Moving into the offline realm

(Nick Emmett) #1

One of my key strategy angles for 2016 is to start offline user-group style meetings for our Community members - I’m interested in other people’s experience of those early stages of doing this - how did you go about it, who did you include etc.

I’m thinking of starting with smaller/shorter, coffee/breakfast meetings that could eventually grow. We have a Community Day each year, where all our customers are invited to an event (1 in the UK, 1 in SF) but I really want to start working on those smaller, more local connections.

(Sarah Hawk) #2

It sounds like this falls into @scottgould’s realm of offline community management!

Personally, I think this sounds like an awesome idea. I have been to many meet-ups in my time, but have never organised one myself. The things that I’ve seen work well are either an after work beer (free alcohol always attracts people!) or breakfast meetings, as you say.

One of the best breakfast meetings I went to started with a semi-formal 2 minute round, where people shared what they were working on and what they were finding the most challenging. We were warned ahead of time so that we were prepared, and this meant that when people mingled, they already had something to discuss, and could actively seek out others that had similar issues.

(Scott Gould) #3

Hi Nick

It’s great to hear that you are taking the community offline. I really believe communities thrive when we get face to face.

You strategy of starting small with informal get togethers makes sense, and is certainly where I would’ve advised you started.

The method I use is to “sow and reap”, i.e. “sow” the message that there is an offline meet up. Then you “reap” the ones who turn up or show interest. Reaping means that you gather them together, and invest a little more into them, because they showed interest.

You will find that people who you think will turn up offline don’t, and those who you didn’t think would turn up do - so always make sure that you “sow” the invitation by opening it up. It’s the ones who display interest that you can build more with.

As far as the event itself goes, there are dozens of ways you can make it engaging, however I recommend that regardless of how you run it, what is critical is that you play the role of facilitator. This means you talk to everyone there. You are the one who gets to know people, and then introduces them to each other. Then, when you do a short talk to welcome everyone and talk about the community’s wider goals, you mention some of the people by name.

All this facilitating has the purpose of “joining the dots” for people, so that it is easier for them to connect to one another, and to the purpose of the group in an offline way.

Good luck!

(Kathleen Ulrich) #4

I started this a year ago, following up on a Feverbee suggestion. We are a professional association, so our goals might be a bit different than Nick’s. The profession itself is fairly young so I have had no existing community to build on. I think the meet-ups are a great way to contribute to building community.

I started with getting a budget item in place. Then I put out a video with an offer to pick up the tab for a few geographic meet-ups. It took about 9 months for anyone to take me up on it. So far we have had 2 meet-ups, one in New York and one in London. Both groups have scheduled second meet-ups. I worked with active members in each location on the requirements for the groups to get us to provide funding. The members did all the organizing through our forums. We asked for alignment to our goals and a report back to the entire membership in the forums. This was a bit of a hard sell for one of the groups. So I got 2 industry leaders to Skype in. The results of both meet-ups have been great, but not what I expected. :smile: Both groups loved the informality of the meet-ups and emphasized that in their invitations to second meet-ups.

For 2016, I have assembled a small team and we are going to create principles, a RFP template, and determine if we want to ask for a bigger budget. We are also working on signage - I provided flyers for the first meet-ups and paid for the printing

I strongly suggest trying out a couple of your meetings before formalizing your approach. As Scott said, who shows up is surprising, and I was surprised at how often they wanted to meet and how much structure and support they want.

Happy New Year - what's in store?