After our introduction to Tech Meetups, today we show you some of the trials of running a meetup in a small city
This is not London. Or Bristol
I run Meetups in a city surrounded by fields, cows and tourists. Exeter has population of 130k, a quarter of which are students, and the lifeline of villages and market-towns of the South-west. Plymouth is 73km by car and and Bristol 130 km.
.NET Southwest, based in Bristol (metro population ~1 million) has as almost as many signed up to a meetup as the Exeter .NET has in total.
We lack the large number of tech companies of larger cities, but there are ways to work with that.
Because there is less of a tech network, you will need to reach out to find members, organisers and speakers. Find meetups your group shares an affinity with, offer to speak about your meetup and maybe a related topic.
Often there are one or two large tech meetups and then smaller specialised ones. It is here you can find out about the local community, and they will be able to help you find places to meet, new meetup members and people to speak.
Local tech companies may also be able to help out with sponsorship, venues and spreading the word
Local Meetups for Local People
Find ways to build a community around your meetup in a small city. Welcome in new members and make them want to return.
I've found that people are often happy just to have similar people they can speak to about their chosen tech,
Find ways to get people involved, whether it be a slack channel, social meetup, trying to solve their problems or asking them to help organise. Because speakers are harder to attract to smaller cities, ask some of your members if they would like to speak for 10 or 30 minutes on a subject that interests them.
Time and a Place
In Exeter many meetups used the same room at the City Gate Hotel, and when it closed there was a scramble for new places to meet.
In a small city there are few venues that are easy to get to, easy to find and easy to hire. Locally we've used private rooms in pubs, library rooms, co-working spaces, arts-centres and company meeting rooms.
Try to organise for a time which is easy for people to fit around a work schedule. I often aim for early evening (6-8) on Monday to Thursday. But ask your members as there may be other times that make sense for your meetup and city.
What is your Local Meetup?
So we've looked at reaching out to other meetups, building a community and making your meetup easy to get to.
Leave a comment with your experiences of local meetups or send me a tweet at @DuncanThom