Who doesn’t love a great conversation?
We seek them in our daily lives, watch them on TV, listen to them on Podcasts and in every other way we can. From Friends to Gilmore Girls, Between Two Ferns, Meet the Press, Car Talk (ok these are my favourites, but you get the point) conversation is central to our experiences. Meetups are one ideal way to foster conversations about a topic of interest. Yet starting a brand new meetup can seem like a daunting task.
To encourage more Content Strategy Meetup groups, I’m sharing advice learned through personal experience, as well as the advice of four other Content Strategy meetup organisers, to give a wide array of experience (and hard lessons learned) so you can get to organising your own meetup.
We’ll cover how to launch your meetup, grow your attendees, get great speakers, and find paid sponsorship with the hopes that you’ll be inspired to start one in your town.
Laying the foundation for a new meetup
If you have basic skills in content strategy, planning, networking, MS Paint (or any other entry level graphic tool), and pizza ordering (negotiable) then you technically have what it takes to start a Content Strategy Meetup group. Congratulations! Let’s get right to it shall we?
Survey the land
Knowing what goal we have in mind, starting a Content Strategy Meetup, let’s start with a bit of user research (yay we get to use some of our Content Strategy chops!). Have conversations with fellow Content Strategists, UX Designers, and Front End Developers in your area and find out where they currently get information about Content Strategy and what they want to gain from attending such a meetup. The answers will probably range from reaffirmation of your idea to start a meetup, to surprising new information and likely one or two naysayers, because (as I’m told) that’s how the world is. All told, these conversations are a wealth of information, and at the least will help get the word out about your soon-to-be group!
Seek sage advice
We’re not talking Dungeons and Dragons sages here (oh but if we were…) we’re talking about the people running successful Content Strategy meetup groups. Yes, this guide provides some of that wisdom for you, but we’re a welcoming community! Don’t shy away from asking specific questions to those in the field. Luckily Hilary Marsh has you covered with two extensive lists:
It also helps to know what works in your area. If you know of a few meetup groups that are popular in your area, this tool made by Sean Malseed helps you do some quick research to see what they’re up to – how many times they meet, how many members RSVP for events, and more. You can also use the tool to analyze existing Content Strategy meetup groups – see what their meetup topics have been and read the bios of current members to get a feel for the kinds of people who attend Content Strategy meetups.
Start the group online
Meetup.com is the most used platform by Content Strategy Meetups, and many others. While it’s not free, the subscription plans are quite affordable.
Meetup.com gives us three words of advice for starting the group online that will resonate with Content Strategists:
When writing your group description, be sure it includes the following information:
- Who should join: Describe your ideal members
- Why should members join: Is it to learn more, challenge their skills or have fun?
- What members can expect: Describe typical activities
Start a Meetup group, Meetup.com
It’s really that simple. For more advice check this helpful starter guide: Starting a Group on Meetup.com.
Survey your members
Groups hosted on Meetup.com have the advantage of a built-in survey sent to persons joining the group. The answers will live on Meetup.com and (in personal experience) can be a great icebreaker for conversations.
- Who are you?
- What do you do?
- Why are you interested in Content Strategy?
- What are you hoping to achieve by being a member of our meetup group?
I’ve also been to meetups where questions like these are asked on sign-in forms, in conversation or in follow up emails to attendees.
Whichever approach you take, David Dylan Thomas sums it up with these wise words,
“Listen to your community. Ask them what they want. What they need.”
Pick meetup topics
The advice and experience on picking meetup topics is fairly universal – ask your members.
Valerie Runde sums it up for us with:
We have had meetups specifically to ask our members what they’d like to see, we communicate with other meetup organizers via meetup or a slack channel for ideas, we hold joint meetups with other web/dev/ux meetups, or we come up with ideas ourselves.
Of course, once you have a topic, the next step is deciding who will present on the topic.
Lining up guest presenters
The approach to lining up guest presenters is as varied as the skits on Saturday Night Live.
