Yes is not a maybe. Yes it not yes until a better offer… Used to the ‘Facebook generation’, organisers will estimate an actual 50% attendance based on RSVPs.
In my hometown of Melbourne, meetups are booming. Particularly in the tech, business and social scenes. A group of people in a room discussing interesting topics can be found on a regular basis at least three nights a week.
Attendances vary from three to 300, with some so inundated with interest they have to constantly move to larger and larger venues. Sponsors are falling over themselves and The Fetch started here which gives an idea of the demand.
So all is well, yes?
With popularity comes more to juggle, prepare and expectations to meet which may exceed the original intention of the group.
Spare a thought for passionate organisers, they undertake a fair amount of unpaid work, organising a venue, sourcing content, promotions and managing a night can be draining, with little acknowledgement.
Here are my golden rules of meetup etiquette:
Keep your RSVP up-to-date
Yes is not a maybe. Yes it not yes until a better offer. Last minute crises come along but generally even a five-minute change of RSVP is enough. Used to the ‘Facebook generation’, many organisers will estimate an actual 50% attendance based on RSVPs. But recently I have been to a few events with 30% or less, with no apologies. Which is disheartening for organisers, looks bad to sponsors and is just plain rude. It can also be expensive if a room has been hired and catering organised based on numbers. Some meetups now run policies to eject constant no-shows from groups, do we really need to get that far?
Don’t expect free food and drink
For meetups that don’t have an ongoing sponsor, it can be a time consuming and sometimes hard undertaking for organisers to constantly be finding and spruiking themselves to potential sponsors. Don’t denigrate a meetup just because there is no free food or drink, attend because of the topics and if you’re really desperate for something, take a long a six-pack, bottle of wine, or some snacks, others will be keen to share.
Consume and Contribute
Organisers are often desperate for content, wanting to avoid the default backup plan of ‘doing it yourself’. If there’s a relevant topic you’d like to see discussed, try to find someone who can present and propose them. Don’t think that you can’t present the topic, even if you’re an amateur or beginner to the topic, you can still bring something valuable to the discussion and your efforts may bring out more expert feedback from the audience.
There have been many discussions around appropriate behaviour in the tech scene that we don’t have space to revisit here, there are many cultures, backgrounds and opinions at meetups, be courteous and open minded.
Stick to the point
If you have a question of a speaker, make it a question, not a lengthy point that doesn’t go anywhere. If you have something more to contribute, do a talk!
Put your phones on silent
No need to turn them off, but please put them on silent, we don’t want to hear your latest clever ringtone.
Keep still and silent during talks
Often presenters are nervous, don’t make it harder by talking excessively, moving around, fidgeting etc.
It’s not your home
Setting up and cleaning up are part and parcel of any event. Lend a hand, it will be appreciated.
For balance, here are some tips for organisers:
It’s not an ego trip
Few organisers are guilty of this, but a meetup isn’t a vehicle for setting forth your own opinions and agendas. By all means, step in to run presentations once in a while (especially when no one else does!) and plug your work as recompense for your time. But it’s not all about you, all the time…
Keep an eye on the time
Meetups are generally after work and people have had a long day, if speakers have been given a time, get them to stick to it and allow for a little breathing/brain resting space between talks.
Keep an eye on the room
This skill can develop over time and sometimes you can be under or over sensitive to it, but try to get a feel for the room and attendees. Are they bored? Is it too hot? Do people look uncomfortable? Are people leaving?
About our contributor // Chris Ward is the cofounder of Green Renters, leads community and education at Go1 agency, and runs three tech meetups. Follow him on Twitter as @chrischinch.