Lessons from Running Tech Meetups

In the summer, I would take the train down to SF every week to attend fireside chats, meetups, and hackathons. In each event, I would meet new people, practice my social skills, and get inspired by the speakers and other attendees. I remember it feeling surreal how all these people who I read about on the internet, were in the same room as me.

As someone who's organized events (on a smaller scale), it's interesting to be on the other side. You see all the work that have to go into it, the logistics and the planning.

In ISU, I started GDSC to build a community of developers who wanted to learn from each other. It was challenging finding people who shared the same passion as me. Maybe it has something to do with me being in Iowa. Also, starting a new club was difficult considering it took an entire semester to get it approved, and having Google's name in the club confuses but also attracts people.

Some lessons I've learned organizing events for students:

  • be able to introduce your club in 30 seconds, it should clearly define why you're different from existing clubs
  • organize a wide variety of events, people will show up
  • for every event, think about what the students can takeaway from
  • good design and branding is important, especially since we're representing Google
  • utilize professors to reach out to students
  • the date and time matters, don't clash with other big events
  • have a list of event ideas ready to go
  • reach out to speakers on twitter, linkedin, people are willing to talk
  • create a event checklist to reuse, to streamline tasks for everyone

Dave has a lot more experience, 5 years of running a tech meetup.

Here's his 12 lessons:

  1. The space where you host matters: great lighting, noise level, comfy seating
  2. You're selling an experience that doesn't exist yet: Posters and graphics should paint a picture of the event, show pictures of prior events
  3. Over-communicate the event logistics and agenda: you can't provide too much information, create a description template for events, and slideshow for intro
  4. Seek out the most interesting stories: Find people who will make you excited to attend the event yourself
  5. Find reliable, recurring sponsors: find tech companies, negotiate a longer term slot (3-event package), communicate back summary of how event went, anything to help justify their spend, find companies willing to rent space for free
  6. Order less food than you think you need: 30% dropoff for all RSVPs, cover 80% of predicted attendance
  7. Leave blocks of social time: the real value of meetups, leave time before and after
  8. Two attendees is a meetup: all it takes is another person to show up besides you
  9. Ask for feedback, reviews, and testimonials: social proof helps, be explicit and ask for feedback, quote testimonials
  10. Keep the momentum going: tease future events, send reminder emails, have events planned months out
  11. Know your reasons for organizing a meetup: it can turn into work really fast, so focus on the people, the stories and experiences you want to create
  12. It takes a leader: Assign specific duties to people willing to help