Back in January, I decided to start my own meetup group with a view to finding more females that work in the Digital Marketing Industry. This was based on my own experiences with the leading SEO conferences in the UK being extremely male dominated. Arranging meet ups is a great way to help increase awareness of a brand in any industry and if done correctly in the first instance, can be fairly easy to maintain moving forwards. In this post I want to share some of the things that I learnt from this and provide you with a little checklist to help you create a successful meetup group in whatever niche you are looking to target.
Build an Audience
Before you think about arranging a meetup within any niche, you need to build an audience that you can market it to. This can take some time but it is definitely worth the wait as launching an event without an already captured audience can cause you a lot more hassle in the long run. When I arranged my meetup group, I used http://www.meetup.com which is used by thousands of group organisers and gives you a lot of flexibility from the start. There is a small fee involved and you can choose between a range of payment options allowing you to commit to one of three membership periods. When creating a group on Meetup there are a couple of things that you should put in place to get as much of a starting audience as possible:
- Give your group a descriptive and relevant name
- Provide a clear description highlighting what the group is for, who it is aimed at and any plans you have to take the group forward
- Create a logo for your group or upload a relevant image
- If you have a website or any social properties for your group, you should link to them
- To get more visibility on Meetup.com, make sure you add relevant topics so the group can be found
Once the group has been live for three days, Meetup.com will market it to their database of members to give you more exposure. Depending on the niche you are targeting, I would suggest having at least 30 people in the group before you create your first event.
Pick a Date
Before you do anything more you need to choose a date for your first event. Various discussions I have had with people who attend meetup groups have said that a Thursday evening seems to work best for them. Obviously you will need to work out what is best for your group as you may be looking to run an event in the day or even on the weekend.
Find a Venue
This is one of the trickiest tasks when arranging an event as you can never be 100% sure exactly how many people are going to come to the first one. With this in mind, the first event I arranged I played it safe and decided to go with a venue that had enough space for 40 people but had the capacity to overflow if necessary. I also avoided doing anything too structured for the first event so that I didn’t need to find a location that had presenting facilities. Moving forwards, when you come onto arranging your second meetup you will have more of an idea on numbers based on the first event turnout and will be able to source a venue that is suitable to your future requirements. To help drive additional awareness of your event, you want to ensure that the venue you choose has 3G or WiFi so that attendees can tweet about the evening on the night. Another point to consider here is conducting a small poll within your group and sending it out to all the members to see if they have any good venue ideas. From my experience, if you are arranging an event in a big city, there are so many places for you to choose from, all with varying costs attached to them, that by asking your members you could uncover a hidden gem you may never have discovered. My final point here is that you should always visit the venue before committing to anything. Photographs and descriptions online can be very deceiving and will not always give you the full picture of what you would get. Taking the time to visit the venue is an absolute must.
Decide on your Topic
Having a topic for your event is a great way to get people thinking about what they can bring to the group before the event. It doesn’t need to be a complicated subject, but something simple that you can use to structure the evening.
Find a Speaker
Depending on your niche, this can be a very easy or very difficult part of the setup. You will need to have the topic nailed before you start looking for a speaker as this is one of the first things they will need to know before confirming if they would like to speak. Some tips on finding a speaker for your event include:
- Reach out to the audience in your group to see if anyone would like to talk or if they know of anyone that would be suitable
- Use Twitter to send out a message to your followers and include a hashtag that matches your topic
- Handpick people you would like to speak and reach out to them directly
Find a Sponsor
An event that has some kind of funding always seems to entice more people to attend so this is a must if you want to create something that will bring in an audience. You will need to work out what you want the sponsor to put in and whether the funds that are allocated are to be used for a bar/food tab, venue hire or anything else. This can also be a bit of a challenge, especially if your meetup group is new, so here are a few ideas that you can use to entice a sponsor:
- Think of sponsors that are relevant to the industry your meetup group is in
- Choose sponsors that will get a benefit from increasing their brand awareness at your event
- Describe the meetup agenda and audience to the sponsor
- Inform them how many people will be attending
- Push the credentials of any speakers you have lined up
- Highlight what additional exposure they will get from being associated with the group
Schedule your Meetup Group
So, by now you should have ticked all the above boxes and are now ready to schedule your meetup group. This is the bit that should be the most exciting as you will start to see things coming together very quickly once you schedule the event. If you are using Meetup.com, scheduling your meetup couldn’t be easier and as long as you have completed all the above tasks you will be able to get it up and running within a matter of minutes. The description of the event is key here as this is what will entice your members to sign up, so make sure that you write a captivating title and provide enough information on what attendees should expect Details about the topic and the speaker(s) should be included in the main description box and I have found that adding photos of the venue can help drive more sign ups. Before you set the event live, you need to consider whether you are going to ask members to pay to attend. This is something you need to think carefully about and understand what the main goals of the event are, as charging for events can cause a significant decrease in the number of people who sign up. Additionally, those who do pay to come along will expect the event to be flawless and the speaker presentations will need to be of a standard that people are willing to pay for.
Promote the Event
This is where any marketing skills you have will need to come in to play as once the event has been scheduled you need to start promoting it. There are lots of different ways that I found beneficial for this including:
- Asking the existing members to share the group with friends, colleagues and anyone else they feel would be interested in joining
- Send out a Twitter message including a relevant hashtag for the topic of your event
- If you have a company Facebook page that would lend itself well to sharing the event, put a message on the wall
- The sponsor(s) that you have secured for your event will almost certainly help you promote it, don’t be afraid to ask
- Add your meetup to Craigslist to uncover new people who could join (http://www.craigslist.org)
- If your company website allows it, you can include the Meetup badge on the site to drive traffic through to the page
The marketing tactics that you employ here will vary depending on the audience you are looking to target, so have a think about where your potential members hang out and make sure you promote the group there.
On the Day of the Event
D-Day is finally here, which means you have been very successful in arranging a meetup and it is now time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Before you do this though, there are a couple of things you need to do to ensure the event runs smoothly:
- Phone the venue and make sure everything is still set for the event
- Email or call the speaker(s) to see if they have everything they need for the night
- A quick email to all attendees should be sent first thing double checking that they are still coming. The RSVP functionality within Meetup.com is great for you to be able to keep check on numbers and who is coming.
- Print out name badges for all the guests and include their company name and Twitter handles. It makes networking so much easier if you can see who is who on the night (don’t forget to do one for yourself)*
- Print out a sign that you can take with you to show members where to find you. Some venues are very easy to find but others can be a little more difficult so make it as simple as possible for your guests.
- Put your camera in your bag and make sure you take lots of pictures on the night
- Get to the event venue at least 30 minutes before it starts to setup and check that everything is in order
- Be prepared to welcome all your members, explain any formalities of the evening and introduce them to other guests who have already arrived
- Before the presentation(s) start, call the group together and thank them for coming. Now is the perfect time to give the sponsor(s) a good plug and thank them for their support.
- Sit back and enjoy the evening getting feedback as you go that you can apply to the next event that you arrange
* Although it may seem like a good idea to get very organised and have name badges printed prior to the event, this is something that I would leave until the day to allow for RSVP changes that may happen at the last minute.
So there you have it, some of my top tips for organising a successful meetup group. If anyone has anything to add that would help others when it comes to arranging a meetup, it would be great if you could add a little comment at the end of this post 🙂