Up to 10,000 groups gather to attend meetups across the world every day, and listings for science and technology-related topics are second only to business in number. Millions of people meet to showcase and discuss big data and mobile development, software development, artificial intelligence, and new technologies.
Groups on the east coast are particularly strong, with NY Tech Meetup boasting almost 50,000 members. It may even be possible to use meetup data to determine which locations are most lucrative for startups.
Without further ado, here are our 10 tips to organize the best tech meetups.
Find a Niche
This is the most crucial step, as well as the most time-consuming. A lot of successful speakers attend meetings on topics that interest them and begin speaking on them once they’ve recognized a niche with high potential. There are several ways to identify hot science and technology topics. The easiest is perhaps Google Trends – it will show you how often people search for something.
You could also look at upcoming meetup agendas to see what topics they will be covering. These teams do lots of research to find topics that attract their target audience’s interest.
This resource also exposes underdeveloped niches in a given area. For instance, if a meetup on artificial intelligence has been scheduled, but chatbots are not on the agenda, you could fill this gap. You can claim a niche if you start to observe a similar gap across meetup agendas.
IT topics are normally recycled. Resellers and distributors just repeat the vendors’ story following a product launch. A tech meetup audience doesn’t really need a product presentation unless the event is a demo, which can be via WebEx or at the client’s location. Ideally, you’d bring a product to a specific sector or market. Instead of simply showcasing a product, focus on how it can help a given sector.
Below are some of the most popular sectors with a vast array of lucrative niches:
- Web Development
- Web Technology
- New Technology
- Internet Professionals
- Software Development
- Web Design
- Open Source
- Computer programming
Write some code, create a cool product or service, write a few blog posts, and jot some notes down for a speech on the topic or topics you’d like to discuss. Share them on platforms like LinkedIn and GitHub. Seeing a similar topic a few times shouldn’t worry you. Especially at the beginning, it isn’t a problem to overlap topics with other speakers. Why? For several reasons:
- It’s harder to sell a topic, even if it’s completely new and original, when people haven’t been convinced of your expertise. Your speaking style and skills can help convey your technical expertise.
- Meetups seek all the different approaches to a topic, including talks, workshops, and demos.
- It’s possible to represent the local perspective on a given topic because the speaker circuit is a global market.
Be (or Create) a Great Speaker
Even tech meetups can struggle to find speakers. As an organizer, it’s your responsibility to curate a number of discussions by experience level and topic. To make this happen, you’d need to attract new speakers.
If you yourself don’t feel comfortable speaking or aren’t a convincing speaker, there’s no need to fret. The first step is drawing attention to your event. Assemble a panel or hire an experienced speaker who is willing to reply to public speaking questions. For example, a skilled speaker will ask the audience which category of information is most important to them. These include selecting topics, delivery, preparation, follow-up involving answering audience questions, and remote presenting. Based on the results of the audience vote, you could take questions and answers for the most popular categories.
Connecting with your audience is the first step to engagement. The quickest way to do this is by telling a story in the first few minutes. A personal story fosters a connection with the audience. Of course, the story should be relevant to the topic of the meetup, not trivial stuff like how you got stuck in traffic that morning.
There’s always a way to weave in a personal story (it doesn’t have to be your own) in a way that’s relevant to the subject.
A lot of meetups are overly static. Speakers talk, the audience claps, and the meetup is over. Everyone heads home. One way to inject some dynamics is to organize games, have raffles, or get old members to meet and welcome new members.
Giving away small things will go a long way toward motivating people to come to your event. At the end of the talk, organize a raffle and gift things to people for answering relevant questions.
Hire a Coordinator
Hotels are best avoided as venues, because space is really all they have to offer. It’s always a good idea to hire a room provider who can coordinate a meetup or training event. These experienced professionals offer technology, instructor sourcing, catering, content development, and more.
Support Other Tech Meetups
It’s crucial for developers in particular to consider unconventional tools. Shared spaces enable people to cooperate and share event announcements.
You could speak to past group leaders, local members, even facilitators in other states. You might come upon some innovative ideas.
Try to collaborate with other meetups to cross-promote and send speakers around. If you have a venue and an organizer needs one, offer it. You might need their help someday!
The average no-show rate at tech meetups is 40%. Of course, there are a lot of factors contributing to this percentage and consequently no way to predict how many people will actually come. There might be other events based around the same topic taking place at or around the same time. Bad weather is a major deterrent even to tech enthusiasts. Those who aren’t highly motivated might choose to stay home and watch a tennis match on TV instead. The no-show rate could even increase due to an F1 race.
No-show rates shouldn’t be ignored by any means. To help reduce them, send an email one or a few days in advance of the meetup to remind guests to change their RSVP if they’ve decided not to come. Most meetup visitors don’t mind standing, so there’s no need to be too conservative in terms of RSVP number.
Avoid Scheduling Issues
Make sure your meetup isn’t taking place on the same day as another tech meetup on a similar topic or a meetup of a group, with which you share a lot of members. A conference happening in your vicinity is a good occasion to organize a meetup spontaneously and grab one of the speakers to talk. This is especially viable if a good speaker is in town for the event.
Try to organize regular meetups. The main challenge you’ll face is lack of speakers. A good way to resolve this issue is by building a speaker backlog – make a list of potential speakers and plan their talks at least six weeks before the meetup is scheduled.
Measure Success By Data
You could look at how long people stay after a talk and the number of questions after the talk. Ask people what they liked or didn’t like. You can use tools like Mobilize to run brief surveys from time to time to check for essential topics you haven’t covered. We’ll explain more about it below.
Be Better Organized with Tools
Following from the above tip, here are two tools that can help improve your meetup structure:
Mobilize is a great option if you’re managing various different groups. It features branded registration forms feeding data right into your member database and a member relationship management center, where you set tags and filters to easily communicate with and segment your members. This way, they’ll find one another and engage on topics of mutual interest. With Typeform, it’s possible to create visually appealing polls and forms.
Build Up the Talk Level
Ideally, you should leave the expert talks for the end and start with beginner talks. This is convenient for your audience because they can schedule their attendance according to their level of expertise.
Actively seek feedback. Talk to your visitors to learn what kind of content they want and which kind of talks they prefer. Panel talks are usually a great way to maintain high engagement.
Tech Meetups – An Avenue of Opportunity
It’s at tech meetups and gatherings that people from different companies, in some cases operating in different markets, but using the same technologies, come together to discuss innovative products and ideas and find the best resources for upcoming projects. Tech meetup demand has itself generated quite a few successful startups. A tech meetup can open up avenues of opportunity that shouldn’t be missed under any circumstances!
Author Bio: Mercy Ehrler has been marketing for corporate events and learning organizations for more than 15 years. She is currently the Director of Marketing at Attune (attune.com), a global leader of meeting and training venues, virtual collaboration solutions, and end-to-end event coordination services. Ehrler’s extensive background in the industry has given her unique insight into the challenges faced by organizations when developing and executing corporate events. Drawing on this experience, she helps shape Attune’s positioning of its innovative meeting and training delivery solutions.