Monday, November 14, 2022

What I learned from 14 years of organizing user groups and meetups

I'm unsure about my future involvement with organizing meetups and user groups.

However, I do know that over those years, I've learned a bunch of things that might be useful to other people who organize, attend, and/or speak at them.

There are 4 key components to organizing a meetup/user group

  1. Finding a venue
  2. Organizing speakers
  3. Telling people about upcoming meetings and persuading them to attend
  4. Running the actual event.

I can't help you with the first component but can do something for the others.

I think the key to creating a strong community where people want to attend regularly is to get attendees to talk about what they've worked on.

Over the years, the most requested subject for talks has been to hear from others about what they've made and what they learned in the process.
Introductions to technologies and basic demos have their place but seeing actual projects and hearing about overcoming the challenges of creating them can be much more interesting and informative. They also have the possibility of providing unique information. Such talks aren't the things you can hear anywhere else and are unlikely to be something you can find a video of online.

Having these talks has a few potential benefits:

  • It provides more unique speakers.
  • It provides unique content.
  • It allows an opportunity to hear from peers.

That all sounds good, but how do you find people to share such experiences?

Well, as part of an event, as an organizer, I'm going to try and talk to as many attendees as possible. Not only is making people feel welcome part of my role as host, finding people with things in common and connecting them with others is much more likely to make them come again. It also gives me a chance to ask people what they've been working on. Then, if they've been doing something I think might be of interest to the group, I ask them if they'd be up for giving a short talk about it at a future meeting.

This simple behavior helps build connection amongst attendees which increases the likelihood that they'll come again, and it helps find interesting new speakers.

It's simple, and it works.

But giving a talk can be intimidating and a lot of preparation. So I don't ask people to do that. I ask them to spend five minutes answering three simple questions.
It takes minimal preparation, is easy to do, and produces great results.

It's been so successful that it's enabled over 100 people to give such talks.

This is the unique insight that I discovered, and I think is valuable to other group organizers.

So, I've written a short book about it.

It's going to be called: 

Give a Great First Technical Talk - Share your experiences at user groups and meetups

More details to follow soon.


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