WordPress meetups are one of the many things that make WordPress so unique. You don’t see Microsoft Word or Google Doc groups getting together. But a WordPress meetup is the real deal.
In fact, there are more than 500 WordPress meetups around the world. That’s some serious community. And it means you’re not alone.
It’s time to break out of your bubble and check out a WordPress meetup.
How WordPress Meetups Can Help You
How do WordPress Meetups help you? Let’s be selfish for a moment, because as a business owner with bills to pay, you have to be.
- Connect – Attending a local WordPress meetup is a way to connect with your local community. You can make contacts, network, make your presence known and more.
- Find Work – Connecting with your local WordPress community and being available is a great way to find work. People can’t send work your way if they don’t know you exist. And sometimes they won’t remember to send work your way unless you’re at the top of their mind. There’s no better way to do that than to show up.
- Get Help – Rarely does anyone work alone. We all need help from time to time, whether it’s a sub-contractor or a future employee. Connecting at a WordPress meetup is a great way to discover local talent and find the specific help you need for your projects.
- Be Informed – If you want to be in the know, you have to show up. By connecting and interacting with local WordPress people you can know what’s going on before everyone else does. Learn about new plugins, developments and other exciting stuff. Be involved.
Practical Help for WordPress Meetups
We all know networking is good for business. But that doesn’t mean we’re all good at networking. Sometimes we need a little help breaking out of our bubble. The good news is a WordPress meetup is likely to have other folks like you. This isn’t the professional networker’s group where everyone is an extrovert.
Here are some tips to make the most of your WordPress meetup:
- Introduce Yourself – Don’t be a wallflower. Walk up to people and say hello. Exchange names and find out what they do. It’s a little nerve-wracking at first, but WordPress meetups are about meeting people, so it’s not weird to introduce yourself. You won’t be the only one breaking out of their comfort zone.
- Ask Questions – If you’re nervous about what to say, ask questions. Let other people talk. Being curious about other people and interested in what they do will make a good impression.
Bring Business Cards – You probably don’t want to lead with your business card, but still bring them. You’ll undoubtedly meet people you want to stay in touch with and the classic business card is still the best way to do it.
- Stalk People – OK, you don’t really want to be a stalker, but sometimes it helps to do a little research. A lot of meetup groups have a public attendance list and you can see who’s going to be there. If you’re looking to connect with ecommerce experts or theme gurus, do some quick Googling of the list and see if there are people you need to meet. Say hello on Twitter before the event and let them know you’d love to connect. If you don’t run into them at the event, just ask around.
- Volunteer – If you’re having trouble connecting with people, there’s nothing like volunteering to get you in. Suddenly you’re on the inside, helping plan the event and meeting the movers and shakers. And that brings us to our final point.
Help Out a WordPress Meetup
Organizing a WordPress meetup is no small feat. The volunteers making it happen are giving of themselves for the greater good. So consider helping them out. We’ve written an entire ebook about How to Run a WordPress Meetup, so whether you’re just helping out or you find yourself running a group, you’ll get some good advice.
Do More With a WordCamp
You should also watch for a WordCamp in your area. These events are more like a one-time conference than a monthly WordPress meetup, but it’s another example of the WordPress community getting together in person. WordCamps offer a more in-depth experience than a WordPress meetup, but all the same insights apply.
Go Far Together
The growth of WordPress from just another blog platform a decade ago to running 29% of the Internet today has been incredible. But what’s even more amazing is the community behind that growth. WordPress meetups are a way to see that community in real life.
So check out your local WordPress meetup, make some new friends, build connections and go far together.
The greatest thing about WordPress is the community. That’s what allows this free software to continue being free, to continually get better and to have an entire ecosystem of themes and plugins.
It’s pretty awesome.
But that community doesn’t have to be entirely virtual. All across the country, there are WordPress groups gathering in person on a regular basis. These WordPress meetups are an opportunity to meet and connect with other WordPress fans in your area.
It’s not just for geeks either.
There are plenty of WordPress fans of all stripes, from eager beginners to hardcore developers. There are entrepreneurs, coders, designers, writers and more. You’ll find independent freelancers, small business owners, growing startups and big tech companies. You’ll find people interested in developing plugins, customizing themes, setting up websites and creating content. There might even be a few geeks.
