Interview: Kevin, San Francisco Homebrewers Guild
We’ve all probably dabbled in cooking, but have you ever tried to make your own beer? Organizer Kevin of the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild shared some of the ins and outs of homebrewing.
Why was this group created?
We created the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild (SFHG) presence on Meetup to serve as an organizing force for the local homebrewing community in the city. Our membership on Meetup has grown from 287 when I took over as Organizer in October 2012 to more than 400 today.
What do you think inspires members to join?
I believe members have been inspired to join by our ability to truly bring the homebrewing community together. We offer a space for brewers to Meetup, share their knowledge and passion of homebrewing, and, of course, share their creations!
What does a typical Meetup consist of?
Our regular Meetup is our Monthly Meeting that we hold at a local brewery. Each month we profile a specific style of beer and discuss how to brew it at home, and then have additional presentations about tips and techniques our brewers are using.
Several of our Meetups revolve around homebrew competitions and the subsequent awards events. In addition to winning our club-internal awards, some of our brewers have taken home First, Second, and Third Place ribbons in competitions in San Diego, cities around the Bay Area, and one took home a first place in Wisconsin!
Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do? You could try to learn by yourself from a book or a podcast…or maybe you could join an awesome Meetup near you!
ARF: From Kill Shelters to Loving Homes
Since March 2008, Animal Rescue Flights has been flying animals away from kill shelters and into loving homes all across the United States. Once I saw the amazing mission of this group, I had to talk to Organizers Clark and Julia to find out more!
What inspired you to start this Meetup Group?
I am the organizer for the Northeast Pilots Group and I received an email from a desperate rescue coordinator who could not find drivers to handle the last segment. The timing was critical as two Kelpie puppies had to be removed from the kill shelter or be put down.
I also learned that 3-4 million animals are put down each year in the U.S. and that there is a dire need to transport them to rescues from where they can be adopted. I contacted Julia, who is the Organizer for the Phoenix Pilots Group, and we enthusiastically decided to create a flying organization specifically dedicated to the cause.
We needed a name that described what we do in the simplest terms and Animal Rescue Flights was chosen. When we realized that the acronym was ARF, it became official.
What kinds of members do you see coming from Meetup?
Mostly pilots, who are the backbone of our operations, but we also see a lot of non-pilots who love animals and offer to help out in any way they can. Some of these members have helped by driving when the weather prevents the completion of a transport by air, or by putting up posters at their local airports.
What advice would you give to an Organizer who needs to train members to do a specialized task?
If advice had to be given to an Organizer, it might be to show how a task can be successfully completed by a group effort, so the challenge is presented to the group and not to any particular member. It’s often easy to illustrate how much more can be accomplished by members working together and applying their own unique skills to a task than could be realized by individual efforts.
What is the most rewarding moment in your Meetups?
The most endearing moments are when animals are handed off directly into the arms of the children whose families arranged for the adoption. There’s rarely a dry eye in the place!
Interview: Ula, Organizer of Be Active. Be Outdoors.
Keeping active in the cold
Next week, temperatures will drop to near-freezing in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but that’s not stopping the Be Active, Be Outdoors Meetup Group!
Organizer Ula embraces the changing seasons and what it means for her Meetup Group. “I live in a state with four great seasons,” she says, “It doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter. I try to go out and spend some time outdoors.”
To help keep off the dreaded holiday pounds, the group plans an active Meetup for the day after Thanksgiving. “I usually have a ‘next-day’ hike to burn that turkey off. Black Friday hike! I want to encourage more people to spend time outside instead of going shopping.”
Once it gets cold enough, a whole world of activities opens up! “During the winter months, I schedule skiing, showshoeing or snowboarding Meetups.”
When Ula started the Meetup in January 2011, she had a vision of an outdoor group without age or activity restrictions. “I try to organize as many Meetups as possible. Indoors or outdoors. During summer we have plenty local hikes, kayaking trips, camping, as well as trips out of state.”
"We spend our days hiking Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. It was wonderful time to see all wildlife in their own habitat, geysers and basins full of colors." Don’t forget to check out some of their beautiful photos.
Ula recommends scheduling a variety of activities, and asking members for suggestions as well. Her advice to Outdoor Organizers? Be creative! “People are joining your group not only for the events you offer, but also to meet other people. There is no reason to limit yourself or others.”
