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10 DOs and DON’Ts for Your Next Meetup

2010 August 30

I’ve been to quite a few meetups lately. They are fun affairs and most have been great opportunities to meet new people, see old friends and promote my brands. From my experience at these events, I’ve come up with a list of 10 things someone hosting one of these events should and shouldn’t do. See if you agree with some of these suggestions.

1. Do get the word out, but don’t count on RSVPs

Make sure you tell people well ahead of time about your event. Don’t wait until a week before the event to start posting it on Facebook or putting it on Twtvite or Evite. People often make plans months in advance and your best chance of people attending your event happens when you announce it early. 4 to 6 weeks in advance will give people plenty of time to put your event on their calendar before it gets booked up.

Post the event to multiple sites, but if you are requiring prepayment or RSVP, be sure all your postings link back to the payment/response site. Better yet, offer discounted prepayment as well as payment at the door in case people don’t see the link.

Even if you do get a lot of people indicating they are attending, unless they’ve prepaid, you can count on nearly half those people not showing up and about 30% of the people who said, maybe, to show up. It seems that’s just the nature of online responses and the topic of a future post.

2. Do explicitly tell people the cost of admission

If you are charging for your event, make sure that is shown on the invitation and S-P-E-L-L-E-D out. If admission consists of bringing a bottle of wine, a dish of food, or anything other than cash, make sure that is explicitly understood. Don’t assume everyone just knows that’s the deal. And if people show up empty-handed, offer an alternative such as paying cash or pointing them to where they can get wine, food or whatever is required. If all else fails, just let them in. NEVER turn people away. It’s better to make an exception than to lose a potential customer or online friend.

3. Don’t forget your full address (or date, time, etc)

It’s amazing how many invites forget to specify the city and state, as if everyone being invited lives in the same town. Be sure to include the city and state so that people from other areas can quickly see where the event is happening and know how to respond. It’s really frustrating to read about an event I get an invitation to, only see a street address and become disappointed when I find that it’s in another state or country. Same goes for date and time.

4. Do allow for work schedules

Scheduling events during the middle of a work day will guarantee a low turnout. Avoid midday, midweek events. It goes without saying that events scheduled after 5PM on weekdays or on the weekend will be more successful. If you schedule an event to start at 5PM, just be sure you have enough of everything so it can last until 7 or 8PM to accommodate some people’s later work schedules and travel time. If people show up during that last hour, around the time you’re running out of food or beverages, they shouldn’t be charged to get in.

5. Don’t nickel & dime your guests

If you charge for admission, don’t expect that guests will take kindly to being charged separately for drinks or food once they’re inside. I attended a recent meetup where people were charged $10 at the door and then—surprise—got charged $7 for a glass of wine…at a winery no less. That certainly leaves me with a bad impression of the host venue. I didn’t have any desire to buy wine from them and I know of several other folks who expressed the same sentiments. What’s the point of a winery hosting with a no-host bar?

If food or wine is a separate cost, make sure that people are told this in the invitation or before they pay at the door. If necessary, offer drink or food tickets at the door or, better yet, just make the cost of admission a little more and include some food and drink tickets with admission.

6. Do give people something to take away

At a tweetup at Mondavi, the cost of admission was $10. For that, I got to taste all their wines, nibble on snacks and be entertained. To top it all off, as I was leaving, I received a small bottle of their Cabernet to take with me. Obviously, this event made a good impression with me and stuck in my mind as a prime example of how to host a meetup. If you can’t give everyone something to take home, then raffle off door prizes for those in attendance, or a discount or coupon for your products or services. Make people feel like they got more than what they paid for their money.

7. Don’t expect to make money

This should go without saying, but after some past events, I think it needs to be said. If you think that you’ll make money hosting a meetup, then your goals are definitely misplaced and your event will probably backfire on you. Think of a meetup as an advertising opportunity; a chance for people to visit your venue, sample your products or see what your services are all about. Like most advertising, there’s a cost involved. It may be the cost of food or wine, or paying your employees to stay later, but if you’ve followed these suggestions and hosted your event correctly, you should see returns down the road in the form of good word-of-mouth advertising, referrals, and repeat sales. If you really can’t afford the costs involved, then perhaps you shouldn’t be hosting an event. In this case, no exposure is better than bad exposure.

8. Do let people sample your products

This goes almost hand-in-hand with number 5: Don’t nickel and dime your guests. If you’re a winery, let people sample your wine. If you make cheese, let people taste your cheese. If you run a B&B, let people see your rooms and sample your cooking. If you aren’t doing this during your event, or worse yet, charging people to sample your products, you’re wasting a golden opportunity to make new customers and friends…people who will tell their friends about their experience. Let’s hope you made their experience a good one.

9. Do provide good Internet access

Here’s another potential missed opportunity. People at these meetups are usually connected online. After all, how did they hear about your event to begin with? If people can’t tweet during your event or check-in at your venue on one of the location-based services, you’re missing out on more exposure for your business. Make sure you have good cellular coverage at your location or provide a free connection. At a recent meetup, I was inside a barrel cave and had no cell service or Internet connection. In this case, setting up a temporary wireless hub for the event would have allowed many people to generate buzz about the event itself and provide the host venue with more free exposure.

10. Don’t allow others to hijack your event

If you have other businesses co-hosting or sponsoring your event or offering door prizes, make sure you’ve established some ground rules for engaging with guests. What kind of sales activities are permitted? While you may may think it’s great to have a captive audience for your sales spiel, the people in that audience won’t be sharing your enthusiasm. Most people get pitched enough during the day, don’t subject them to more of the same during what is supposed to be a fun social event. Save the selling for business hours.

11. Don’t forget the media part of social media

Alright, I have more than 10 items so consider this a bonus. Make sure your event has media coverage. I’m not talking about radio and television, although, if you have these connections, by all means, try and get some airtime. I’m talking photos and video. If you want your social exposure to last beyond the event itself, make sure you have someone working for you to capture the action either in photos or on video. Get shots of people having fun, wide shots of the venue, close-ups of people, pictures of food and, of course, shots of your product and the people enjoying it. Make sure the video and photos look so enticing that those who missed the event will be sure not to miss the next one you host.

Can you think of anything important that I’ve missed? Leave me a comment.

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One Response leave one →
  1. September 1, 2010

    Eric, great post!

    I’d also add that it is helpful in urban areas to give people parking tips. Where? How much? Is paid parking validated at the event? I recently attended an event in downtown Seattle and was charged $21 for 2.75 hours at a venue I was unfamiliar with. Ouch!

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