You can learn about all things WordPress. You might see some amazing presentations that blow your mind with what WordPress can do. You might be reminded of some simple features you overlooked. You might pick up some helpful tips that can make your site better. You might learn about some new plugins or themes that offer exactly what you’ve been looking for. You might get the help you need. You might meet some incredible people and forge connections that will help in the future.
Yes, WordPress meetups are the place to be.
Of course somebody has to run one in your area first. Maybe that someone is you.
There are more than 500 WordPress meetups across the world, in varying states of activity. There might be one in your area. If so, check it out. They may not need helping starting a meetup, but they might need help keeping it going. If that’s the case we’ve got some wisdom you can glean in the posts that follow. If there’s not a WordPress meetup in your area, it’s time to start one. We can help.
In this series we’ll talk about everything you need to know to start and run a WordPress meetup.
Let’s get together.
“If someone is looking to start a WordPress meetup I would advise them to do some soul searching first,” says Tony Cecala, organizer of the Dallas/Forth Worth WordPress Meetup. “If they are looking to support the community and would like to meet like-minded people, then they should jump right in.”
Before You Begin
Before diving into the nitty-gritty how-to of starting a meetup, you need to ask yourself some basic questions. As Tony advises, ask yourself why you’re doing this. If you have a WordPress-related business and you think it might be a good way to connect with customers and promote your company, that’s not the best reason. Your self-serving aims are going to turn people off.
Running a WordPress meetup is a long-term commitment. Can you follow through on what you’re starting? Many groups take years to get off the ground and start growing. It may be a while before all your hard work and dedication pays off. Are you ready for that?
Finally, are you the right person for the job? If giving a presentation in front of a group fills you with dread, you might want to reconsider. By default, meetup organizers often end up doing a fair amount of speaking. If organizational details aren’t your forte, you’re going to have a problem. Meetup organizers need to be organized (duh). They need to be responsible and follow through. They need to be able to plan and tackle mundane details. If that’s not you, you’re going to have a problem.
But if you’re not the right person for the job, don’t despair. You might not be the only person for the job.
Organizing a WordPress meetup is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it alone.
“It’s good to have two people in case one can’t be there,” says Lynn Dye, co-organizer of the Oklahoma City WordPress Users Group. “The other person can pick up the slack.”
It’s wise to team up with multiple people to organize a meetup. Pool your strengths and the group will be better for it. If you don’t think you can do it on your own, find a few people willing to carry the load with you.
There’s strength in numbers. It’s always better to have a team organizing a meetup than just a lone person. Even if one person calls the shots, you need a few other co-organizers to help carry the load.
Let’s face it: Life happens. Some day something will come up and you won’t be able to make it to your own meetup. You need somebody to help you out, and, preferably, not at the last minute. If a team is running things from the start, it’s no problem if one person can’t make it.
- Team Diversity – Make sure your organizing team has some diversity. If you’re all hardcore coders, it’s likely you’ll attract nothing but hardcore coders. Get some diversity on your team so you can appeal to a wider group of users.
- Recruit New Blood – Organizing is a lot of work and eventually you’re going to have folks who move on or need a break. Recruit some new organizing members to spread the load and keep your initial group from dwindling too low.
- Right Skills – Make sure you have at least one person in your organizing team who’s good at throwing parties and organizing events. Those are skills you’re going to need, and while you can learn them, it works better if you have someone who can share their wisdom.
Running a WordPress meetup is a big job to take on. But if you get some help, you’ll do just fine.
Before diving too deep in your efforts to start a WordPress meetup, you should look around and make sure there’s not already a WordPress group meeting in your area.
- Search on Meetup.com to see what groups are in your area.
- Not every group is using Meetup.com, so you’ll need to explore further. Check out Google. Search for things like “WordPress meetup,” “WordPress user group,” “WordPress event” along with your city or area.
- Search for other WordPress events in your area. If there’s a WordCamp in your area, you can bet there’s already a meetup organized.
- Ask around. Find other tech events and see if they know of a WordPress group. Ask your local WordPress friends if they’ve heard of a local group.
