At sektor5 we host a number of (developer) user group meetups. And we have done so for quite some time. Personally I co-founded the Ruby User Group in Vienna – vienna.rb – amongst other (study) groups. We thought it about time to share some tips & tricks on running a successful meetup group. And how to get goodies for your members.
The vienna.rb team keeps in touch via a private mailing list. We all have access to a GitHub repository to maintain the website and host the slides and we share custody over the meetup.com group and the Twitter account. In practice you’ll find out soon enough who likes doing what best. Hustling sponsors, getting people to do a talk, making pictures, writing recaps, updating the social channels. We are in contact at least once a week as we publish our ‘picks’ (favorite new gems, new releases and other funsies) every Wednesday, which is a great way to stay up to date. Yay for continuity.
Do your homework, check what development shops are looking to hire people and ask them to sponsor your event. Keep an eye on various job boards (startus.cc, viennastartupjobs.com or karriere.at). For group of forty thirsty developers you need about 200 euro (excluding tax). Github usually helps you celebrate the little big moments, like hitting the 200 meetup.com member mark. Contact them via their community platform and make sure to mention the special occasion.
Having a handful of speakers who will frequently commit to giving a talk is gold. Tell the audience at the meetup that the call for proposals is always open and you’d love to hear from them. And contact people in your field who are active and opinionated on Twitter and on their blog.
Make sure (all) your talks are in English. In German speaking countries this is still often times not the norm, but in a big city like Vienna there are many expats who will otherwise feel excluded from your meetup. Your speakers can prepare for that conference talk they want to give one day. And let’s be honest, most communication in the developer world is in English anyway.
Get someone high profile in, every now and then. Keep an eye on conferences taking place and invite international speakers who are around for these conferences to talk at your user group meetup. Offering them a place to stay and a meal to eat often times suffices.
There’s a few things you’ll need to have in your toolbelt in order to throw a user group meetup. First off: you’ll need a location, preferably free of costs. Co-working spaces are usually interested in hosting developer meetups as their members are always looking to hire coders. You could also contact companies you know are looking to hire, or ask your employer to ‘give back to the community’ by letting you host a user group.
Then you will need a sufficient amount of chairs, steady Wifi, a projector, adapters for various laptops and a functional ventilation system. Believe me, the latter is more important than you might think.
You will need a page on meetup.com, lanyrd.com, a Facebook page or a website… anything, some way to get people to join your little community and RSVP to your events – so you will actually know how big a group to cater to.
Keep your Twitter account and website active aggregating news (in your area). Chances are you regularly look at Hacker News and the likes anyway, why not share valuable content with your followers? The vienna.rb team stays in touch with people and companies that sponsored or talked at one of our meetups, so we’ll hear about their newest features / endeavors first. Creating more contact moments than around meetups only helps building a community.
Attending other user groups you might also scout speakers and topics interesting for your community.
Arrange some give away’s for your members and speakers.
– Ask your sponsor(s) or a local startup (or Github) for stickers, shirts, gadgets or licenses
– Sign up for the O’REILLY User Group program to get some books (and shirts!) to raffle out at your meetup
– Manning has a similar program, clickety-click to sign up
– … and so does the Pragmatic Programmer – contact them at email@example.com
– Jetbrains often sponsors licences for their IDE
– Roll your own, create your own logo and print it on stickers or tote bags
Extra Pro tips:
– Promote you user group at (beginners) workshops to ensure your community to grow beyond the familiar faces
– Contact a sponsor or someone who studies ‘something’ with audiovisual stuff to get a livestream / recording going. Attending a meetup for the first time is a whole lot less scary when you know how it’s going down from the video(‘s) you have watched.