Running a meetup is something that I feel successful enough with to give advice about.
It’s been right about 6 months now. It’s exactly what I would want to spend my time doing, or it fits into the life I want. That’s the first piece of advice I would give: gear it towards your happiness. For me that meant something very general and open-ended, as opposed to niche. That’s a difficult but to crack but it’s worth it if you get it to snowball.
Snowballing is what I feel it’s finally doing. For the first 3 months barely anything happened. I was planning countless events with no attendance. I had them deleted from the record by support. I had no idea how to get more members, which seemed like the ultimate solution. I had no target market. My communications were clumsy.
Somewhere around January or February I think I got to about 150 members. This seems to me like the minimum you need to have an event with say 4-5 people, unless the members are highly engaged. About this time, with a bit of luck, I had my first event. I got that photo which seemed like it would be such a big deal. I love that photo. I think it’s good because people knew I was hustling away unsuccessfully and it’s evidence enough for people to accept the reality that this is happening.
It seemed so far off when I was starting out. It’s a bit hard to believe that’s probably what it’s like to most people. Running a successful meetup is just foreign to them. Especially starting one. I feel like this had a good narrative. One in which I was the hero. How I ideated it out of nothing, worked hard to make it a reality, endured months of failure and finally broke through. That might be the sweetest plum of all. I’m brimming with pride talking about it, I truly love this aspect of my life.
Sometimes it seems like there’s a risk of anyone and everyone starting a meetup. There are always new ones I suppose. A lot of the big ones seem quite inactive. A good thing about general meetups is that you can do a lot of events more easily. I think for the most part though, there’s just a small portion of the population who are cut out for organising. It has to be that way or it would be bedlam. If everyone was like me society would be absurd. I am seeing some of the big ones I admired growing up seem to wilt a bit. They’re the biggest and the best attended but they just seem old. I don’t suppose it would be too bad organising for one of those and it’s not a bad place to end up. If it seems stale I’m sure there are workarounds, even if it means moving on to the next project.
One of the biggest epiphanies I had was initiated by reading some MBA type theories, by Kaplan or someone I think. It was about making business consumer driven. That hit me like a freight train. I started targeting just about everything to the people I wanted to be there: 18-35 year olds, mostly women. I feel like that gave the whole thing this sexiness of purpose which many meetups lack.
In February I managed to crawl my way up to 200 members. Then I think I was distracted or lost interest. Didn’t have another good meetup until one girl I knew started getting involved. Now that I recall it was about this time that the Facebook group started. It was tiny, like 20 people. For weeks. Her engagement was my first successful event launched from Facebook. I used a group chat. We saw a movie which I actually don’t recommend. As organiser o found it painful. I came to rely on this girl for making events which had more than 1. In my mind an event with 2 or more was just fine. At least it was social not just some guy thinking and reaching.
She let me down by not coming to the nightclub night I planned because of her and that was my first time hosting at a nightclub. There were about 5 others. I learned that it’s best to meetup before the nightclub and go together rather than meetup there.that made me stop relying on her which was good I suppose. She faded out and I remained in. That’s a power strategy, no doubt. Keep yourself at the centre and let others officers filter through. Like Trump does. It’s a powerful optic. As it builds and grows it with the help of others, you benefit even after they leave so long as you don’t give them equity before they do. Before I was desperate for investment and would have given equity but now I feel like (a) no one is even close to as deserving as me for ownership of this (b) the most I really need help with is hosting events and maybe running s yoga program. Meaning I don’t really need a co-organiser.
I set myself the goal of making it to 1,000 members before I brought someone else onboard. My current philosophy is that there shouldn’t be any hierarchical scheming. It should be based on function. The roles given seem ok. It’s not about ladder climbing it’s about fulfilling your function. I’m wary of this subject because I feel like these types of themes can be repellant or even arouse hate. I truly believe that I have earned the right to be chief for life though. No one could scarcely come close to offering as much value as I have to this. I feel strongly though that people on the leadership team can’t just ghost out. If they’re hosts they have to show up, if they’re organisers they have to organise events. If they’re admins they have to administrate. I don’t like the idea of having a bloated leadership team that is uncommitted. I think it’s ok to remove peoples’ titles if they stop being that. You want the leadership team to seem lean, on point, well-organised. Happy though. I do suppose there would be a filter down dynamic. Ultimately that is my responsibility.
For 2-3 months last year I was purchasing ads on fb for about $5 per day. I got up to 1,000 likes, then lost my job so stopped. It’s been remarkably close up that level since then. Neither losing nor gaining. Until now I didn’t really know what to do with it. I think I have found something though: I will use it closely with the Instagram account. It’s mostly for useful content. To help create an artifact about the spirit of Melbourne. So I posted on a Melbourne photography fb group and many people were happy to have me share their photos if I gave them credit. I followed all of them on Instagram (following no one else) and now I try to reshape at least one beautiful photo per day. The follower ship is finally growing and the instagram tiles look beautiful. I’m curating an artifact called “discover_melb”. I much prefer that to taking all my own photos, that was a losers game. On Facebook I will share memes and useful news as well I think. Pretty good Facebook page. When I get employed again I would like to get a new logo (the last one was $15 from fivrr) and resume $5 per day of ads. That seemed to reliably yield about 15-20 likes per day I think. It’s higher than normal when there’s goodwill there I think, not just another business. As well as photography, memes etc I would really like to share some locally written stuff. Sparingly though. It feels like it’s part of some drive of mine as a writer to create some mythology that binds people together.