It’s usually better to join forces than have two competing groups, so do your homework first and make sure you’re not reinventing the wheel.
Hosting a Planning Meeting
There are a lot of questions you need to answer when you’re starting a meetup group. Who? What? When? Where? It’s easy to get overwhelmed.
A good first step is to gather a few people interested in a meetup and start answering these questions. This can be the beginning of your organizing team. You could do this online, but it might be more engaging and, well, fun to get together in person.
There are two main ways to go about this initial meeting. Either one can work and it depends on your situation.
Small & Personal
One way to get started is to gather a few friends and talk about what you want to do. Maybe send an email to a bunch of people who use WordPress and see what happens. Maybe you already have a small group that’s interested. However it works, you keep it personal and you don’t make a big public splash.
The benefit here is that you can make it quick and dirty. It’s a brainstorming meeting to get things started. You don’t need to pick the perfect venue or worry about a logo or if you’re going to use Meetup.com or what. You just gather a few friends and start talking about what this meetup will look like.
While this is a good way to get started quickly, it’s not a good way to include new people—which is kind of the whole point. So while you may make some decisions and some good progress, keep an open mind. When you have your first gathering open to the general public, be sure to get their input and incorporate it. You might find that the wider public wants something different than your little group, and that’s OK. You just have to roll with it.
So with a small and personal first meeting you can get going quickly—just a couple friends at the bar can get things rolling—but you need to shift on the fly as you make the group official and open to the public.
Big & Public
The other way to go is to throw your first meeting open to the public. Invite whoever wants to come. Throw up an event on Meetup.com or EventBrite. Announce it on Twitter, Facebook your blog and spread the word far and wide.
Going big and public is good because you can bring in the community right from the start. You’ll quickly see if you’ve got a ton of developers or a ton of newbies. You won’t have to shift on the fly because you’re getting everyone’s input right from the start.
The downside is that it’s a lot more work. By making your first meeting open to the public you have to do a lot of the groundwork yourself. Where are you going to meet? That depends on how many people show up. And when your first getting started you may have no idea. You could be a handful of people at a corner table in a coffee shop. Or you could be a dozen or more and need your own room. If you use something like Meetup.com or EventBrite, you might find yourself using technology that isn’t ideal and need to switch later. And since you’re inviting the public you need to be, well, inviting. You should have signs directing people and sign up sheets and all the rest. You need to do a fair amount of organizational legwork before you even get started.
A few questions to ask
A good early tip is to survey your group and get some answers on all these questions. You may have consensus at your first meeting, but you may not. You might see three or four good ideas rise to the top and still need to narrow things down.
- When do you want to meet? Give a few options, don’t leave it wide open.
- Where should we meet? It might help to find out where people are coming from as well as where they’re willing to meet. Some people might be more willing to drive than others. Get a sense for how important is it to have a centrally located venue.
- What kind of meetup are you going to have? While speakers and presentations are pretty popular, that’s not the only way to do it.
- Who’s willing to speak? Any time you can, ask for volunteers to present.
After the Meeting
Discussion at your first meeting may or may not answer all your questions. A post-meeting survey can be a good way to get a vote and see where everybody is at.
Getting input from the group is important, but remember that the group can’t make all the decisions. Get their input and let it guide you, but ultimately you’re running the show.
With your first meeting under your belt, you’ll begin to answer some questions and figure out how this group will come together. Of course things will change. You’ll outgrow space and need more speakers and have to figure all kinds of things out. That’s part of the process. Just be flexible, be friendly and have fun.
What, When, Where
One of the first things you’ll need to sort out is what kind of meetup you’re going to have. What do you do when you get all these WordPress fans together? This will influence everything else, from what type of venue you select to what kind of speakers you need.
There are a ton of different things you can do at a meetup. And there’s no single answer. You can do different things at the same meetup or change it up every month. Mix and match and do what works best for your group.
“Everybody does them differently, sometimes they have the meetup where you meet in a bar and talk about WordPress, sometimes it’s a classroom type format.” says Michael Torbert, founder of the Raleigh WordPress Meetup Group. “We decided to have the best of both worlds. Once a month we have a social WordPress meetup at our office lounge, in addition to our regular meeting that’s more of a classroom setting.”
