So You Want To Host A Meetup? Pt. 3: Program Design & Audience Follow-up Sam Noland
Organizing or sponsoring a meetup can add great value to your company – from increasing sales leads, to hiring your next employee, to becoming a thought leader in your space. Over the past 3 years Heavybit has hosted over 200 member meetups at our Clubhouse in San Francisco. Here are some of the best practices on designing your event program and keeping your audience engaged.
Building your program
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, your attendees will just have finished a long day at the office and won’t have the attention span to listen to more than 60 minutes worth of talks. Having a lengthy and unorganized program is bad and disrespectful to both attendees and your speakers. If your speakers have poor experiences, you’ll start to have trouble booking speakers.
Here are examples of line-ups that can work for your meetup:
6:30pm – 7:00pm – Presentation from CEO of XXX & Q&A
7:00pm – 7:30pm – Presentation from CTO of XYZ & Q&A
6:30pm – 7:00pm – Presentation of CEO of XXX & Q&A
7:00pm – 7:30pm – 4-5 3 minute lightning talks with 2 minute Q&A
Now that you’ve figured out how many speakers you need, it’s time to book them. Once you’ve targeted your speaker, shoot them an email explaining the event and how speaking will benefit them. Putting together a great talk takes a lot of time and effort, so it needs to be worthwhile for the speaker.
Here’s an example speaker invite email:
Subject: Invite to speak at Heavybit Speaker Series
I’d like to gauge your interest in speaking at Heavybit’s Speaker Series – an event series that helps member companies like Stripe, Pagerduty, and Rainforest take developer products to market.
The evening will consist of a 30 minute talk followed by Q&A with an audience of 20-30 of the founders and staff from our member companies. We’d like to invite you to speak, record your talk, and take headshots with a professional photographer. Once the talk has been transcribed and edited, it will be published to our library here: https://dev-heavybit.pantheonsite.io/library/
Your experience working on almost all parts of Heroku’s infrastructure over the past 3 years and your work on Heroku’s incident response makes you the perfect person to take our stage. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the key elements of building an incident response plan.
If you’re available June 27 and interested in exploring a presentation, let me know your availability to chat. Thanks in advance for the consideration and I look forward to hearing back from you.
Once you’ve secured the speaker(s), schedule 1-2 dry runs with them to ensure:
- The content is what you originally discussed and not just a random product pitch
- The talk fits within the time limit
- The speaker gets feedback to improve the talk
- The speaker has an opportunity to practice their talk in front of an audience
We’ve all been to an event where the speaker goes on too long, is off topic, or just pitches their product. It’s your event, make sure to own the content!
You have a great program lined up and RSVPs are looking great, now it’s time to think about attendee experience.
Make sure to have some form of a check-in table to greet your guests and provide them with name tags. Not everyone is a wiz at remembering names, so it’s always helpful to provide name tags. You also want to track who’s at your event so you can follow-up with them after the event.
Once your guest is checked in they’ll be looking for a bite to eat and a beverage. Pizza is the standard at tech meetups, but if your budget allows it you can bring in a taco bar or Vietnamese sandwiches to stand out from the rest. Attendees will also appreciate you taking common dietary restrictions under consideration.
Also remember to provide non-alcoholic beverages because not everyone drinks alcohol, especially expecting mothers.
While uncommon, you may encounter attendees that disrespect your staff or other attendees. Make sure to publish your code of conduct on your event page and be ready to follow through if anyone breaks it. It sucks kicking someone out of your event, but it’s worse letting harassment stand. How your community interacts with each other is a reflection of your product, team, and company.
Great job, the attendees loved your event! Now it’s time to continue the conversation. Send the attendees a follow-up email directing them to a blog post about the event, asking them for feedback, forwarding them to open job recs (We operate devcojobs.com for our community), and asking them to RSVP for the next event.
Event follow-up is one of the most important parts of the entire process. If you’re not going to continue the conversation, why even have the event?
Remember to thank your speakers with a personal note and via social media. Your event wouldn’t be a success without them.