
With the aim of growing your meetup at the forefront of your planning, you will inevitably think ahead to securing a larger venue.
You will need somewhere that will be able to accommodate the increased numbers, but not a space so large that the meetup feels drowned by it. This could be detrimental to the atmosphere.
Choose somewhere that is part of a co-working space in the community, such as a local museum, college or university. Expect two-thirds of the confirmed attendees to turn up and base your choice on this sort of number. Once you’ve launched your up-scaled event successfully in this new space, make sure you consistently stick to your venue choice, so you don’t lose attendees.
It’s a given that the location for the meetup event must have strong Wi-Fi, practical refreshment facilities and be serviced by excellent transport links. A central location is a standout bonus! You also want to ensure that the cost of hire doesn’t mean you have to charge more than is reasonable.
Your meetup has the potential to be even greater than it already is and we hope these tips will help your meetup to become bigger and better.
Above all, make sure the details of each event are consistent from week to week, so you don’t lose valuable attendees along the way. On the day itself, check Meetup.com or Eventbrite, to see who has RSVP’d and print out name badges to hand out. This will add a veneer of professionalism to your meetup. Hand out a feedback form at the end of your meetup, so you can monitor reactions to the changes you’ve made and keep on improving it.
How to run a successful virtual meetup
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all adapting to the age of the “new normal”. Many events organisers have opted for a hybrid event alternative, utilising technology to deliver engaging events.
Our increasing reliance on technology and virtual events is set to skyrocket as capacity caps and restrictions on extra-household interactions limit the viability of a normal meetup group. Luckily, technology has reached a point where we can produce digital alternatives to physical meetups with impressive levels of interactivity, audio and video quality.
The purpose of a meetup is to connect people with shared ideas and interests so that they can enjoy them as a community whilst interacting on a personal level. When organising a virtual alternative to the meetup, it’s important to replicate that same sense of equal representation, interactivity and communication.
What are virtual meetup events?
A virtual meetup event refers to any kind of event where members are able to participate and interact through digital technology without being physically present. The concept of “going virtual” means that meetups need to focus on providing a dedicated space online where those with a shared niche interest can interact and bring something different in terms of ideas, experience or thought.
How to grow a meetup group by going virtual
Earlier in this piece we talked about the different challenges of promoting a meetup and the expectation that two-thirds of attendees will turn up. The good news is that by going virtual, there’s a real opportunity to grow your attendee list. Here’s why:
- The non-physical nature of the event means that there is effectively no physical constraints on the number of attendees at the meetup
- With no physical need to travel to the meetup, individuals from around the country and abroad can participate in virtual meetups. This helps spread the word about your meetup to a previously unknown audience
- Making knowledge sharing meetups virtual means that you can easily record and redistribute session video content. This can help in raising the profile of your meetup to other potential attendees
Virtual event technology to use in your meetup
There are a myriad of different ways to use technology in your meetup but it all comes down to what kind of group you are running.Different focuses will have different needs. Below is a list of meetup event examples and the kinds of technological needs they will likely require:
- Debates/discussions – This type of meetup format just requires a simple face camera and audio signal
- Technical – Requires voice and video interactivity but also facility for screen sharing and presentation
- Film and media – meetups with heavy emphasis on video will require a platform specialising in high quality video processing
- Conference – Mixing in all of the above, there are platforms that allow all of these functions with the added bonus of individual networking capabilities e.g. if you wanted to talk to a keynote speaker after their presentation, or strike up conversation in private with a fellow attendee.
Virtual meetup software & platforms
Your virtual event platform should be the most important aspect of your event as this will accommodate all of your users for the duration of the meetup. With so many available we’ve narrowed it down for a choice of five:
- Google Hangouts
- Multi meeting hubs
Follow our virtual event checklist when organising your meetup
Organising a virtual event like a meetup can be a little bit trickier than delivering one in real life. The key to growing a meetup group is keeping your attendees engaged, which is achieved by providing a seamless digital experience. Make sure to:
- Organisers/main speakers need to conduct the meetup in a quiet, well lit and acoustically suitable environment. This could be at your home or at a venue
- Design the meetup with more emphasis on group engagement as this is critical for a good attendee experience and reducing drop-off rates
- Prepare backups for documentation or presentations just incase sharing options don’t work
- Check equipment including sound and video
- Check internet connection speed
- Make sure your video link is easily accessible in your invitation email
- If you are including guest speakers make sure they are aware of the need to be extra clear in their verbal delivery. Speaking over mics through an internet connection sometimes doesn’t have the same impact as face-to-face so extra effort needs to be put in by speakers to come across well.
Choose 20 Bedford Way as your London Meetup Venue
As part of UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way has hosted hundreds of different meetups, covering everything from spirituality to PMO flashmobs. 20 Bedford Way has a number of amazing event spaces to hire with state of the art equipment perfect for various types of London meetup. We have suitable spaces for all sizes of meetups from 9 – 920 people including a number of smaller theatres, studio and hall spaces. If you’re upscaling your meetup event on a grand scale, our flagship 920 seater Logan Hall venue could be for you.
A purpose built venue within a Grade II listed brutalist building, in the heart of Bloomsbury, 20 Bedford Way boasts a central location ideally suited to a London Meetup event. To check out our venue or to find out our very affordable rates then call us on 020 7612 6143, fill out an enquiry form or email us at email@example.com.
Header Image via Flickr – San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive – Convair 880. No known Copyright Restrictions.