Myself and Emma with help from loads of others have been running the Brighton tester meet up for a year now.
Whenever we post a meet up 9 times out of 10, I get asked if we can organise meet ups somewhere else too but you don’t need us, you can do it. 🙂
In my view there are some simple ingredients to starting and then being able to run a meet up.
Find a set up you like
First of all, attend some meet ups and find formats that you like that you may want to replicate.
Find out if there are local venues with wifi and projector facilities that do community events for free. A lot of them do! In Brighton the Skiff is such a venue and there are a few pubs as well. Just make sure it is not a football night.
Think about your audience size and choose a venue where people won’t be too crowded and hot and also not too far away from each other. The idea is to encourage people to chat and network.
Also do not rule out local companies. You would be surprised how many are happy to host a networking event right in their meeting rooms. All it takes is meeting someone, getting an office manager or HR contact. Maybe try their twitter or contact pages and just ask.
Hosting is also really important. Be the host or find a host. A host is a great idea because it means there is someone anyone feels they can approach. The host can do a general welcome, and introduce people. A good host can really put everyone at ease.
Food/Drink and Sponsorship
During tech talks I generally have experienced there to be beer and pizza. Be careful not to alienate your audience though. For example order veggie and meat pizzas and have soft drinks available as well.
For providing drinks and food you may want to look for sponsors especially when your audience grows past 15 people. Or ask for a donation at the end/beginning of the event.
To be able to get sponsorship, have a sales pitch ready. What do you offer in return? Any advertising, space for the company/person to do a pitch of their product?
Finding speakers can be really hard but I would suggest actually approaching and inviting people instead of putting out an ad asking for speakers. Use the 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon (since social media it is only 3) and find someone who likes to speak at events and invite them directly.
Then find yourself a twitter account with an unusual hashtag and tweet the hell out of your meet up. Also using meet up platform really helped us be found.
I like to also scour local technology event calendars and add the meet up to those. If you don’t meet too often this is not too time consuming. And you could always double up with someone and be a co-host to split the tasks.
Have you got any questions or suggestions on how to help others start to organise events? Why not come to one of our events this year and then give us feedback, meet other testers and snoop around company offices. 🙂