- Classroom Style Presentations – Many meetups offer your basic classroom style presentations where somebody stands up in the front and shares something. This educational approach is a good way to offer some serious value (assuming you can find some good speakers).
- Social/Networking – Another approach is to focus on networking or simple hanging out. This is less organized and more casual. It’s up to the individual attendees to find their own value as they connect and meet people. Most meetup groups set aside some time for socializing and networking.
- Group Discussion/Forum – Another approach is to open your meetup to the group for a large discussion. You’ll probably need a facilitator to keep the discussion on track, but this can be a good way to hear from a lot of people and draw on the collective wisdom of the room. You’ll need to pick good topics and have some prepared questions to keep things going.
- Introductions & Personal Sharing – Since meetups are about meeting people, a good way to go is gearing your meetup as a chance to introduce people. For small groups it might work to go around the table and have everybody introduce themselves and share what they do with WordPress. This is more of a challenge for large groups, but it can be done.
- Hackathon/Help Desk – You can also draw on the wisdom of the group and offer to solve problems. Set up a help desk and encourage people to bring their laptops and their problems. Have some developers on hand ready to answer questions, help fix bugs, tweak CSS and more. This can work well with a social/networking component where some people can socialize while others are getting help.
- Build Something – This is really a glorified classroom style presentation, but it’s so fun it’s worth talking about separately. The New York City WordPress Community built their own social networking site using the BuddyPress plugin. But instead of having a couple WordPress experts do it during their spare time, they did as a group. They built it together on the big screen (and recorded it!), showing everybody how it’s done and walking through every step. How cool is that?
- Expert Q&A/Panel – Sometimes if a formal presentation is too time intensive, you can ask an expert to do a question and answer session. You could also pull together several experts and do a panel discussion. This can be a little more informal and a good way to get input from your audience and get their questions answered.
- Themes – A good way to organize your events is to come up with themes. Each meetup can cover a different topic and this can be a helpful way to bring some cohesiveness to what you’re doing. Cover plugins, themes, business, writing, design, etc. One downside is that it might be harder to appeal to a larger audience with such a specific focus.
Whatever you decide to do during your meetup, remember that value is important. If people are going to take time out of the schedules to come to your meetup (and come back!), there has to be something of value.
Picking a Time
Picking a time for your WordPress meetup is crucial. Here are some tips on how to choose a time for when to meet:
- Pick a consistent day of the month that’s easy to remember. The first Friday or third Wednesday. This makes it easy for you to plan and easy for attendees to remember.
- Plan around other meetups in your community. You don’t want to be competing with other groups, so find any social, tech, blogging, etc. meetups and make sure you’re not conflicting.
- Find a time that makes sense. If you’re meeting downtown it might make more sense to meet earlier so people can go straight to the meetup from work. If you can’t offer food, maybe start a little later so people have time to grab supper.
- Consider shaking things up every now and then and offering an event at an off time that might appeal to people who can’t normally make it. If you always meet in the evenings, consider a morning meeting. If you meet on weeknights, consider a weekend event. This might work best for special events once you’re more established, but it’s a good way to make more people feel included.
- Find some consensus on what works, but don’t sweat it. You’re always going to have some people who can’t make it. Don’t feel like you have to change everything to meet the needs of a vocal minority. Often you’ll find that the ones who complain the loudest are also the ones who won’t show up when they get their way.
Finding a place to meet for your WordPress meetup is always important. You want a place that’s accessible and friendly, a place that will work for the type of meetup you’re doing (a coffee shop will work great for a networking session, but not so much for a presentation). You also need a place that works for your group. You don’t want the fire marshal breathing down your neck, but you also don’t want a cavernous hall for five people.
Since most meetup organizers aren’t independently wealthy, you probably want a free venue. We’ll talk about costs later, but the venue cost can be one of the big ones and will often determine whether or not you’ll need to charge for the event.
Finding a Venue
Finding that all-important venue is tough. Here are some places to start your hunt for where to meet:
- Connections – Work your group’s connections to find a venue. It’s entirely possible someone works at a school or business with a space that might work. With an employee or student involved in the group, some places might be willing to waive any fees to make it work. Ask around and see what connections your group has.
