We talked with Lynn Dye, co-organizer of the Oklahoma City WordPress Users Group that meets on the last Monday of every month. Lynn is a virtual assistant and builds simple websites for small businesses with WordPress.
Technology guru David North started the OKC WordPress Users Group in April of 2009. The group now has more than 170 members on Meetup.com, but lately they average 15-20 at each event.
Lynn learned about the OKC meetups shortly after she started using WordPress. “I had just started using WordPress and I thought it would be cool,” she says. Then Lynn moved from attendee to organizer, stepping up to help run the events, handling much of the preparation, including announcements, scheduling speakers and more.
Lynn shares some of her tips for putting on a WordPress meetup:
Tip 1: Use Meetup.com
Lynn recommends using Meetup.com to organize your group. “So many people have heard of it,” Lynn says. “Why not?”
Meetup.com has several useful tools for organizers, including automatic reminder notices, contact tools, RSVP capabilities, reviews and more. “It generates interest,” Lynn says. “It’s its own social media space.”
Tip 2: Get Help
Get help organizing your WordPress meetup so you don’t have to do it all by yourself. While David initially founded the OKC group, Lynn came on as a co-organizer because “he’s a busy guy.”
“It’s good to have two people in case one can’t be there,” Lynn says. If one can’t make it the other person can pick up the slack.
Tip 3: Find a Central Location
The primary reason Lynn gives for attending her first meetup: “It was so close.”
That may seem like a minor issue, but not many people want to spend their day driving across town. Find a place to meet that’s centrally located. It’s a simple way to lower the barrier to entry.
Tip 4: Finding a Location
When it comes to picking a location, Lynn has two suggestions: Free and Wi-Fi. Wireless Internet is a must. And a free location makes all the organizing that much easier. You don’t have to charge people to attend or burn a hole in your own pocket. The OKC group is currently meeting in a local college where David teaches. They’ve also met at a local nonprofit that hosted tech groups. Your best bet is to explore connections within your group. You’ll likely be able to find a low or no cost space that can provide Wi-Fi.
Tip 5: Signage Helps
Being easy to get to is more than just being centrally located. You also need to give clear directions and put up some signs to help point the way. You should have exterior signs pointing the way to the building and interior signs pointing the way to the exact room.
Don’t expect people to be able to ask for help along the way. Lynn’s group meets on a college campus and most students have no idea there’s a WordPress group meeting and would be at a loss to give directions.
“We’ve had people come in an hour late because they don’t know where they’re going,” Lynn says. “If you don’t know your way around, it’s bad. So have good signage.”
Tip 6: Mmm… Cookies
“When I started bringing homemade cookies and stuff, we started getting more people,” Lynn says. Delicious snacks are an acceptable form of bribery. Lynn goes all out with homemade goods, eschewing the “yucky cookies in a box” you can pick up at any grocery store.
With a relatively small crowd that the OKC group attracts, a free gathering with free snacks works out OK. Lynn doesn’t mind providing the treats and won’t let her fellow WordPress fanatics chip in. With larger groups that might not work so well.
Tip 7: Consistency
Lynn recommends deciding on a consistent time and place to meet. Choosing a specific day of the month, like the second Friday or the last Monday, can make it easier.
“You don’t have to worry about a date,” Lynn says. “It helps people.”
Consistent venues can make it easier to find as well. It doesn’t mean you can’t move around—the OKC group has moved around a bit—but try staying in one place for a while.
Tip 8: Speakers
Providing content for every month can be another difficult challenge. “Plan in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute,” Lynn says. She also recommends confirming speakers a few days before so you don’t have any last minute surprises.
A good way to find speakers is just to ask. Lynn surveyed her group and had a number of people volunteer.
“When you get to know people it gets easier to find people to speak,” Lynn says.
Tip 9: Content for Every Level
“In every group you get someone who’s worked with WordPress for a week and developers, so you have the whole gamut of levels,” says Lynn. “In our agenda we always plan a tutorial covering something for those beginner users.”
Creating content that’s accessible for everyone can be a challenge, but it’s important to keep things friendly for the newbies.
Tip 10: Take a Break
It’s OK to take time off. The OKC group takes the last two months of the year off. Since they meet on the last Monday of the month, in November and December those are usually holiday weeks.
“It gives us a breather,” Lynn says. “It’s a chance to recuperate and come back in January recharged.”