(I've attended and spoken at many more but that was the 99th I'd been primarily, if not solely, responsible for organising.)
These have been as part of DevEvening and then as the 'Window Phone User Group' which was later renamed 'Windows Apps London'. (27 for the first and then 72 for the latter.)
These have mostly been presentation based events on a mid-week evening but have also included:
- one-day barcamps and mini conferences
- all-day hackathons
- coding competitions
- collaborative coding challenges
- show-and-tell sessions
- social events
Through these events, I've met some amazing people and been granted some great opportunities (both in terms of work and personally.)
It's not been just about me . Through these events:
- friendships have been made
- businesses have been formed
- people have found work (and whole new careers)
- many people have learnt a great deal
- many apps/products/services/tools have been created and improved
- attendees have been motivated
- lessons have been shared and learned
- people have been encouraged to share what they've learned
- some of the people who spoke at these meetings for the first time have gone on to become international conference speakers
- at least five other groups have been started prompted by attendance at one or more meetings
- lots of people got free phones and tablets
- I've given away a lot of software, conference passes, t-shirts, badges, stickers, books, pens, cups, and other assorted SWAG (huge thanks to all who donated these.)
- a lot of burgers and pizza have been eaten. (For events held in pubs this usually meant people buying burgers. For other events this meant ordering pizza--and I'm now very good at ordering large quantities of pizza!)
- and, of course, much drink has been drunk. (Possibly surprisingly more soft drinks than alcohol and I've also learnt that people really appreciate a variety of drink options.)
It's been an incredible time.
I started organising these meetings because I wanted to go to them. To meet people with similar interests and learn from their experiences. I've certainly done this and more, even though I'd often miss some of the talks I was keen to hear as I was busy doing organisation related things.
The highlight of eight years of organising events is hearing from people who come to and look forward to these events because they would have had little option to socialise otherwise or at least to meet with other people who share their interests.
It can be tempting to joke about or dismiss a group of geeks or nerds meeting together to talk about technical subjects. (There are even lots of technologies and acronyms discussed that I don't know anything about but others care about passionately--and that's ok.)
While the freebies and trips have been great, the biggest highlight for me and which makes all the organisational effort worth it is one story which almost had me in tears.
Someone who had been coming to meetings on and off for a few years stopped coming for a while. He turned up at one meeting a few months later and after the meeting spoke to me. He said that he was sorry he hadn't been there for a few months. His father had died, his wife had left him and taken their three kids, he'd had to find a new place to live, and get a new job. That night was the first time he'd been out in three months and he was really appreciative of the opportunity to see some friendly faces and spend a few hours doing something for him and enjoy focusing on something pleasant that he like doing. I felt it an honour to be able to help create something and a place that would allow him to feel like that.
In a world where people are increasingly being isolated, it's important to meet with other people with similar interests. Even if it is just to talk about "techy geeky stuff".
What comes next? (Some people have told me that I have to get to 100 events, but 99 seems like just as good a number.)
Right now I honestly don't know what'll be next. Personal circumstances mean it's highly unlikely that I'll be doing any more evening events in the next few months.
Maybe something online - but I've always really valued the difference people meeting in person brings to an event. (see above)
Maybe something during the day....
To all who've attended or otherwise been a part of those 99 events, Thank you. I hope you enjoyed and valued them as much as I did.