Running a successful meetup is, for most, one giant guessing game.
There are a lot of people to get to one location, and there's the location itself which often presents issues depending on the type of meetup you want to run.
How organized should you be? Should you invite a speaker to present? Do you need to charge a fee? There are hundreds of questions to answer when you're trying to run any event, let alone a meetup. Here are five of the 453 things that I've learned in running mine:
1. Don't run it. A meetup is a success because of the sum of its parts, not its leadership. You're not in charge, anyway -- you're a facilitator.
2. Create an agenda. People who come together over a common interest won't automatically fall into an organized discussion. Jot down three to five to-dos and do them. It helps to hand out an agenda, too. For the first six months of my very first meetups, I showed up without a plan, without a piece of paper, and without any goals other than meeting "real neat" people. It took me long enough (!) to realize that we're all suckers for schedules. Thus my agenda was born. It's been two years and every month, I show up with handouts -- which not only helps lead discussions, but gives folks a place to take notes or wipe the cinnamon bun off their sticky fingers.
3. Stay the course. If you have to, stay their course. It's very easy for conversation to fall apart. Members will want to share anecdotes or lament about their parking ticket/doctor's appointment/children, especially if the meetup is going well. Your sole job as facilitator is to keep everyone on task or there's no point to meeting up, really.
4. Location, location, location. This one depends on your meetup topic and -- there it is again -- your membership. Are you getting together to talk about basketball? Then a music venue is not your top pick. Have a loud crowd? Skip the library. My members like to eat and drink -- or at least, I do -- so we usually head to local coffee shops. The caffeine helps, too.
5. Ask your members what they want. Members' needs change over time. Inquire repeatedly about what they want to get out of the meetup and why they want to meet in the first place. It's all about your members. If you can glean from them what they want, who they are, and then ask them those things again and again, you can tailor it to their needs and desires. That way they will, in turn, help you to make the meetup a success.
Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. Having built two successful companies, she launched The Founding Moms to connect mom entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.In her spare time, Jill enjoys kloofing, traveling to small towns, and erasing her daughters’ crayon artwork from the kitchen walls.