Now for the juiciest part. It’s now almost the end of March. At the beginning of the month I had 210 members approximately. Now I have 395 and I’m confident I can get 400 by end of tomorrow. How? For one thing there’s a snowball effect. More members means more people want to join when they choose meetups from the ones displayed. It’s been faster since I made no organiser approval for new joins I think. And the more members the more people rsvp to events. When more people do that people who are browsing the calendar see it. It seems cool. It activates their reticular activation system and they see value in it. More attendees always seems cooler. And that gets more likes from people browsing events for meetups they’re not members of yet.
My biggest secret though has been direct messaging. I have a bookmark list of about 12 meetups which number in the thousands and have young people. Then I scroll through their member lists and direct message people, in lots of 10. Just a little polite introduction, invitation, value proposition and link to the meetup. I do the same thing with Facebook but there’s a limit of 20 conversations per 24 hours. Meetup doesn’t have this limit.
With Facebook I message members of groups I’m in. Traveller, international student, salsa and student groups. I usually go for the recently added people because there’s a set order which doesn’t get reshuffled. And it means those people are probably (a) active (b) in Melbourne. I notice some groups have much higher conversion rates. I try to get people from all those demographic though so as not to become defined by any one of them. I sometimes rewrite the message and I like to think it gets s little bit more calibrated as time goes on. Currently the Facebook group had 275 people. Most of those are my Facebook friends. They’re not very active. But I want to get this snowballing and that effect does seem to apply here: the rates of conversion are growing.
As a rule of thumb I think 1 in 10 meetup messages will convert. If it’s much more you probably need to find a fresher list. I got lower rates after messaging about 1000 people in this one group. I also got removed. So now I try to find people that are clearly more active. Recently joined. The very best thing is people that are attending events because that doesn’t show what group you’re sending it from and they’re the most active, just about.
I try to get at least 3 people to join the meetup and the Facebook group each day. I find Facebook messages are best at 2am, people are more receptive when they wake up and see the message, particularly women. Not sure the best time for meetup messages. I think that 3 per day is really important. It’s 1000 per year. And it’s a manageable daily chunk. It’s about 3 lots of messages in meetup and 10-15 more carefully chosen ones in fb. Fb will block your messenger so you want to keep it under 20 per day. What I like about 3 per day is that usually it’ll be more than that. I’ve had 20 in 3 days on meetup. One year will pass in no time and then you have 1000 which is a very good place to be. And you’ll be snowballing more than ever. I think 3 per day is good for Instagram too but I’m not sure how other than posting great photos and tagging them. Or ads.
That’s a new frontier for me I’m inexperienced with Instagram.
Of course you also want to be running good events. The personal goal that has worked for me best is “run events every week”. For some reason that motivates me to hustle like crazy for members. I have also been planning events. I experience resistance to actually showing up but that not too bad because you can just say “*this meetup is unhosted”. I recommend that goal if you want to grow member base. I might switch it soon when it becomes more about being there in person.
So tomorrow I have a pub crawl and 21 people are going. I saw that yesterday and as of now I feel like I finally made it. I have unhosted meetups at salsa nights twice per week. That’s convenient and allows me to spend quality time in nightclubs. What I’m most excited about though is a recurring Sunday night dinner party, at a new restaurant every week. And a new bar meetup at one of Melbourne’s best bars, I have a list of top 50 bars so I can choose them easily. I run them from 8pm – 10pm and mention we’ll go to a nightclub afterwards. What a good night out. And such variety. I like the idea of dinner parties because breaking bread with people builds trust. Sitting down for a meal with people gives a sense of concreteness to this, socially speaking. It makes it seem a lot warmer. Whether these events will succeed I don’t know. They resonate with me a lot though so I think I will keep pushing them.
It all amounts to a very pretty picture. I have ideas about where else I would want this to go but for now I think I’ve found a rhythm. Keep these recurring events going, show up where necessary, keep getting at least 3 members per day and post one thing per day on instagram. From a systems point of view I think the next big step will be running events on Facebook. I don’t feel quite ready for that yet but its time will come. Perhaps in a month. That could just blow this wide open and have students and backpackers flocking in. I need a better profile picture.
From a personal point of view, I think the next big step will be actually socialising and not sitting in front of a screen. Kissing someone at a meetup was one of the best experiences of my life, partly because now that doesn’t seem like such a big deal. It’s remarkable how far I’ve gotten from my desk at home though, that’s a strong suit of mine. The system architect and mastermind. There’s a lot you can do with the tools and platforms out there. It’s telling that I felt too introverted to show up to tonight’s meetup though. This is also the part where it gets attractive to women though. Where it starts to get risky and fun and out of control. Where great stories are made. This is the territory where part of me yearns to be and I feel unfulfilled without. It’s just that it’s all so much. It’s at nightclubs and there are stakeholders and I’m physically imperfect and how do I have fun, keep people happy and things running smoothly with all that music and all the social pressure? Blessed though.