- Coworking Spaces – Shared office space in a coworking location is often a good place to meet. WordPress groups are often chockfull of freelancers, the bread and butter of any coworking space. The exposure is often worth a free conference room.
- Restaurants/Coffee Shops – For small groups simply pulling together a couple tables at a local restaurant or coffee shop might do the trick. Of course you’ll need to have an appropriate meeting style, but for low-key events this can work well. Plus, it’s easy to have people pay for their own refreshments. Just remember to be courteous to the establishment and tip well. Don’t take over an entire corner of the coffee shop for two hours and buy nothing but a small coffee. Also, be sure to pick a place that’s not too loud so you still have effective conversation.
- Schools/Businesses – Local schools, businesses and other organizations may be willing to offer up free space for the exposure it provides. Just like coworking spaces, a local tech business may love having a swarm of WordPress fans in their space every month. A local tech school might also want the honor of hosting a local meetup and forging some connections that can help their students. It never hurts to ask.
- Community Spaces – Some local community organizations might have space that’s available to the public for free. Try libraries, community centers or churches.
There’s a lot to consider when hunting for a venue for your WordPress meetup. Below are some tips to consider as you’re finding a venue and some ways to make the most of your space:
- Wi-Fi – Internet access is a must. You’ll definitely need it for your presenters and it’d be nice if the entire audience can get online as well. Unfortunately, many Wi-Fi venues have a hard time keeping up with a tech-heavy crowd. Ask ahead. You might not have a choice, but it’d be a perfect tie-breaker if you’re choosing between two venues.
- Power Strips – Wi-Fi is great, but it’s useless if your battery is dying. Make some power strips available so nobody has to fight over outlets.
- Projectors – If you’re doing classroom style meetups you’ll need a projector system and screen.
- Mics – Depending on the size of your group and the location, you might need some amplification. More than likely you’ll need this sooner than you think. A soft-spoken presenter and background noise is a recipe for frustration.
- Good Directions – Nobody likes to be lost. Offer maps to get there and signage once you’re there. If you’re at a restaurant, try to be visible from the front door and use table tents so people know where they’re going.
- Legal Obligations – Be aware of any legal obligations you may have. If a floor gets scratched they may come after you as the organizer.
- What About Food? – If you’re doing any kind of refreshments will they work in the space? Or are you going to get burned when pizza sauce drips on the carpet?
- Centrally Located – It’s a good idea to find a place that’s centrally located. This can be hard to manage since it depends on who’s coming, but it’s nice to try.
- Parking – Make sure there’s plenty of parking or it’s clear where people can park. You don’t want people getting tickets thanks to your meetup. That’s a downer.
- Safe – Make sure you’re meeting in a neighborhood that’s generally safe. Some people have different standards, so make sure everybody’s going to feel safe. If it’s an area that maybe gives a sketchy vibe but you know it’s safe, just reassure everybody by making sure it’s well lit after dark or have people head out in groups.
- Fun – A fun space can make the event. If there’s a cool tech company in town with a hip office, those kinds of spaces are fun and energizing. Sure beats a drab conference room.
- Spice It Up – If you are stuck with that drab conference room, find some ways to spice it up. Full on decorating might not be worth it, but there are always some simple ways you can add something fun. Maybe you put toys on the tables to fiddle with or ditch the fluorescents for some lamps.
- Paying for Space – Be sure you’re getting your money’s work if you have to pay for space. Look for perks and be sure they’re catering to you. You’ll also want to come up with an RSVP system and maybe even charge so you have a good idea how many people are coming. You hate to pay for a big space only to have it half filled. You can try to cover these costs with sponsorship or charging an entrance fee. We’ll talk more about costs later.
Finding speakers seems to be a constant struggle for meetup organizers. Especially with smaller groups it can be hard to find new speakers. It can also get tiring to hear from the same couple folks every month.
Here are a few ways to find speakers:
- Ask Your Group – Ask for volunteers. And keep asking. There are always new people or people who are newly considering it. Keep asking. As time goes on people are learning and growing, so they’re gaining the insights to give a solid presentation. So keep asking.
