There are currently over 1600 WordPress Meetups, and that number continues to grow. Attending a Meetup event is a good way to become involved with your local WordPress community. An even better way is to start organizing a WordPress Meetup! When you are an organizer, people automatically engage with you more and you learn so much.
What Is a WordPress Meetup?
A WordPress Meetup event can take on a variety of forms, from casual coffee to a formal presentation and everything in between. At its heart, though, a WordPress meetup is a gathering of people interested in WordPress who want to meet others in their local community. There is no experience required and members include developers, designers, marketers, content creators, end-users, professionals, hobbyists, etc.
Like WordPress, meetups are open-source, too, in that anyone can organize an event. You don’t have to be listed as the official meetup organizer.
I have been organizing my local WordPress Meetup Group in Calgary (YYCWPMUG) for a few years now. I had become one of the regular attendees at our monthly events. At the time, there was only one organizer, and he was doing everything. When he asked if I would be interested in helping, I didn’t think twice. It was an opportunity to become more involved in the local community, help keep the community growing, and develop as a leader. I didn’t know it then, but it was one step in a long path that eventually led me to where I am now: working at WebDevStudios, organizing WordCamps and Contributor days, and even hosting my own podcast. As you can imagine, I highly recommend being part of your local organizing team.
How You Can Start Organizing
Assisting a Current Organizer
If you are lucky enough to live in an area that already has an established WordPress Meetup group, you’re all set. Head over to Meetup.com, search for WordPress, and your local group should appear. You can see who the current organizers are and send them a message. Since we are all volunteers, it’s always nice to have new people join the team. Fresh blood helps promote new ideas and prevent burnout.
Establishing a New Meetup Group
Don’t have a WordPress Meetup group in your area? Then start one!
First things first, to become part of the official WordPress Chapter program, you’ll need to apply. There is a lot of information in the handbook that will help you make some important decisions, and once you are approved, you will be onboarded by someone with experience. Take the opportunity to ask any and all questions you can think of.
Let’s Get This Party Started
Now that you’re part of the organizing team, it’s time to start planning. You can have different types of events every month, or find what works best in your community and stick with that. Whatever you decide, there are three main points you need to consider:
- What type of event will you have
- Where will you hold your event
- Who will present or lead the event
What to Do
Before you can tackle the where and who, you need to know the what. Knowing the type of event you want to have will help shape your other decisions. YYCWPMUG events tend to be mostly presentations, but every now and then we like to mix it up with something special like Contributor Day or with a more casual evening like a coffee social. Here is a sampling of ideas:
- Have an educational presentation
- Host a mixer/social
- Organize a hackathon
- Have Q&A
- Video conference with an expert
- Run a site clinic
- Plan a stand-alone contributor day
- Explore a theme or plugin together
Location, Location, Location
A meetup can’t exist without a place to hold your event. Once you know what type of event you are having, you can start looking for a venue. Some criteria to consider when choosing a location:
- Cost: free or donated is ideal
- Accessibility: make it easy for all people to get to and access
- Size: how many people to expect
- Diversity: everyone should feel welcome
Our main venue for YYCWPMUG is a co-working space that has been generously donated to us, but every now and then we try somewhere new. See if any of these common venues are available:
- Co-working spaces
- Coffee shops
- Educational institutions
- Community centres
- Local small businesses
One of the quickest ways to burn out is to try to do everything yourself. If you are organizing the events, try not to be the one presenting all of them, too. Recruit others to speak on a topic they enjoy. They don’t have to be professional speakers. We’re all friends here, and meetups can be a great place for people to practice speaking in front of a group. Don’t wait for people to offer; many often don’t realize they would be a good fit until you ask them. If you are looking for speakers:
- Ask your members if they are interested, or if they have recommendations.
- Reach out to local companies using WordPress.
- Create a speaker submission form.
- Don’t be afraid to ask some people who aren’t local every now and then… you can always do a video conference.
A Few Final Tips
- Follow and enforce the Code of Conduct. TL;DR Don’t be a jerk.
- Be creative! Try out new ideas and venues, different days, and times.
- Don’t do it alone. More is merrier, and you’ll burn out quicker if you don’t have help.
- Consider getting a local restaurant to sponsor some grub.
- Take lots of pictures!
- Use social media and other platforms to your advantage. YYCWPMUG has a Facebook group and soon a website and Slack work space.
Most importantly, have fun!