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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.

iPhone 6 Plus cameras have limitations too

There’s a certain point on an iPhone’s camera where the lack of ambient light will result in a significantly grainy image. The sensor sensitivity can only do so much in terms of retrieving information in low-light situations. It’s interesting, however, to note that if you wait just a few minutes later, the amount of grain drops significantly, allowing you to capture a much cleaner image in the dark.

I typically stay away from taking any photos in the dark with my iPhone for this very reason, but managed to experiment during one of my sunrise shoots earlier in the year, when I took images every so often in the dark. The results surprised me because despite the darkness, there was a point where I was able to capture a useable image.

Useable image?

When I refer to an image as being useable, I typically mean that the raw image from the camera is clean enough for me to edit with, yielding in an image that I would be able to post online. If an image is already so grainy to begin with, editing that will yield in an even grainier image that I wouldn’t be too happy about. Grain is great when you want them in there, but for the most part, I don’t.

The following photos have been taken with my iPhone 6 Plus, but have been reduced in size in Photoshop.

The first photo:

Grainy image

Grainy image

The overall image is really grainy. It was taken in the morning at 7:18am along the lakeshore area. Since there is very little light, the sensor had trouble capturing a clean image. If you look at the skyline and cloud areas in the middle of the photo, you can see the grain quite well.

This next photo is a much cleaner image:

Cleaner Image

Cleaner Image

While you may still see some grain in this photo, there is significantly less overall. If you look in the same area along the skyline and clouds, you’ll see the details are much more noticeable. This picture was taken at 7:28am, just 10 minutes later from the previous photo.

If we take a closer look, you’ll see the difference even more. The following photos are 100 percent crops from each photo above.

100 percent of grainy image

100 percent of grainy image

And this is the full crop of the cleaner image:

100 percent of cleaner image

100 percent of cleaner image

And that’s just a 10 minute difference between the two images.

So if you’re ever caught in a situation where you need to take photos in low light situations, try and make the scene just a little bit brighter and see how your iPhone reacts to the added light. It may make a huge difference and yield in photos that are much more pleasing to the eye.

The very basics of The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Many have asked in the past what app I use to pinpoint the exact location a sun will rise or set during any given day. I’ve mentioned this before in several of my other posts, but today, I will go through the very basics of the app, showing you how I locate my desired area for a sunrise or sunset.

For starters, you’ll need The Photographer’s Ephemeris to understand any of this, so you can go ahead and buy it from the app store, here. It’s not cheap, but it’s a wealth of information if you know how to use it. Mind you I’m no expert in this app myself, which is why I will show you the mere basics of it all.

The Photographer's Ephemeris

The Photographer’s Ephemeris

Open the app and you’ll  be confronted with the map screen, as seen below. I’m using Google maps as a map reference, but if you’re so inclined, the app gives you other sources of maps. Just click on the satellite icon on the mid right of this screen and choose your desired map source.

Map screen when first launched.

Map screen when first launched.

If you have a desired location in mind, use the Locations icon on the bottom bar to type in the exact location you are interested in. For example, if I wanted to find out which way the sun will set when I’m standing on the Arch Bridge (Pont Neuf) in Paris, France, I would type in “Pont Neuf, Paris” to see the results, as seen below.

Enter your desired location.

Enter your desired location.

Select the appropriate result, and you’ll be shown three icons. The red pin indicates your primary pin, or where you will be standing. The grey pin acts as a secondary pin for reference in more advanced calculations such as elevations. The third icon allows you to save this location to your bookmark, for easy access in the future. For our example, click on the red pin.

Click on the location to reveal pin markers, and select the red pin.

Click on the location to reveal pin markers, and select the red pin.

When you select the red pin, the app will switch over to map view again, and immediately take you to that location and it will put a pin in that location. You will now see orange, yellow, light blue and dark blue lines coming from the location. These indicate your sunset, sunrise, moonrise, and moonset respectively.

Now, if the red pin is not the the very spot that you like, you can relocate the red pin. It’s important to put this red pin to the exact location you wish to be standing during sunset time.

You will be directed to your desired location, and a red pin marked at your location.

You will be directed to your desired location, and a red pin marked at your location.

To relocate the red pin, simply move the map until you see the target symbol over the exact location. For example, if I want to be standing on one of the viewing platforms of this bridge, I would just navigate the target icon until that is directly over the viewing platform.

To further fine-tune your location, move the map so the target symbol is at the desired location.

To further fine-tune your location, move the map so the target symbol is at the desired location.

Then, select the red pin icon on the right bar, and your primary pin will relocate to the new location.

Select the red pin to relocate the pin from current location.

Select the red pin to relocate the pin from current location.

Now that you have your exact location pinned, we need to find more information about this very location. Swipe up from the bottom bar to reveal all the sunrise, sunset information for this particular location on the day, indicated on the top bar. You can swipe down to hide this as well.

The colours of the sunrise, sunset, moorise, and moonset are all indicated in the bar allowing you to easily see which lines indicate which event.

Swipe up from the bottom data bar to reveal sunrise and sunset info.

Swipe up from the bottom data bar to reveal sunrise and sunset info.

To get a better view of where the sun will be setting, zoom out so you can see a larger area.

Zoom out to see where the sun will be.

Zoom out to see where the sun will be.