- Out-of-Town Guests – Watch for out-of-town guests who might make good speakers. If they’re coming in to town for something else they might be able to piggyback and attend your event as well.
- Local Experts – Find local experts in your area and invite them to speak.
- Blogs – Watch the blogs and tweets of your group members for good ideas and then ask them to speak on that topic.
- Search for Ideas – Check out WordPress blogs, WordPress.tv and the schedules for other WordPress Meetups or WordCamps to get ideas for engaging presentations. Then look for someone in your community who could cover those topics.
- Off Topic – Sometimes the best presentations are only tangentially related to WordPress. Think outside the box. Sometimes a design refresher or a basics of copywriting presentation is just what people need. After all, WordPress sites need graphic design and they need copy. You don’t want to stray too far from WordPress often, but occasionally it can be fruitful.
- Shake Things Up – If finding presenters is hard, go with a different format. Go with a social hour, demonstration, round table discussion, group project or something else.
“Don’t wait until the week before to try to get a speaker,” says Lynn Dye, co-organizer of the Oklahoma City WordPress Users Group. “Plan in advance so you’re not scrambling at the last minute.”
As hard as it may be to find speakers, the more you can plan in advance the better. You give your speakers more lead time to prepare their presentations, you can announce the event earlier and build community interest and it makes your organizing efforts less stressful.
Take Care of Your Speakers
It’s also important when you find speakers to make sure it’s worth their while. Most groups can’t afford to pay presenters (though if you’re charging for the event, you might be able to offer a small honorarium or gift card), but you can still do your utmost to be thankful. Make sure you communicate all the appropriate details and don’t leave your guest speaker wondering. Confirm that they’re coming a week before and ask if they need anything. At the event, anticipate any needs they may have. Make sure the audio-visual connections work, offer them water and let them know the schedule for the event. After the event show your appreciation by sending a thank you card.
It’s hard to find speakers, so when you find them treat them well so they’re eager to do it again.
It Gets Easier
“Passionate people have found ways to get involved in the group; we don’t twist arms,” says Toby Cryns, co-founder of the Minneapolis-St. Paul WordPress User Group. Hopefully over time you’ll find the same thing: Put together a good group and the passionate speakers will come to you.
Dealing with Costs
“You don’t want to charge for the meetup,” says Michael Torbert, organizer of the Raleigh WordPress Meetup Group. “Obviously it’s not about making money.”
But you don’t want to go broke either. You’ll be putting a lot of time and sweat into a meetup, you shouldn’t have to put your wallet into it as well. This is where meetups can get complicated.
There are several costs associated with meetups and just as many ways to handle them. Here are some of the potential costs:
- Promotion (website hosting, flyers, table tents, signage, etc.)
Certainly you don’t need all of these. Many meetups go without free refreshments. They either ask folks to bring their own or they meet at a restaurant or coffee shop where everyone can buy their own. Recording your events is also not required.
You also don’t have to pay for all of these. Most speakers will volunteer for free. Promotion can often be done on the cheap. You can also find sponsors who might be willing to cover the cost of the venue or food.
What About Income?
So you’ve got some expenses. How about some income? There are generally two options and you can always do both.
1) Charging for the Meetup
While you want to keep your event free, that’s not always possible. WordPress strongly encourages it, but sometimes you have expenses. Sometimes you need to charge for the meetup to help cover those expenses. It’s not ideal, but it’s perfectly acceptable.
“I charge to ensure that the members have a quality experience,” says Tony Cecala, organizer of the Dallas/Fort Worth WordPress Meetup. “There are many other haphazard, free meetups they can attend.”
Charging for your event also means you can more easily raise the bar on what you’re offering, as Tony says. This fits with the WordPress model: There are plenty of free themes out there, but if you want a better, solid, more trusted experience, you can also spend the money on a premium theme.
Another benefit to charging for your event is that RSVPs will become much more reliable. When an event is free it’s too easy for people to RSVP if they’re kind of interested but then not show up. This can be a major problem if you have limited space. But charging a nominal fee–$5 or $10—will almost guarantee that people show up when they RSVP. They’ll flake out if it doesn’t cost them anything, but they’re less likely to throw away good money.
