Meetups, the Right Way
Under this provocative, clickbait title, I hope these feedback can help meetups organizers to better target their audience and make meetups more valuable for everyone. These feedback come from meetups of different people, cities and countries: Montpellier, Paris, Marseille, New York, Montréal and San Francisco.
Rule #1 : No Q&A (Question & Answer)
I’m a simple person : I hate wars, I hate global warming deniers, I hate poverty, and… I hate Q&A at the end of conferences or meetups. I wonder why this is a absolute norm. During a meetup, you have the great power to have rare collective time, so please use it wisely! Instead of a Q&A session (often as long as the speaker’s talk), add a tiny talk with no slides from someone of the audience. Example: “I am working on this interesting project at my company because we did this thing this particular way.”
Everyone should be able to express his/her opinion
It’s hard to express ourselves in front of an audience, and let’s be honest, the tech community has more introverts than other communities. Having an open mic Q&A is not fair to everyone.
Propose an interactive quiz with Kahoot, an interactive survey on a slide at the beginning/end to know your audience. Have a MC to animate the audience, group/filter questions, or a person who has already prepared questions for a round table discussion. Another thing, they can highlight someone in the audience they know by doing 3 minute interview on what they are working on.
Rule #2: No Q&A
Just to be sure 😉 Plus, following these rules, you will be able to filter out assholes, who waste collective time by asking a specific questions about version 6.2.X of an obscure software. They just want to look smart in front of everybody by saying something that nobody can understand and it will make you feel shitty about not knowing this. We all experienced something like this during meetups, it’s time to say no more.
Comfort and location
To attract more people, the venue must be able to host people. That could appear like an obvious one, but no. I’m sure we’ve all been to venue with not enough (personal) space. An university’s lecture classroom is ideal.
We want beers and pizzas 🍕
No. Developers are normal person, they can eat different type of foods, be sure to propose something that does not contain meat for everyone to feel welcomed
Set and say your rules
Have an agenda of the evening.
Say it’s totally fine to leave the room at any time, it will not be received as an insult to the speaker. Attendees can also wait for a break to leave the room if they want to show more respect to the speaker. It’s totally OK to not applaud at the end of a talk. If you liked the talk, say it directly to the speaker, or contact her/him on twitter/email later.
By setting some rules, some people blocked by the stress of answering live questions would dare to present a subject, which would be great for the meetup diversity.
Start early, finish early.
Companies should support employees leaving early when a free meetup happens, it’s in their own interest.
I do not want to and I cannot be attentive for several hours after 6pm, especially for technical subjects, and especially if I’m hungry. Make it short, and be sure to… (read below 😛)
Have enough time for networking
What I mean by networking, is not to share a business card and to recruit people by talking about how disrupting your company is. It’s to make sure to say hi, being friendly and smile to other people. They share the same passion as you, you share at least one interest together, it’s rare in this world, so meet new people!
A great icebreaker is to ask to all attendees to discuss for 4 minutes to the person next to them before the conference begins. Nothing is more painful than seeing a HR in a 2 hour technical meetup, they clearly want to be somewhere else. Be empathetic, say hi to them, and if you are looking for some fresh air you can help each other exchanging information 😄
It’s the best advertising you can have to attract more people next time. I recommend this article by Thomas Gasc @meltybro (french)
Organizing meetups is no joke, thanks for all people who does it. I would not be the dev I am today without them : Ubuntu.
What are your top advises for meetups organizers ?
Special thanks to: