How to start a local - in person- network of Community Leaders

(Rachel McGuigan) #1

I was thinking of starting small, like attending a few meet ups that were for fun hobbies, but I ended up joining a meet up group that is now disbanded because of the fees to keep in running in

Does anyone have any advice or resources on how to start a local network of professionals that come together to just talk about communities?

I am far from being able to run a workshop, but would love to facilitate the opportunity to network with the local knowledge. Thank you in advance.

(Sarah Hawk) #2

@scottgould @Annick_Oosterlee and @Hbhospitality are names that spring to mind re offline events.

Scott in particular specialises in the space between online community and offline events.

(Nick Emmett) #3

Have you got people in mind @Rachel_McGuigan?
I think starting small is the best way to approach this - perhaps just ping some people you have in mind and see if they fancy meeting up for a coffee somewhere, or a beer, or dinner… for me, it doesn’t need to be particularly formal at the outset. Priority 1 is to get people together, then you can get to know everyone, find out who would be interested in meeting up more regularly, what sort of frequency would suit, what sort of topics, and everything else will hopefully begin to take shape.

(Bas van Leeuwen) #4

To be honest, $2.99/$4.99 p/m doesn’t sound like a high barrier for a professional group? Someone should be able to get their employer to pony up that cash at the very least :slight_smile:

My advise: just start, you’d be surprised at who shows up; Meetup groups tend to attract random, but interesting people.

(Darren Gough) #5

@christiefidura did a great job of this. If she’s around she might be able to talk more about the journey.

(Scott Gould) #6

Hi Rachel (and Sarah, and everyone else!)

I’m very glad to hear about you merging online and offline engagement.

Whilst Meetup does cost, one of the many benefits is that it allows members to see who else is in the group (unlike a mailing list, for instance). You could consider Facebook Groups instead.

Is terms of helping locals come together, the best thing to do is just start! Make it the same time every month (routine is the winning element of offline community - same place, same time!), and whilst you will take the leadership in terms of facilitation, ask people to share different things as they become more confident.

Always prioritise connection over content. Too many offline events do the reverse, but really the gold in offline networking is just that - the networking!

Finally, on the point of leadership again, don’t be afraid to be passionate and take a lead. What you are doing is curating the community - bringing them together - and it wouldn’t happen without you doing it. The reason why is that people are busy and other things get in the way. Therefore it is easier for them to follow someone else with passion. Be that person with passion, and people will follow.

(Scott Gould) #7

BTW Sarah I liked your issue of :slight_smile:

(Sarah Hawk) #8

Thanks :slight_smile:

(Christie Fidura) #9

Thanks @Darren_Gough - that is most kind.

This is a very exciting thread!

Building a group takes alot of hard work and pure graft. You literally do it one person at a time. My friend Alex Shebar and I started out with the idea in a pub garden, after we were both complaining that we mostly conducted our jobs (Senior Community Managers) in isolation - we needed the camaraderie and companionship because we were lonely, but we also needed ideas, stimulation and brainstorming in order to solve some of our most tricky challenges.

So we asked a few more people in our industry if they’d like to come along to a meeting and rant, and they said yes!

Our 2nd meeting had about 12 people; our 3rd meeting had about 25 and that’s when we knew we were onto something!

Our 4th meeting was a proper growing pain: we had about 35 people RSVP, but only about 7 showed. And so we reluctantly decided to introduce a £5.00 pain in the ass fee, which has worked a treat to keep attendance at a near 100% rate. The problem is spending this money, as I’m a consultant, and the UK Inland Revenue (tax) thinks that this is revenue and wants to tax me on it. I try to spend all the money on nibbles and drinks or a venue, but sometimes it’s simply impossible. And it causes me alot of angst. We are now looking to eliminate this fee (with fingers crossed that attendance doesn’t plummet).

Our 4th meeting we introduced our 3 standard questions:

  1. Did you enjoy this event? (Essentially useless, but Community Managers are extroverts, so we always get a very LOUD positive reply, which is fun.)
  2. Would you like to do another one? (Getting buy-in here.)
  3. Do you have any ideas, topics, or a venue to suggest? (Venues are the hardest thing here in London.)

And we also asked the attendees what format we should have: they voted to go with a speaker so they could get inspired by great stories.

To date, we’ve now had 20+/- meetings and we have a mailing list of 300. We do send out newsletters as well.

We do not have a formal social presence as there already was a #cmLDN group on Facebook and it didn’t seem right to compete with their page. Instead, we post our events on their page, rely on our mailing list and use our #cmgrLDN tag on Twitter to stay in touch.

You need strong leaders, alot of communication, and you need the buy-in of your members to really make it work. That’s why we’ll continue doing the rather useless 3 questions, because every time we do it, it makes people give a committment both out loud to us and to themselves that they want this group to continue. Make sense?

Happy to provide more detail if required. GOOD LUCK!

Christie Fidura

(Darren Gough) #10

Fantastic reply. thanks @christiefidura!.