Overall, it seems to be a case of personal style, rather than a particular method, that works best. Our experts share their own thoughts on finding speakers and presenters too:
I think the key is to offer speakers to come in exchange for a big audience of professionals and stakeholders from companies in the area.”
David Dylan Thomas:
Another nice thing about running a meetup is that it gives you something special to talk about when you’re meeting interesting people in the content strategy community. Instead of just saying nice to meet you, you can say, “Hey, wanna come give a talk in Philly?” You’d be surprised how many folks are willing to say yes even though we’re very up front about the fact that we can’t really compensate them except with free food and maybe some nice conversation. But if you’re willing to be flexible about scheduling, you’ll end up with some amazing guests!
And Steve Floyd has helpful information for the presenters:
Send your information in a format that makes it easy for organizers to post and promote. When we have to bother you for headshots, topic and resources, we have to spend a lot of time digging for assets and it holds up any promotional efforts (which could hurt the turnout).
Find a place for your meetup
With your topic and speaker lined up, finding a place for your meetup now becomes top priority. Most groups meet at offices, coworking spaces or local bars. There doesn’t appear to be a need for consistency either. As far as our group goes, we make an effort to hold a few meetups in the surrounding suburbs so that we can reach the greater Philadelphia area.
What’s important to remember is that since most meetups happen outside of normal working hours, if it’s going to be at an office be sure to check what the procedure will be for getting into the building after hours, what to tell desk clerks, elevator access, and consider if making a sign or two would be helpful. Send an email with helpful details a day or two before the meetup to ensure that your attendees find your meetup without trouble the day of.
Announcing events: Get found and never stop promoting
After creating the event on meetup.com your group members will automatically be notified of the new event. Yet the fun doesn’t end there, this is only the beginning.
First up, don’t forget your existing network. Let your coworkers know about each event and invite them to each one. Invite local clients and if your company has an email newsletter, no harm in including it in that either (if you can swing it), bonus points if the email has a segment for local subscribers.
Speaking of email, use the email feature on Meetup.com to send a reminder the day before the event. Include helpful tips on parking, if there will be food or drinks provided, if its a suite inside of a building, etc. Once the meetup has taken place, share the presentations, notes, and thank you’s via a post-meetup email as well.
If you’re adventurous enough, it’s also acceptable to email the organisers of similar groups to ask them to share the meetup link with their members.
Don’t forget the small stuff such as linking to your meetup group from your online profiles, Twitter, LinkedIn, company bio, and email signature, as well as sharing each event on social media (a few times).
Yet the most important and most impactful way to promote your meetup is your attendees talking with their friends and coworkers about the quality content and relationships that were forged by attending.
Only 4 of the 6 meetup group organisers said that they ever had sponsorship and none said they had consistent sponsorship. David Dylan Thomas shared that:
Expectations are such that if we don’t always have the sponsorship dollars to provide food, it’s not that big a deal. And we know that because we asked.
If you’re endeavoring to get sponsorship, Steve Floyd shares how the Dallas Content Strategy Meetup does it.
Put together a sponsorship package with our most impressive metrics and turnouts, photos, etc… and pitched businesses who needed access to our kind of audience – mainly agencies and tech staffing companies.
Last words of advice
If you’ve made it all the way here, thank you. I hope to one day attend your Content Strategy meetup, please invite me! Also, I’ll leave you with some final words of advice.
From the practical,
Gather a brain trust of 4-5 people who are genuinely interested in the topic and start small. Focus on making it fun and your community will grow organically from there.
– Steve Floyd
With an emphasis on consistency,
Consistency. Schedule a meetup every month, no matter what. It’s how we got big in Barcelona.
– Fabrizio Ferri-Benedetti
Just as we do in content strategy, you need to focus on who the audience is, and make sure the meetup content is educational, entertaining or inspiring.
– Valerie Runde
And last but certainly not least, the best skill of Content Strategists,
The main thing though is about listening to the community and reacting to their needs.
– David Dylan Thomas
That’s it and good luck! Have a question not answered here? Reach me on twitter @nicolecherieh. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.