Remember that once people have to start paying for an event they’re going to expect more. Be sure there’s a tangible sense of value.
Sponsors can be a great way to cover costs. That extra money gives you room to invest more in the event and make it a better experience for the community.
But opening up your meetup to sponsors also means you have some added responsibilities. No one is eager to sit through a commercial, so you’re going to have to balance the needs of your sponsor and the needs of your community.
- Make it very clear what sponsors are getting. Spell out the details in writing to avoid conflicts.
- Likewise make it clear to your community what sponsorship pays for. A two-minute commercial goes down easier when it’s understood that it keeps the event free.
- A good sponsorship works when everybody gets value out of the relationship. If everybody wins, everybody’s happy.
Promotion & Online Presence
You need to get the word out about your WordPress meetup. This isn’t a Kevin Costner movie—just because you built it doesn’t mean they’ll come.
There are a lot of ways to promote your event, but we’ll cover a few big ideas to help you out along the way.
Keep What You Get
Make the most of your efforts by making sure that people who come to an event come back. Put on excellent events, be consistent, communicate well. Make sure people are getting value. If you’re doing this right, then your event will promote itself. Any effort you put into promotion will be magnified because your event backs it up.
Make sure you connect with new people when they come for the first time. Don’t overwhelm them, but do introduce yourself, explain how things work and make sure they’re signed up on your email list.
Can’t Someone Else Do It?
Another easy way to do promotion is to let someone else do it. Make it easy for other people to promote your event. Use a consistent hashtag for your event. Encourage people to take photos and tweet about the event. Post a good agenda of the event ahead of time so people can get excited and spread the word. After the event share some valuable content like notes or video. Give people something to talk about.
Use Your Time Wisely
Running a meetup is time intensive so you want to make sure you’re getting the most promotional bang for your buck. Since you’re appealing to a tech-centric audience, use tech-centric channels. Focus on Facebook, Twitter, a website. Also recognize what you are—a local social event. That means you need to find ways to reach out to local people. You also need to be aware that this is a social event and that can be intimidating for newcomers. Often a personal invite from a current attender is what will bring someone new.
Your Meetup’s Online Presence — Creating a Site
An obvious promotional tactic is to create a site for your meetup.You need an online presence to organize and announce your WordPress meetup. Many groups use Meetup.com and it’s the official WordPress Meetup site. But that’s not the only way to go. You can also create your own site. Or you can do both. But you need a vibrant, consistent online presence.
The upside of using sites like Meetup.com is you’re tapping into a pre-existing community of people who like to attend meetups. In the case of Meetup.com, it’s likely the first place people will look for a meetup in their area because WordPress sends people there. The automatic event reminders and review section can also be helpful.
The downside of Meetup.com—or any other event listing site—is that you’re not in control. These sites can always disappear, change their policies, raise their rates or otherwise make life difficult for you.
Setting Up Your Own WordPress Meetup Site
That’s the primary bonus of setting up your own site: You own it. You’re in charge and you can do whatever you want. You could even use it as another revenue source by running Google ads with your content.
Plus you can build the site during a meetup. It’s a great way to walk newbies through the process of installing WordPress and show off some expert tips along the way.
The downside is that it’s another place to maintain. If Meetup.com is working for you, you might be needlessly doubling your efforts.
Online Presence Tips
A few tips for creating and maintaining your online presence:
- Single Event Page – Have a single page announcing each meetup that gives all the necessary overview info, as well as bio info and links for speakers. It’s helpful to point to one place for Twitter handles, hashtags and bios. If you’re doing both a Meetup.com site and your own site, the basics should be on both sites, but use one as the primary page and have the other link to it. You want to have everybody using the same main page.
- Build a Content Reservoir – “Our videos have benefitted the global WordPress community, and that’s awesome!” says Steve Bruner, organizer of the New York City WordPress Community. Have someone take notes at every meetup and post those notes on the site. If you have the resources, record each meetup and post the videos online. You’re creating a wealth of content each month and you might as well collect and share it. It gives people an example of what your meetings are like and will encourage them to attend, plus it’s a wealth of content that will draw more people to your site.