What can members do? Suggest Meetups, offer to help and have fun! “Remind your members that they are more than welcome to suggest any ideas for an event.
"Members, don’t be afraid to interact with others. The more you try to talk and learn about other members during event, the more new friends you make.
"If your group is donation based…donate if you enjoy their events!"
Ultimately, the point of your Meetup is to connect with others face-to-face. “Get out, face your fears, make new friends and have a blast. You won’t regret it.”
Interview: Kelly, Organizer of the Nashville Hiking Meetup Group
Keeping interest high & rewarding members
Here’s what the Organizer of the Nashville Hiking Meetup Group and the Chattanooga Hiking Meetup Group had to say:
How did the Nashville Hiking Meetup Group start? What do you think was key in building momentum?
The group started in October 2006, several months before I joined. By the time I joined in July of 2007, the Meetup had about 250 members. We now have over 5,200 members, which is a historical growth rate of 2.6 new members per day. In recent months, I’m seeing six new members per day.
By using tried and true practices, we’ve seen members’ excitement grow along with the membership numbers:
- Focus on members and communicate strategically: Answer emails from members and potential members in a timely, polite, and thorough fashion. Set the tone for your Meetup in every communication, even if it’s just one person you’re emailing.
- Anticipate questions and train your members to self-serve: How frustrating is it when an event posting is missing critical information and you have to email the leader? Put everything a member might want to know in the event description from the beginning.
- Track everything: I have a big Google spreadsheet where I track metrics such as member growth rate, average events per week (we do five if you’re curious), and total volunteer hours. Also, be sure to implement Google Analytics on your Meetup site.
- Brand your group and focus on the aesthetics and grammar: Just like a company, create a brand around your Meetup. We have a nice logo that we’ve used for several years, and it goes everywhere to represent us (t-shirts, beer coasters, stickers, magnets, partner event postings). Don’t underestimate the power of excellent spelling and grammar in your postings and emails!
- Be authentic: ‘nuf said.
- Partner with like-minded organizations: Do joint events with other Meetups in your city.
- Build a dedicated leadership team: You can’t lead everything yourself. Find and nurture good event leaders.
- Promote discipleship (viral marketing): Do what you can to get your happy members talking about your Meetup to friends, to family, and on social networks. Create and nurture a presence on other social networks.
- Reward your best members: There are ad hoc ways to reward active members, such as giving recognition in emails and on social networks. For example, one of my members just hit his 250th event and I recognized him in a post on our Facebook page.
How do you handle no-shows?
Our no-show rate for hikes is only about 10%. We devised a “dot system" a few years ago where we would put a period in the member’s nickname field for each unexcused no-shows.I think members RSVP and fail to attend for several reasons. Closer to the event they may forget that they’ve RSVP’ed; this is why manual email reminders are an important tool for me.
What would you recommend to an Organizer who is just starting out? An Organizer who has members, but is having trouble with ‘no-shows’ or member participation?
Many of the practices in the first question are relevant here, but let me also add:
- always have a future event on your calendar.
- figure out if there’s a minimum number of RSVPs for an event in order for it to be worth executing the event.
- Don’t be frustrated if you’re just starting out and your attendance is low. Keep at it.
If you’re interested in reading more of Kelly’s advice, he has a blog of his own.
For you true Hiking aficionados, be on the lookout for his upcoming book, Hiking Tennessee, a guidebook to the best day hikes in the state!
Interview: Jill Salzman, Founding Moms
Jill Salzman is the genius Organizer behind the Founding Moms’ Exchange Meetups —there are now dozens of Founding Moms’ Meetup Groups around the world, specifically designed to support, educate and empower entrepreneurial Moms, with over 2,000 members.
We caught up with Jill to ask a few questions about her life as a super Organizer:
How would you finish this sentence? Because of the Founding Moms Meetups…
My life has improved dramatically. I now run an organization entirely built upon the Meetup platform. Because of the organization, my professional reputation has earned me spots on top TV shows and media outlets (The New York Times! CNN’s Headline News!), I’ve become the author of a book (Found It: A Field Guide for Mom Entrepreneurs), I’ve done a TED talk partially about Meetup, and I’m launching an accelerator for mom entrepreneurs called The HighStyle Fund.