Now you can see that the sun will be setting to the right of the Seine river, as seen from the Pont Neuf. To find out when the sun will set along the Seine river, we can zoom out even more, and adjust the date on the very top bar, as indicated below.

The single triangles immediately beside the date allow you to go forward or behind one day at a time. The icons beside that allow you to jump to celestial events, like full moon, half moon, solstice, etc.

If you hold down on the date, you can actually see the events in a list, and change the date to an exact day of your choice.

Alter the day from the top arrow icons to see how the sun markers change accordingly.

Alter the day from the top arrow icons to see how the sun markers change accordingly.

By looking at the screen capture above, you can see that on Friday August 21, 2015, the sun will once again rise along the Seine river, as seen from the Pont Neuf.

Now, keep in mind although this is meant to be exact, it can be off at times! I’ve had it a couple of times where the location was not exactly as I had thought it would be, unfortunately. It does, however, give you a very good indication as to where the sun will be give or take a day or two.

Keep in mind this app is capable of a lot more than the above! It allows you to incorporate elevation to see exactly when the sun will rise above a mountaintop, and performs other advanced calculations. I hope this brief guide enabled you to see an introduction to the app and has whet your appetite in finding out exactly where the sun will be around your neck of the woods!

If you use this app, please feel free to comment below and let me know how you like it!

Take a break and enjoy the scenery once in a while

Sunset by the marina in Toronto.

Sunset by the marina in Toronto.

When you’re out and about shooting all the time, it’s important to be able to pull yourself out of the business of it all and actually enjoy what you have in front of you. Not only does this refresh your mind, but it allows you to soak in the environment you’re in, perhaps giving you more of an appreciation for the spectacular view you’re always too busy to see.

While on my walks along the lakeshore, I intentionally left my dSLR camera behind, so that I wouldn’t be so inclined to taking photos every second. Of course, I couldn’t leave my iPhone behind, so I still took a picture with it. But taking photos with my iPhone is a much quicker process than taking a photo with my dSLR, where I have to find the right settings, compose, focus, and shoot. An iPhone really makes that much of a difference. And I’m thankful for that!

A little bit of post-processing was done here to accentuate the sunset colours, and lighten the boats in the middle. All of this was done within Snapseed, where I used the Brush tool to selectively lighten areas within my image. My final edit was done within VSCOcam where I added a filter to balance the overall image.

Who I like to follow on Periscope

Periscope for Android devices just came out yesterday, so it’s only a matter of time that the app gets inundated with more broadcasters doing interesting (and not-so-interesting) things. This list was a long-time coming, and since I broadcasted it out yesterday, I’ve had some requests to put it online, so here it is! It’s changed considerably since my last followers post, which you can read here, so hopefully you’ll find more new people to follow here.

Who I follow on Periscope

Who I follow on Periscope

Keep in mind that these are people that I follow that broadcast on a regular basis. I did not include those that I follow that do not broadcast. Their usernames are written below, with their real names written in brackets if it’s hard to figure out.

To follow any one of these people, simply go to the Peoples tab (bottom right), then click on the magnifying glass (top left), and enter their usernames, and select the person that seems to be the most active amongst the list!

I may have inadvertently omitted users on this list, so feel free to comment below with your favourite Periscopers too!

@Smaku (that’s me—I Periscope photography tips and Toronto tours)

Information-Based Periscopers

@AlexPettitt

@CathyHackl

@Kayvon (Co-founder of Periscope)

@MarkShaw

@RobertCStern

@MarkKaye

@Sacca (Chris Sacca)

Happy People / Motivational Speakers

@1AlexKhan

@1Justice4All

@AlexaRoseCarlin

@Jaylives1 (Jay Howard)

Artists & Entertainers

@Alicyn (Voice over actress/singer)

@LovelyPrevin (Musician)

@AmandaOleander (Painter/illustrator)

@JasonStolken (Comedian)

@JonErlichman

@PeriscopePuppet

@Rajacenna (Illustrator)

@Skorstar

@TiffWidjaja (Musician)

@TomGreenLive

@Yonatanmonster (Musicians)

Photographers

@500px

@AmoreVitaPhotos (Julia Beckmann)

@AshleyGoodwin

@ChaseJarvis

@ColeRise

@CoffeeGatherings (Razlyn)

@DanRubin

@FireTheCanon (Amanda Stevens)

@FrameableFaces

@FStoppers

@HollyParkerrr

@JasmineStar

@JeremyCowart

@JoeMcNallyPhoto

@Joeyldotcom

@KatelynJames

@KelbyOne

@MDickensPhoto (Meredith)

@ScottKelby

@TreyRatcliff

@ZachandJody

City Tours

@BaseGiulioBase

@ChantalTV

@ClaireWad

@Euromaestro

@Kanji_k

@PenguinSix

@TigerwonNYC

Happy People

@AskTere (Teresa)

@BradmanTV

@Cmdr_Hadfield (Chris Hadfield)

@DavidJBushell

@FoodPr0n (Jen Chan)

@HelloColie (Ashley Nicole)

@IamDaniBeck

@JennValentyne

@KevinFrankish

@LisaAppleton76

@ReneRedzepiNoma

@Rssuen (Renée)

@ScopeForGood (doing some good deeds with Periscopes)