Organizer Spotlight, Tips Edition: SF Sketchers

Laurie Wigham started the SF Sketchers Meetup two years ago after deciding to focus on doing more art on paper, without a computer. After 30 years as a graphic designer, she found herself drawn to creating offline, “without an undo button.” When her friends didn’t want to sketch with her, SF Sketchers was born. Laurie’s Meetup format is simple. Every event begins with three hours of sketching followed by a half an hour of show-and-tell at a local café. They follow a strict “no-criticism” rule and have a great time.

Over two years, Laurie’s community has grown to more than 900 members and she’s organized more than 150 events. When it comes to organizing, Laurie is a pro. Instead of trying to tell her story ourselves, we’re bringing her tried and true advice straight to you below, in her own words:

Everyone should be an Organizer

Human beings are hard-wired to be social, and organizing other people to do things with us is an inherent part of our human nature. Starting your own Meetup group is an easy way to exercise those muscles and learn how to lead people in any project that interests you in the world.

When planning Meetups, it’s okay to be selfish

Plan Meetups in places you want to go, doing things you want to do. Other people will come if it appeals to them too, but you don’t have to satisfy some imaginary audience out there if you’re already satisfying yourself. If you’re doing it for yourself, you can think better about how to plan events, because you can user-test every idea on yourself: “Would it be fun for me to meet everybody on this windy street corner or would I rather hang out on those comfortable chairs in the sun while I wait?”

Remember that you’re doing this because you want to do it.

Don’t expect that everyone will read your whole Meetup description

When it comes to your event descriptions, shorter is better. A significant portion of your members will never read beyond the three or four lines that appear in the Meetup’s announcement email, and of those who do click through to the event page, many will not make it to the end.

You may feel like you should write down all you know about a place, spelling out every detail and answering every possible question, but it’s better for people to post their own questions and use the discussion section for the little details. More people will read through to the end if you keep the event description short. And if you put a few lively teasers in the first few lines that will appear in the announcement, you’ll get more people will clicking through to the event page.

Ask your members for input, but make the decisions yourself

Your members have a ton of good ideas that will make your Meetup better, but at the end of the day, you are the one taking responsibility for the success of the group. You need to make the judgement calls that you believe are right.

Be consistent

Once you plan a Meetup, try to resist making changes. Even if something unexpected pops up, just roll with it. If your location isn’t perfect, stand there and direct everyone to the right place. You never know when someone is going to miss an update, so it’s best to stick to the original plan whenever possible.

Thanks for sharing, Laurie!

Inspired to dive in and start a Meetup of your very own? Head here.


Alex Godin
Alex helps with user research, with a focus on communication and connections within the Meetup community. He's a big fan of the Internet, NYC and weird foods.