Bridget was late to her very first meetup and ended up having to sit up front, and when it was over, she just left – “don’t do that!” 😉
Jason had a similar experience, but he likes sitting in the front row! His first meetup had nothing to do with WordPress. He threw a bunch of search terms at Meetup.com and the Adobe Software meetup kept coming up so he went! Met a guy the first time there who encouraged him to speak at the very next meetup!
Attending your first meetup:
- Be on time (or early!)
- Have a 10-sec intro or “elevator pitch” available to introduce yourself – don’t try to sound clever, just say your name and some quick things about who you are – “If your grandma doesn’t know what you do by reading your twitter bio…”
- Sit where you can hear/see easily
- Meetup.com is a good resource for finding things you like
- If you’re a ‘doer’ and want to get involved in your meetup, sit back for a bit and see what people are NOT doing – then offer to do that!
- Take notes and share them! It’s a great way to help.
- Use a photo of yourself (that actually looks like you) on meetup.com (or on social)
- If you raise your hand with a question, make it a “question”, not a statement. Ask something that actually will have a good answer and further the conversation.
Organizing your meetup:
- Sometimes you hear people say “there’s not enough people speaking at meetups”, but Bridget asks the question “Are you asking people to speak?”
- Recognize that you have different kinds of people in your meetup that might want to help, some are introverts and some are extroverts – they may want to help but won’t speak up
- It’s important to have co-leaders because each leader will have different gifts & strengths
- Speakers — NO hard pitching!
- Know and follow the ‘code of conduct’. Make sure to create a ‘safe space’ in your meetup
- Start promoting at least two weeks in advance
- Create a facebook group or slack account so that people can connect in between meetups or re-connect if they’re not able to attend one
Bridget got involved with WordCamps when Alex Vasquez reached out to her (since she was a social media expert) and *asked* her to do social media for an upcoming Camp – and she’s been volunteering every since! She was ‘doing her thing’ and others recognized her gifts.
As meetup organizers, Bridget and Jen try to pay attention to what people’s gifts / strengths are.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs – ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’
If you catch someone spending a lot of time focusing on something or asking questions about something not directly related to the night’s topic, why not suggest “Maybe you can talk about that at one of our upcoming meetups!” What’s the worst that could happen? You might get a great speaker!
It’s not that people aren’t experienced or don’t have the needed gifts, but many people just need to be asked. They either don’t want to brag about their abilities or they may even struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’.
Ask “what are you working on? let’s see it!” It’s a great way to get everyone involved and possibly brainstorm new topics. You and your fellow organizers can speak every month but if you ask and seek input / topics / speakers / from your members, everyone can feel included.
If you can get people to talk, even if it’s just answering questions, eventually they’ll become more comfortable with speaking and may even be encouraged to speak at a future meetup
The way you present or comment on a tool/plugin should not reflect on how you view the user. Don’t make it sound like you’re the only one who is smart because you use “X” plugin instead of “Y” plugin. Share pro/cons and thoughts without being judgy! Try to be host/plugin agnostic as a leader of a meetup. Our job as facilitators is to create a psychologically safe place.
Be careful with gender-specific meetups – be gender-inclusive, not exclusive. You can focus your content and style at women, but you shouldn’t exclude men from attending. We can all learn from each other – men and women do things differently but all have something to offer.
We have a lot of seasoned WordPress professionals who no longer want to attend meetups because it’s too basic for them. We also have very new beginners who feel it’s too advanced. It’s nice, when possible, to be able to mix your content or have different meetups aimed at different levels.
RELATED: EP283 – Who are we presenting to at a WordCamp or WordPress Meetup? https://www.wpwatercooler.com/video/ep283-wpwatercooler/
If we approach any group of people and think “there’s nothing I can learn from any of these people” then we’re looking at it all wrong. There’s always something to be gained from networking and mentoring with other people. We want to get bigger jobs, so we should partner up with each other!
We’re more than just what we do for a living – we have unique interests/skills outside of WordPress – like yoga!
When Matt Cromwell went to WP Las Vegas a few years ago, he went to a beginner’s workshop (even though he’s an advanced user) and got to hear so much for new users that he was then able to take back with him and say “I’m going to do this differently from now on”.
We go through phases where we are advanced at some things and beginners at other things. It’s important to be a lifelong learner, there’s always something new you can learn and people you can learn from.
Try not to always talk about only the commercial plugin options and the pricier hosting options, you have to remember sometimes your audience is Joe, the cat-blogger! Not everyone works for a WordPress agency!
Promoting and blogging about your meetup is really important. Even over the holidays – that is often when people are the loneliest and need connection with others the most. Try to promote at least 2 weeks out and use more than just meetup.com to advertise.
Taking photos during your events can be super helpful – especially if you use those photos to promote the group on social media in between events
If you’re going to have your meetup on a week night, it can be tricky for people to get dinner before your meeting, so maybe provide cheap eats (pizza, etc) or try to meet up beforehand for a quick bite together.
In your meetup event page, comment & reply to people when they say they can’t attend or when they give feedback on the meeting – be interactive!
If you have a facebook page, try to schedule facebook events as reminders, and if it’s possible, even have someone record it and share it via facebook live during the meetup. (Can even be done with a cellphone)
Andrea Middleton: WordCamps are a celebration of the meetups that happen the whole year before!
Try not to have all of the meetup/WordCamp organizers sit together at events, it can be intimidating and exclusionary – it also makes it harder to focus on meeting new members and getting to know each other better.
Try to do your staff/organizer meetups not at the meetup event. Schedule a separate time for it.
Have consistency – it’s a HUGE factor – people who don’t attend regularly but know your schedule are able to hop in down the road when they may have more time to attend
Being a community means investing your time in other people. ~ Bridget
TOOLS AND TIPS
- Bridget: Use Gmail to help clean-up your constant contact email list by searching gmail addresses to find out if they have a profile with their first and last name listed
- Jason: There isn’t really any good formatting for doing “stories” on social media – found a great app for phones that allows you to make and customize your story – Unfold
Show notes contributed by:
- Cheryl LaPrade @YayCheryl
- Sherie LaPrade @HeySherie
Editor’s Note: Transcriptions of episodes are created with a mix of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain some grammatical errors or slight deviations from the audio.