How to Organize a Meetup

This past weekend, I organized a Toronto meetup for Periscope users, and it was a great success. We all had fun and met new people from the city, bringing the Periscope community in Toronto that much closer. This meetup didn’t happen overnight though. There was some planning involved, and so rather than explain everything to everybody who’s asked, I’ve decided to use this blog entry to explain the details of what you should be looking for when planning for a meetup in your own city. You’re not planning a Periscope meetup you say? No worries, this post will act as a guide so that you can use it for reference no matter what kind of meetup you’re going to plan for your home town.

How to Organize a MeetupThe Idea

When coming up with a meetup idea for Periscope, I wanted to do something special. Rather than just meet everybody over beer or lunch, I wanted to include the best part of using the Periscope app: the interaction we as broadcasters get with our viewers. With this in mind, I came up with the idea of being lost in our home city, while our viewers helped us find each other by popping in and out of our scopes, and telling us where everybody else was located. I included a lunch part of the meetup after this initial game portion, so that we could all mingle together.

If your meetup is with another app, find out what makes that app so special, and try to incorporate that element into the meetup to make things more exciting. For example, when planning an Instagram meetup for photographers, we had an underground theme where we went into our subway system and rode around the subway taking photos at various stations. This brought in many different types of photographs, and made it for a fun day.

The Logistics

On paper, this may look great, but there were logistics that had to be planned out in order for this to work out. Here’s how I solved our problems.

Where should broadcasters be located?

This was tough since I didn’t know how many people would be participating at first. Depending on the number of participants, I thought I’d set the boundaries larger so we had more places to meet each other. In my case, I set a general boundary within our city that was large enough for us to not be too close to each other, but close enough that we could still walk from one end of the boundary to the other. If the boundaries were too small, there would be the risk of everybody finding each other too quickly as well.

Peri Lost In Toronto

Peri Lost In Toronto

At the end of the day, the boundary that I had set was pretty good. 1.4km from Spadina to Yonge, and 2.7km from Bloor St. to Front St.. While I had some feedback saying it was too large of a boundary, the majority of people ended up finding each other within the first 20-30 minutes, which is a decent amount of time in my opinion.

Mark filming the Laughter Flash Mob

Mark filming the Laughter Flash Mob

When deciding on a location for your meetup, think of somewhere that may be unique for your group. Instead of a restaurant, perhaps an open place or patio may add a little more excitement for the group.

How would viewers find broadcasts of the participants?

Since not every viewer followed every participant on Periscope, I had to make sure it was easy for viewers to find all of our live broadcasts. The Periscope app doesn’t allow anybody to search the broadcast title, so I had to turn to Twitter for this. As long as we searched for a unique word, the viewers would be able to find each participating broadcaster and hop into their scope. I chose to use the #PeriLostInToronto hashtag since it was not in use, and described the event well. Make sure the hashtag you choose isn’t already in use as it will just clutter the search results and confuse viewers.

The #PeriLostInToronto hashtag searched on Twitter

The #PeriLostInToronto hashtag searched on Twitter

Once viewers searched the hashtag that day, they could immediately see that there were 11 of us currently lost in Toronto. They could then go to any one of those 11 users and see where they were, and let them know the locations of other scopers. This worked well since I had many people pop into my scope that were regular viewers of other scopers, and vice versa.

Engagement is key

The best part of this meetup was that it also incorporated the essence of the app that brought us together: engagement. The Periscope app wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the engagement we get with our viewers. I had lots of fun in my broadcast telling people where I was, and following instructions from viewers popping in to tell me where to go to meet the other broadcasters. People told me to head south while others told me to stay put. I had to ultimately engage with my viewers while making the executive decision.

Karen greeting the rest of the Periscope meetup members

Karen greeting the rest of the Periscope meetup members

If your app doesn’t allow for this type of engagement, make sure that what you do will allow for full engagement amongst group members. If you have a large group gathering, be sure to encourage switching group members around throughout the meetup so everybody gets a chance to meet each other.

The Social Element

I included a second part to the meetup largely for two reasons:

  1. Include those Periscope users that did not want to participate in the #PeriLostInToronto part of the meetup
  2. Include a social aspect to the meetup so that everybody could meet everyone else in case they did not get a chance to in the first half of the meetup
Vernon greets Rachel Anne.

Vernon greets Rachel Anne.

This is important if you want your meetup participants to mingle and get to know everybody else. If your meetup group is large, try and make it so every member can have a chance to meet and talk with every other member.

Instagram meetups can get quite large, so encourage your group to meet new people instead of always sticking with their acquaintances.

When To Meet?