- Connection & Interaction – Be sure your site allows for connection and interaction within the community. That’s the whole point of a meetup and you should be encouraging it online as well as offline. Meetup.com has a message board you can use or explore a plugin for your own WordPress site.
- Your Own URL – Even if it just points to a Meetup.com site, have your own URL. It’s a lot easier to point people to wpcityname.com than meetup.com/wpcityname. It just makes things simpler.
- Keep it Current – Nothing kills your consistency and communication like an out of date site. Whatever you decide to do, keep it current. This is especially true if you’re going to have a Meetup.com site and a separate site. It’s easy to let one be neglected and that’s a bad move. Don’t build what you can’t maintain.
Top Tips for Awesome WordPress Meetups
Promote, promote, promote.
“Turnout generally depends on how good of a job we do with promotions,” says Toby Cryns, co-founder of the Minneapolis-St. Paul WordPress User Group. If you want people to show up, you need to spread the word. Check out this post for more tips on promoting your meetup.
Pick a consistent day of the month and time to meet.
For example, this could be the first Friday or third Wednesday of each month. It makes it easy for everyone to remember the event and plan on it. Here are a few more tips for picking a meetup time.
Share content from your meetup.
“Our videos have benefitted the global WordPress community, and that’s awesome!” says Steve Bruner, organizer of the New York City WordPress Community.
“People want to know that they are joining something of substance,” says Tony Cecala, organizer of the Dallas/Fort-Worth WordPress Meetup. “It almost goes without saying that the content of the meetup should be valuable. If members feel that someone is just on stage to pitch to them, the reputation of the meetup takes a hit.”
Learn from mistakes.
“I’ve made mistakes, but I try not to ever make the same mistake twice,” says Tony Cecala.
It’s OK to charge.
“I charge to ensure that the members have a quality experience,” says Tony Cecala. This can also help if space is a concern. Charge a nominal fee like $5 will vastly increase the number of RSVP folks who actually show up.
We’ve talked a lot about how to run a WordPress meetup. It’s fair to wonder if it’s worth all the effort.
“There’s a great cost to one’s sanity. No! Just kidding,” says Tony Cecala, organizer of the Dallas-Fort Worth WordPress Meetup. “I’ve met a great number of people I call close friends.”
Those relationships are one of the main benefits meetup organizers talk about.
All About Relationships
“I’ve made tons of great friends and business relationships,” says Steve Bruner, organizer of the New York City WordPress Community. “Plus, I ended up organizing the NYC WordCamp three times. I really learned how to put on an event.”
“The friendships you make are good,” adds Lynn Dye, co-organizer of the Oklahoma City WordPress Users Group. She also mentions meeting WordPress experts from around the country, including Lisa Sabin-Wilson, whom Lynn had the opportunity to interview.
“So you get the knowledge, you get to know people and you can help people,” says Lynn. “It makes you want to learn more. I just want to go.”
“I enjoy seeing what other people are doing, even when they’re my competitors,” says Michael Torbert, organizer of the Raleigh WordPress Meetup Group. “It’s nice to see interesting projects.”
More than Money
One thing you’re not going to get out of organizing a WordPress meetup is money: “If you’re wanting to do it to make yourself money, that’s not going to happen,” says Michael. “Even if you do that’s the wrong reason to do it.”
WordPress meetups are really about the community. Connecting with people and forming friendships is really more valuable than any negligible profit.
“I believe strongly that digital interactions are not a good way to build lasting friendships and partnerships,” says Toby Cryns, organizer of the Minneapolis-St. Paul WordPress User Group. “The most valuable part of the whole MSP WordPress operation is the 20 minutes following our gatherings, where everybody stands around and talks.”
One of Tony Cecala’s best memories from a WordPress meetup is when a friend took an opportune moment when Tony stepped out to wish him happy birthday: “When I returned, there’s a lot of laughter and buzzing, and I see a slide with a birthday cake on it and everyone sang the song,” Tony explains.
Michael remembers a Christmas social event at a funky warehouse office with pingpong. “It was fun talking with everybody instead of getting up and talking to everybody,” Michael says. “Not a whole lot of talk about WordPress, but just a fun time.”