This post is part of our series on Organizing a Mountain Town Meetup.
Here are the previous posts:
Part 1 – Introduction please read this for the background you’ll need to fully enjoy this post.
In this post, we’ll go over some of the basics you’ll want to consider at the event itself, using Tahoe Silicon Mountain (TSM), the nonprofit we’ve been running since 2010, as an example.
Have a Greeter
It’s key to make sure everyone at the event feels welcome, included and comfortable.
The role of the greeter is to:
- thank people for coming
- welcome them
- tell them event basics
- if possible, introduce them to someone else in the group
- take payment (if relevant)
There are not many people I hear say “I’m great with names!” Especially in new social situations, where people might be apprehensive, it’s hard to remember names.
Take the stress off by asking everyone to fill out a name tag. This also helps reduce the embarrassment when you’ve seen the same person at several meetups and feel like you’ve made it past the point where you can ask their name again!
Tip: Don’t forget the sharpies!
Consider an icebreaker activity for people to get to know each other. This is especially important if your meetup members need to trust each other during your planned event – like if you’re going hiking or paddleboarding together.
At our Mountain Minds Monday meetup, we start with a round of introductions followed by networking time before our speaker comes on. This gives people the opportunity to hear who is in the room and then seek out those that interest them during the networking break.
Make Sure Everyone is Comfortable
Depending on where you hold your meetup, the considerations will be different. The main idea is to make sure people are comfortable in the surroundings.
- Is the space too hot or too cold?
- Is there enough seating?
- Is there enough food or drinks?
- Is there a place to use the restroom?
- Are you protected from the elements?
Not every event can be perfect and in some situations, you can only control so much. For example, the room we meet at for TSM’s Mountain Minds Monday meeting is smaller than we actually need for some events. As we grew, we had more and more events where there was standing room only. Our solution was two-fold. One, to livestream the event to a room down the hall that had lots of different types of seating, including comfortable couches. Second, when the weather is nice, expand to the picnic tables outside for the networking portions of the event.
Making the event comfortable can be very different for different events. If you’re a hiking club, maybe you meet early enough in the morning so the trailhead isn’t sun-soaked and people don’t have to stand around waiting in the heat. Or perhaps you meet at a different location with access to restrooms, then carpool over to the trailhead.
Food and drinks can be a critical factor in making sure people are comfortable and able to attend your meetup. For example, several of the TSM events are close to mealtimes. For those events, we like to provide an option for people to eat so they don’t have to make the choice between our event and dinner. We also provide varied food choices so that we can accommodate the most common dietary needs like vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
At the End of the Meetup
How you finish your meetup is nearly as important as how you begin it.
Make sure you:
- Thank everyone for coming
- Tell them when/where the next meeting is
- Remind them to share their experience on social media, sign up for emails, etc.
People will often want to socialize past the official end of the event. Ideally, either the meetup location will remain open after the end of the meeting for this purpose, or you could suggest a meeting location where people can continue their conversations. For example, a morning hiking group might like to informally have lunch together following the hike.
Running a meetup is, in many ways, like running a good restaurant or any establishment that requires a strong focus on customer service. You want people to feel welcome and comfortable so that they continue to come back for many years.
What has worked for you and your meetup?
Stay tuned for Part 5 – Meetup Finances