When you’re planning on a date for the meetup, be mindful of certain things:

  1. Weeknight vs. weekends
    • Weekends tend to be better for larger groups, but be mindful that people may have family engagements and/or other things reserved for the weekends. If you have a smaller group, it may be easiest to meet up during a weeknight.
    • Be aware of any holidays that may also affect attendance. I held my meetup during the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend hoping that more people would be able to come during a long weekend. Some people, however, weren’t able to come because of family engagements for the long weekend.
  2. You can’t please everybody
    • When planning a day, it’s ok to get a general consensus on the day, but be firm on your decision of the chosen date. You have to be aware that you can’t please everybody. If you start moving days around, other people may not be able to attend, they may get confused, or they may simply not want to bother with all of the changes going on.
  3. Find out if there’s another event near your meetup location that may coincide with your event. This may be a distraction, or a blessing to your event.
    • While I was not aware of this, there was a laughter flash mob that just happened to come to the location where we had all settled down. This was a complete coincidence, but it added a lot more amusement to the meetup.
Free laughter at City Hall

Free laughter at City Hall

The emcee encouraging us to laugh out loud.

The emcee encouraging us to laugh out loud.

Where To Meet?

When planning for the restaurant portion of the meetup, I chose a restaurant that was central to where I thought most people would be able to go to. The menu was varied, catering to many people, and the restaurant itself was large enough to host a group gathering. It’s better to go to a spacious place so your group won’t be the loudest bunch in the room.

Also, when making a reservation, let them know you’ll be requesting separate checks, as restaurants like to know this in advance.

The second half of the meetup was held at 3 Brewers, where people were busy scoping.

The second half of the meetup was held at 3 Brewers, where people were busy scoping.

Promote The Meet

It’s a meetup, why should I advertise it? Advertising a meetup is a great way to get two things done:

  1. Promote the meetup amongst your local followers; it will also get the attention of people you may not necessarily know about through various retweets, shares, re-grams, etc.
  2. Will get more hype going amongst the people attending

I started advertising my meetup six days before the date, on a Monday. I did a broadcast describing the meetup, and I created a blog post where people could RSVP for both portions of the meetup.

Some of the #PeriLostInToronto meetup members.

Some of the #PeriLostInToronto meetup members.

For large groups, I find it better to always have one specific location where people can RSVP. Otherwise it will be hard for you to track down tweets or mentions on various social media feeds of people telling you they want to come. I created a blog post, made an easy to remember URL, and directed everybody to that blog post so people could confirm the details and RSVP by commenting.

You don’t need a blog post to do this though: on Instagram, direct people to one specific picture to RSVP on; you could have people commenting on one of your Facebook statuses as well; if you use Twitter, create a Twitter Group Chat and gradually add people that may be interested in the meetup. An advantage of this is that existing members of the group chat can also add people too.

A meetup for Periscope users

A meetup for Periscope users

I created a graphic that people could easily tweet out. Graphics always adds more attention to the post. I created a generic ad (above) for people to post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. throughout the week, directing people to go to my blog post.

A Toronto Periscope Meetup

A Toronto Periscope Meetup

The day before the event, I created a second ad (above) with more details on the event, and included names of users participating. People were free to tweet and retweet this out as well, all the while adding more excitement for the actual day. You may not need two ads, but if you create multiple ads, be sure to brand them similarly so people know they are the same event. Throughout the week, I also did another Periscope just to remind people that there was going to be a meetup on the weekend.

Support and Sponsors

Some companies offer support for meetup organizers in terms of free swag or other things to help you organize your meetup. For example, in the past, Instagram provided stickers and whatnot to distribute to your meetup group members. Tumblr also does something similar in their kit. Make sure to contact these companies well before your meetup date though, since it may be a while before they get back to you.

The Laughter Flash Mob coincidentally coincided with our Periscope meetup.

The Laughter Flash Mob coincidentally coincided with our Periscope meetup.

If you want to make things extra special, try finding a sponsor or two for your meetup. Sponsors can get their name out from all of your advertising, and may offer some extra perks for meetup attendees. It’s not a necessity by any means, but may add something special for the day. Again, make sure to contact potential sponsors well before the meetup day.

Conclusion

My initial thoughts were that I would get maybe four or five people participating in #PeriLostInToronto. We had eight people in all that came out and got lost. The lunch portion brought out 13 people. Some of these people I didn’t even know about since they happen to just see one of the advertisements that were floating around Twitter. It just goes to show that you never know who your ads may get the attention of.

The #PeriLostInToronto members before heading to lunch.

The #PeriLostInToronto members before heading to lunch.

There were some no-shows and cancellations, but that’s all expected. We still had a great time meeting and getting to know other local Periscope users. Even after lunchtime, some stragglers stayed behind and we had a great conversation going. The restaurant wasn’t too busy nor noisy to cater to our group, so that was an added bonus.

If you’re planning a meetup of any kind and have tips of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments below.


If you’re interested in what I went through for the #PeriLostInToronto part of the meetup, including the laughter flash mob, you can view my broadcast below.

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