If you've been wanting to organize your own tech meetup, here is a step-by-step guide on how I got started a year or so ago, combined with lessons learned I've had along the way.
The steps are as follows, and we'll go through each one in detail.
Does the meetup already exist?
What is your goal? Who is your target audience? What are your potential topics?
Who are the organizers of the already-existing tech meetups in your area?
Determine your event cadence.
Determine your event formats.
Determine your venues and food sources.
Build the "interested" contact list.
Create your meetup group and your first event!
Rinse and repeat and keep up interest.
Step 1. Does the meetup already exist?
It seems like an obvious question, but we just get so excited at concepts and ideas, that we don't do our research first.
Search through meetup.com for tech groups in your area and ensure that none already exist similar to the one you want to create. Sometimes, too, the tech meetups are harder to find and the names are not descriptive enough to know what they are about. As you find tech meetup groups that have a large member base, take note of them and their corresponding organizers as we'll need them in step 3.
Once we're sure that the meetup we want to create is unique in your area, we move on to step 2.
Step 2. What is your goal? Who is your target audience? What are your potential topics?
Each meetup group is different. What do you want to achieve with this meetup? Do you want to connect professional people who work in IT together in a social setting? Do you want to share knowledge with each other?
The more specific you can be in defining your goal and what to achieve, the better since this will help you define who your target audience would be. Who is the typical person who would attend your meetup events? What do they do? Where do they spend their time? What motivates them to attend your events?
As you answer these questions around your goal and target audience, it will help you define your potential topics because now, you have an idea of the ideal person who would be attending your event. What topics would they be interested in? Is it new technology, best practices, or other things?
Note all these down somewhere -- you'll need to reference them later as you plan and schedule your events.
Step 3. Who are the organizers of the already-existing tech meetups in your area?
Look through your notes of popular tech meetups and their corresponding organizers from step 1. Reach out to each organizer introducing yourself, stating you want to start your own (maybe include your goal and other details you've determined from step 2) and are looking for some tips -- maybe offer to buy them coffee and meet that way.
You may not get responses from all of them, but the more organizers you meet, the more tips you'll be able to get.
Some questions you can ask them that will help you with the next steps are:
What local companies offer venues and/or food for the tech meetups?
What other venue places do they use for their events? What is the associated cost for each one?
What are their event formats? Which are the most popular ones?
What other tips / lessons learned do they have to share?
Step 4. Determine your event cadence.
Organizing a meetup takes time. It requires coordinating with venues, local companies, and brainstorming various event formats. Take these into consideration when determining a regular event cadence for your meetup. Will it be monthly, weekly, bi-weekly, etc? If monthly, would be on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc? What time would you generally have your events? Think through your schedule and how the meetup events organizing schedule would look like.
Having a regular cadence will help your members know ahead of time when your events are held and hold a spot on their calendar for your events.
Step 5. Determine your event formats.
Now that you know your desired event cadence, it's time to brainstorm some event formats you want for your meetup that are appropriate to your target audience. Hopefully, you've gotten some tips from the other tech organizers around this as well.
Some common formats are:
Talks. A speaker comes and talks about a particular topic, and then the audience can ask questions afterwards.
Lightning Talks. Multiple speakers come and speak 5-10 minutes around a common topic.
Workshops. Hands-on learnings.
Social. People gather around food and drinks and hang out.
Having a good mix would ensure your meetup doesn't stay too static and can keep up the interest of your members.
Step 6. Determine your venues and food sources.
Since meetup is all about meeting people in person, you would need a space to hold your events in with adequate space for the amount of people you'll have.
Hopefully, you'll have gotten a good list from the other tech organizers in the area, but if not, then you have some research work to do. Local libraries usually have meeting rooms you can use as long as your events are free. Reach out on social media/Slack communities for local companies who may be interested in providing you space for your events.
People like food, so bonus points if you can secure some food sponsors for your events. Make sure you set your members' expectations on whether there will be food or not at the events. From personal experience, it's harder to get companies to pay for food for your meetup, especially if you're just starting out.
Step 7. Build the "interested" contact list.
Now that you've got a plan, nobody knows your meetup exists. So we now have to do some advertising. I have no marketing background, so this was the hardest part I had to do when I was just starting my own meetup.
Create a Google form where you can collect emails of people who would be interested in your meetup. Share on social media something around, "Hey, I'm starting this group about X and Z. If you're interested, I can let you know when we have our first event if you fill out this form."
Bonus if you already have existing contacts in your area's tech community, because then you'd just ask them to spread the word. The other tech organizers may also agree to help you spread the word.
Step 8. Create your meetup group and your first event!
Once you have an adequate number of interested people signed up and you have an event venue secured, it's time to create your meetup group and your first event!
After you've scheduled your first event, send the link to the people who signed up from step 7, and spread the word on social media and other tech organizers and other meetup groups. A lot of meetup groups have the discussion board on the front page open to any comments, so you can also comment on there.
Step 9. Rinse and repeat and keep up interest.
There will be mistakes -- expect them! And learn from them, and apply any learnings to future events.
As I mentioned earlier, mix up the events every now and then to keep up interest of your members. If you're out of ideas, you could ask your members for topics they would be interested in.
Creating your own tech meetup requires a lot of initial planning ranging from ensuring that it doesn't already exist to reaching out to other local tech meetup organizers on lessons learned and securing event venues and food. It also includes defining a goal and your target audience as well as an event cadence and event formats.
At the start, there will need to be a lot of marketing to help others be aware of your group, but once you start having your events, word-of-mouth advertising will help. Meetup also is a good platform that will drive new members to your group through their defined interests.
I hope this guide has helped you and I wish you all the best in making your new meetup group! 🙂