Tech Talk Alternatives, or Backups When Speakers Drop Out

Tech Talk Alternatives, or Backups When Speakers Drop Out

When speakers don't show for your Tech Talks or your venue cancels, do you abandon? Of course not, you just try something different!

Just be sure to tell your members and let them update their plans too!

Easy Option - Social

If you are short on time or your venue has cancelled then going with a social event might be the only option.

So choose an an appropriate social and a venue near the original. If you are lucky you can also stick with the original place.

Some people may not be comfortable with a social so it's important to update your attendees when you do make it into one.

Round-table Discussion

If you have twenty or less attendees you might consider a round-table discussion where you talk about several topics that interest people as a group.

One method is for everyone to write down topics they are interested in. Someone is then in charge of grouping these together, keeping track of time and keeping things moving. Discuss the 3-5 most popular for 15 minutes. Then the rest are discussed for 5 minutes each until you run out of time.

I've run this for .NET and Python groups and found it encourages lots of discussions and ideas around specific topics that interest people .

There are many other ways to run round-table discussions so pick something which you think will match your group.

Bring Your Problem

In this one you ask your members to bring problems related to your meetup group that they are having. You can then throw the floor open to your members to help provide solutions or ask questions which might lead to them.

Try and have a couple problems of your own or from absent members to get things going or use if your attendees need some encouragement.

This one is best with a little notice, so attendees can have time to think of problems with their personal or work projects.

Video and Discussion

If you had a speaker talking on specific topic, then you can find an online presentation on the same or a similar topic and show it to the group.

This can be followed by a discussion of the topic and throwing the floor to further questions of attendees.

Meetup Retrospective / Planning

Lastly you could ask your attendees for their ideas and opinions of your Tech Meetup.

Consider asking

  • What they have liked in the last year
  • Which were their favourite recent speakers and events
  • What topics they would like covered soon
  • Any recommendations for speakers they have
  • Suggestions from other meetups/conferences for your own group

This option is best combined with one of the other formats here so it isn't just all about the meetup.

Backup Speaker

If you are organised then you might already have a backup speaker, possibly from within the organisation team. Alternatively you can ask attendees if anyone has an appropriate talk. The more warning you give the more likely you are of a replacement.

If you do have a backup speaker you can combine with another idea if the talk is a short one.

You May be Surprised

It's when the unexpected happens that we sometimes have the most memorable experiences.

Tell us which of these (or similar) ideas you have used in a comment or tweet!


Duncan Thomson

A Remote Software and Database Contractor specialised in Umbraco, Duncan works from wherever he finds himself. He is the co-organiser of the Python Exeter and Data Science Exeter meetup groups and speaks about Remote Working, Umbraco, Python and .NET Outside of work he is keen on travel, random generation, foreign languages and good food.

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