Meetup Community Help
June 24, 2014 7:30 PM   Subscribe

Earlier this year, I started a Meetup group for people across companies who work in my field (Interactive production at creative agencies). I've had 100 people join the Meetup group, but very low turnout (8-10 people) at the actual events. This is a third of the people who RSVP. More frustrating, the same people never come to more than one meetup, except for people I know already/work who are supportive of what I'm trying to build. Even the people who requested the next Meetup's topic don't attend.

This is a decent description of what an Interactive Producer is, if you're not familiar.

I started the group because I wanted people to be able to talk about topics of interest to the group, which can be anything from how to manage your time, to Agile methodology, to new app trends. I also want junior people to be able to learn from those with experience, and want to help establish my agency as a supporter of creative digital work (I work in a very large advertising network, but our agency is known for more traditional work than innovative interactive advertising).

I know it's summer in NYC but turnout wasn't good in the winter, either. Initially I wanted the group to be discussion based but got the feeling last time that people were uncomfortable just jumping in with strangers, so when someone contacted me to do a short presentation, I agreed heartily and worked on it with him so it would be snappy and cool. I posted the speaker's background and some relevant links on the topic to the Meetup, talked about it within my company, and reached out to other people I knew in the industry.

Despite all this, we only had four people at the Meetup tonight - me, the speaker, one person from my office, and one person from the larger Meetup group.

I'd really like to grow the community and make it appeal to people in a way that keeps them coming back, networking, and presenting their own ideas. I went to a user experience Meetup last week on a Friday night in a hot crowded room and people were packed in, sweating, couldn't hear each other, but were thrilled to be there.

i know my section of web/tech, with its budgets and timelines and team meetings, is less sexy than design/UX, but it's important and a growing field so I think there's some opportunity here. What else can I try?
posted by sweetkid to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Find a sponsor who will pay for snacks, pizza, beer, or all of the above.
posted by grouse at 7:53 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have supplied snacks. I don't think a sponsor is the right route quite yet. I'd like advice specific to what I've tried and what I might not have tried.
posted by sweetkid at 7:56 PM on June 24, 2014

I had a couple quick thoughts. 1. See if you can meet with the folks who started the successful meetup group you attended and ask them how they got it off the ground, and 2. record something people spent time on, like that presentation. Then you can post it on youtube which simultaneously makes the presenter feel better about a low turnout and also might help lure some folks into meetings if you send a link to the membership.
posted by Glinn at 8:02 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I know nothing about your subject matter, but here's my guesses:

(a) When 4-8 people show up, the newbies who arrive feel weirded out at the lack of people, realize it's not terribly likely to be self-sustaining, and then don't come back because they don't think it's going to last long. I've had that happen with non-Meetup groups I've tried to get off the ground. People will weed themselves out after awhile with any group, but ones that start small and stay there don't tend to expand unless something drastically different changes. Even worse, when they start small and start losing people, they have even more of a problem sustaining.

(b) They sign up for Meetup and then realize they're too busy to ever meet up (which is what happened with me) after showing to one or two things.

(c) Maybe your topic is just...not suited to tons of people meeting up in person to chat about it after all? Maybe the group should just be some kind of online chat list instead? There's the online interest, it just doesn't seem to extend to real life.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:17 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sorry, last comment I swear: "What are your guesses on why people aren't coming/should I quit?" are not the questions.
posted by sweetkid at 8:24 PM on June 24, 2014

Hey Sweetkid, this is a pretty neat idea. Getting a community started is not an easy task - especially in a city so big as yours. But you would be surprised at the amount of people that are interested in this topic - the challenge is getting the word out and getting people interested.

I would suggest that you reach out to Brett Harned at Happy Cog. Over the last 2 years, he has been doing a lot of work to help organize Digital Producers and Project Managers - not only by running the Digital PM Summit but also with smaller Digital PM workshops (including one scheduled for NYC on September 13th.

He may be able to help you with some advice of getting started with a PM meet-up as well as get the word out. You should also try to attend the NYC DPM Workshop that may help you meet more people in the local community and maybe even get a group ready to help you out. Send me a DM if I can help get you an intro.
posted by punkrockrat at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I am the leader of a quite large meetup group and I haven't done an event since November because of the pure pain in the ass of inaccurate RSVPs...

One of the reasons people will decide not to return to a meet up is because it says 20 people are going and 8 show up... or whatever... they go intending to meet 20 people, and 8 people come.... it can be a little disappointing.

And people can sign up for events "in theory"

IN THEORY everyone wants to be a social butterfly with an amazing social life....networking.... etc.

IN PRACTICE people get off work, are tired, not in the mood, decide not to go, don't believe they are that important since they are 1 of 20, nobody will notice, they will go to the next one..... or they sign up 3 weeks in advance and forget all about it completely. Half the group does that and boom- disappointing turnout. lets you have an "in theory" social life.

I tried to charge £2 for an rsvp (via paypal on the meet up site, which is less than the cost of a candy bar where I live) and we had amazing 100% turn out.... but half the group were outraged at this preposterous idea and defected.