All the time. Just last week I was given a hand-written thank-you note by one member just for doing what I do. I mean, it’s not just me doing it and I feel silly being thanked. It’s a member-driven organization and I’m merely a facilitator. We have over thirty brilliant facilitators, whom we call “hosts,” that help me to build our Founding Moms’ Exchanges everywhere. It’s a team effort, so personal thank you’s are always the cherry on top, and always humbling.
The best success story has happened more than once: It’s always the moment that I hear that a member was able to hire someone else. When we have the ability, through encouragement and education, to empower an entrepreneur to build her business up enough to be able to hire someone else, that’s pretty much the be-all end-all for me. It’s the very definition of my success, and when it happens, it’s just awesome.
I see us continuing to grow far and wide. It’s astounding to me that three years ago, I didn’t know another fellow female entrepreneur who had kids. Now, I know over 3,000 and am meeting women who want to get a Founding Moms’ Exchange going in Mexico, in Australia, even The Netherlands where we just launched. It sounds so cliche to say it, but I still find it remarkable each and every day that there are women around the world who yearn to connect with like-minded folks, exactly the way I wanted to three years ago. The collective power of Founding Moms is literally changing the world, and this ride has been so awesome, I don’t want it to stop anytime soon.
Thanks for taking a moment to share your Meetup story with us, Jill!
Interview: Jennie, Organizer of the Pinterest Social
Social media & real life
There are a couple of interesting layers in your group: you’re using Meetup to execute projects that you found on Pinterest! How did you come up with this idea?
I made the move to San Diego and had hopes of rebuilding my network of creative friends and businesses. Pinterest had entered my life and was my evening internet browsing obsession. I was pinning all sorts of fun things but it struck me that few got done. The idea was born. A way to meet like-minded people…and make something too!
How do you determine if a good number of members are interested in a Pinterest project?
We have been lucky to have talented people in the group like make-up artists and jewelry designers willing to host. I approach local businesses to collaborate and host as well. Stationary shops, soap making stores and boutiques have all been very kind and welcoming to open their doors to our group.I picked and hosted the first few socials as skills I can teach and bring to the group…like trending hair braids and plant terrariums. At the ‘meet and greets' I ask around what people are interested in attending and that helps a lot with ideas. The group becomes great with member participation. I love when people from the group come forward and have a project they want to host and share.
It can be a challenge to find a good space for project making. Luckily, San Diego has pretty great weather so ‘crafternoons’ in the parks have been a good spot and I don’t have to put a limit on attendees.
I have announced Meetups that didn’t generate much buzz due to cost of supplies. I send out an email letting everyone know that we need more sign-ups to keep it on the calendar. I figure if the group is interested they will let me know by signing up. If not, I take it off the books and try another idea.
Time for a logistical question: with all the crafts, how do you handle the costs?
Every Meetup that includes projects and supplies have a cost associated with it to sign up. The great thing is the more that participate, the lower the cost because of sharing supplies.
I usually do a quick price shop before so I know how much it will all come to before scheduling and setting a cost. Our terrarium social was great, for $12 a person everyone went home with two terrariums and the know how to make more. I try to keep the project costs as low as possible for member participation.
I’d have to say the braiding social. NBC had contacted me a few weeks before and wanted to do a piece on our group. I had such a fun time sharing my stylist tips and tricks with the girls and then seeing what they created on each other. Having the news cameras there added to the excitement.When I got the email it was going to be featured on the national nightly news I couldn’t wait to share it with the rest of the group! I was so excited for our newly started group to get national attention.
Food & Drink Meetups: Tips and Tricks for Organizers
Do you have a million questions about your Food & Drink Meetup Group? (Am I doing the right thing? Are my Members interested?) Never fear: Marty is here! The Organizer of the Ventura County Vegans dishes out his top tips for food and drink Organizers:
- Connect with the active members to see how they might like to see the group run
- If you do a good job of making the events interesting they will come
- Be prepared for anything; 40 people may RSVP and 15 will show up
- Don’t get discouraged!
Hollynn dishes on dining out as Meetup’s Food & Drink Community Specialist. Get the full scoop on Food & Drink Meetups here.
Interview: Canadian Outdoor World Seekers
Traveling the world with your Meetup Group
Last year, the Canada Outdoor World-Seekers (COWS) were beginning to plan a group trip to Peru! Well, the COWS are back now, and have had several other journeys since then. I decided to ask the Organizer known as the ‘Holy COW’ a bit about these trips and how they’re planned.
