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.”
Shall we feel the fall sky?: Paragliding at Mt. Yumyung - Paragliding Meetup Group, Seoul
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!