Another thing you can do is ANNOUNCE the meet up but don't open it up to RSVP's until week before, then send out reminders.

So now I just don't give a shit, I don't want to stress myself out trying to organize events for people who don't care. I don't have time to monitor attendance and punish the unreliable with stern emails and banning from events for x amount of time.... I have opened organizing rights to everyone, and I don't really participate anymore.... aside from maintaining ultimate control and accepting new members.

And surprisingly the group has kept itself going. I plug it on Facebook every once in a while, people join, organize a meet up, make friends, and move on.... it gets quiet a few months.... and the cycle repeats.

But I have to say, being a meet up organizer is not for everyone.... it really isn't for me.
posted by misspony at 12:10 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

One thing I've found after several decades in event planning: If a topic or group is work-related, don't have your events after work. Have your event at breakfast or lunch. People are very willing to go in late or take a long lunch if they can explain to their boss that it's work-related (even tangentially). By the end of the work day, people are tired or stressed out or it's raining or not raining and what they really want to do is go home (or out, but not to talk about work).
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:54 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the meetup group's past events are public, can you post a link?(maybe its supposed to go in your profile? im not sure). Then we can critique the group, dating profile advice style.

"I started the group because I wanted people to be able to talk about topics of interest to the group, which can be anything from how to manage your time, to Agile methodology, to new app trends."

Maybe the group should be more focused on topics? If you are having a whole meetup on how to manage your time, that doesn't sound super exciting.

And maybe broaden your audience? Maybe there just aren't enough Interactive Producers on meetup, and you want to include app/website devs if appropriate.

Consider joint meetups with another successful group on topics of co-interest. This can be one way to expose people who already meetup to your group but weren't looking for it in particular.

Near me, the c++, database,& data visualization groups have done co-meetups with cross-interest with the much larger python group to get more people interested that wouldn't have known about them otherwise.
posted by TheAdamist at 5:19 AM on June 25, 2014

Maybe you need an 'inner circle' of people who feel invested in the community and will always come to the meetup. Co-organizers and people with responsibilities. You could reach out to people one-on-one and focus on building this. As the core group grows so will the irregulars.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:08 AM on June 25, 2014

Email or write people personalized invitations. The personalization is key. Let them know you're really looking forward to seeing them, individually. This both helps them jump in because they have someone to greet and talk to, and it creates a sense of obligation to actually follow through on their RSVP. As a bonus, it's a really big boost to networking for you!

Also, make a special effort to get women to come and make sure they feel comfortable and welcome. I'm not sure how the meetup site works, do they know you're a woman? That will actually help quite a bit. Women who feel uncomfortable or talked-over will come once or twice and then just not show up again, and it's hard to get them back, so make sure they're all engaging with you individually and have a chance to be heard.

A third of the people who RSVP is actually pretty good and it sounds like you're doing a great job of organizing it!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:58 AM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I belong to an advisory group for adult programming at my local library and isn't it funny, this topic just came up last night.

One suggestion that I found fascinating: if you charge for the program, people are more likely to show up, because they want to get their money's worth. I don't know whether or not that's practical for your group.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 9:14 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above comments. I volunteer with a United Way and even though we could do some of our programs for free, we started charging $5.00 and giving limited attendance numbers. Our attendance increased over 100% and even "sold out".
posted by OhSusannah at 9:30 AM on June 25, 2014

For some numerical perspective, the Linux User's Groups I've been involved with run about 200 subscribers to the mailing list, and attendance in the dozens. I'm also on a local Meetup for boardgaming, and membership is about 230 people, of which you can reliably count on around a dozen people showing up. You may in fact be doing well on the participation ratios, and just need to recruit more people into the Meetup group.

On the RSVP front, I'm hard pressed to say. We get cancellations, but rarely is it anywhere near the 75 percent like you're observing. Notably, LUGs and boardgame groups are very hobbyist, and I don't think there's many people who consider Project Management their hobby. Hopefully your group isn't too busy working late nights to attend! You could add a nominal charge, and that should theoretically increase the percentage turning out, but would likely also reduce the percentage RSVP'ing in the first place.

Reviewing your Meetup site, the first thing I'd recommend is adding a navigable location to your events, so the map link shows up. Business names may not cut it for getting people on site, especially on mobile.

As far as format goes, I think the lecture format is better suited for building a core group early on. You can try a hybrid agenda where there's a 30 minute presentation, and breakout discussion groups on Topics of Interest after.
posted by pwnguin at 9:35 PM on June 25, 2014

One of my NYC Python meetups charges $5 for most events to get people to show up (rather than just RSVP). The money is used for food. They also often over-register for events, so if the room can hold 50 people, they let 100 RSVP, knowing half won't show up. Also, as mentioned above, personalization.
posted by puckupdate at 5:08 AM on June 27, 2014

« Older What's the least awful ISP in Chicago?   |   Lessen or kill PMS symptoms? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.