In addition to exploring local landmarks, COWS take longer trips: Meetups in the Himalayas and Latin America! How did you all finally get the guts to put that on the calendar? What response were you expecting?
COWS have been hiking in Ontario for years. We needed to explore new destinations and fulfill our outdoor dreams. Lots of our fellow COWS told us about their desire to visit popular hiking destinations like Costa Rica, the Grand Canyon, Peru and Nepal.
Longer trips are exciting and a little tricky…Nevertheless we thought it was worth the effort. We are very dynamic group, so we were expecting a high response rate to our international events. We were very selective with the attendees. At the end, 19 COWS went all the way to the Everest Base Camp and the Taj Mahal. I am proud to say that we all made it!
What are key points to planning a trip of this nature? What parts were a group effort, and what aspects were left up to individual members?
Hiking to the Everest Base Camp is a long trip. It takes eight days to go up and four days to come down. We also added visiting the Taj Mahal to our adventure, so COWS had to spend 20 days together. Key points to planning a trip of this nature:
- Understand the expectations and deliverables.
- Start as early as possible: It took us 8 months to finalize this trip.
- Work with professionals: We worked with a professional travel company located in Toronto and a flight agency for the air travel to arrange our flights to Nepal and India.
- Be selective with the group members: This is an adventure so we wanted to make sure anyone joined this Meetup can go all the way to Everest Base Camp.
- Train, Train, Train: We have organized 10 training hikes and 3 social gatherings to make sure all the members are good to go!
- Put the principles: we set certain rules to make sure everyone has a fantastic time, i.e. love and respect each other, etc.
How do I find the right members for my Meetup Group?
My current Meetup is for small concerts and house concerts… I know other people like house concerts. Now, how on earth do I find them?
Melissa, Organizer Brisbane Bookclub; The House of Owls: Make a little card or flyer to hand out at the next house concert you attend, or advertise your meetup at the venue with posters.
Shella, Organizer History Reading Circle-SF: I might try reaching out to other Meetup Organizers to see if they would cross-post your events. And try circulating flyers at book stores, music stores, music events, etc.
Lana, Organizer in Walnut Creek, CA: Perhaps send the Organizer of a similar group an email asking her for advice? Another option is to look into the local musicians union.
Source: Meetup Organizers’ Forum
From a hobby to a business: An Organizer’s tale
This Organizer’s Meetup journey started with being bored one weekend… and blossomed into a business!
Like many Organizers, Lynford started his Meetup Group to meet people with whom he shared a common interest. “I enjoy going out shooting pictures in fun locations, but that had always been a solo sport for me. Not many of my friends shared the same passion.”
Bored one weekend in July 2008, Lynford started Shutterbug Excursions. “I chose my first location to shoot in Annapolis, Maryland at the harbor,” Lynford said. “We had a blast at that first meeting. At that point, I knew we’d found something special. I still consider that first core group some of my best friends in my photography world.”
Meetups center around visiting points of interest around Washington DC and photographing scenery, people and historic monuments. Past Meetups include Butterfly Exhibits and war monuments on Memorial Day.
Since he first began, Lynford’s group numbers have swelled to over 600 members. What’s the secret to this incredible growth? “I think we are all just genuine, friendly people who share the same passion…and that attracts similar kinds of people. A good Meetup organizes around a clear interest or passion. It also works best when it is organized around a spirit of giving and sharing.”
A little over a year ago, Lynford took a leap of faith and started his own business, Photo Tour DC. “I’ve always been interested in the photo tour business, but I would have never tried it had it not been for my experience as a Meetup Organizer.” Lynford said that during his Meetups, he found himself using the skills he would need to be successful in that type of business.
"Once I’d been running my group for about a year, it occurred to me that I was using all the skills I would need to be successful in that business. I come from a family of teachers, so I started thinking about what a curriculum would look like. It was literally back of a napkin from there. I started doing research and writing a business plan. Once I had that process in my system, I knew I eventually would have to do it."
Advice for Organizers? “You have to keep things on your calendar. I’ve not been as diligent with this… and when I’ve slowed down, so did my membership. You should always have about two to three things on your calendar to show that your group is vibrant.”
Wanna see some of the Shutterbugs’ work? Check out their Meetup Group’s photo album or their Flickr page. And if you find yourself looking for more inspiration, find a photography Meetup Group near you!