One man, one thousand Meetups
Eugene Coneglan joined Wellington, New Zealand’s Adventure Wellington Meetup on July 4, 2011. Since then, the group has held a whopping 3,900 Meetups, activities ranging from climbing, to swimming, to laser tag—anything, according to their motto, that “gets your body moving”. Of those 3,900 Meetups, Eugene has attended over 1,000. On average, Eugene attends fifteen Meetups with Adventure Wellington each week, more often than not hosting them himself. Talking to Eugene, it’s hard to imagine a time when the Meetup group didn’t dominate his social life—but he remembers his first Meetup like it was yesterday.
Shortly after coming across Adventure Wellington through a Google search, Eugene RSVPed for his first Meetup, a monthly get together at a local pub. “I remember quite vividly walking up to the venue, all guns blazing, thinking: ‘I’m going to make a multitude of friends,’” he recalls with a laugh. When he arrived to find over 100 members already in attendance, however, his confidence plummeted. “They were intermingling with each other like they’d known each other all their lives. I thought, ‘there’s no way I can go in there. Nobody will want to talk to me.’ Somehow though, I mustered up the courage to walk in.” He was greeted warmly by the host for the evening, who introduced him to a handful of members. “The rest is history,” he reports. “I think I might have been the last one to leave that night.”
In November 2014, Eugene attended his 1,000th Meetup with Adventure Wellington. “I did 30 Meetups in my first six months and I actually thought that was quite a lot,” he reflects with a smile. Since then, he’s upped his game considerably. On an average week he’ll lead one or two walks for new members, play laser tag twice, and try his hand, or feet as the case may be, at “five to ten” hackey sack Meetups—all through Adventure Wellington. The hackey sack Meetups are his favorite—the teamwork appeals to him. “Everyone is trying to achieve the same goal of keeping the hackey sack off the ground,” he explains. And how, one might ask, does a fully employed person fit in “five to ten” hackey sack Meetups each week? “I do it during my lunch break.”
Eugene credits the Meetup for helping him come out of his shell. “Three years ago, I was incredibly shy—I didn’t think anyone would want to talk to me. But as it turns out, one thing I’m relatively good at is bringing people together.” The allure of the Meetup, he says, is simple. “People get to experience a whole round of different activities that we wouldn’t have possibly been able to do on our own—the Meetup provides a forum for people to develop all sorts of new skills.” The relationships that develop in the process are happy bonuses. “I’ve been able to forge so many friendships with people of diverse backgrounds,” says Eugene.
His excitement is contagious—in the time he’s been there, the Meetup’s leadership team has swelled to 37 members. Watching members turn into Meetup leaders is one of the most rewarding parts of Eugene’s experience. “People grow as part of the group,” he explains. “All of a sudden, people who are shy want to host Meetups. It’s a great feeling when you see that.” When asked if any members are close to overtaking him as the reigning RSVP king, Eugene laughs. “I don’t think anyone has come remotely close to where I am, but I don’t think that’s important—it’s not about numbers.”