Meetup Spotlight: I wanted to do that…Just not alone

justnotaloneI recently caught up with Shawn from the “I wanted to do that…Just not alone” Meetup in New York City, to find out how he keeps over 14,000 members happy after 4 years. His secret: “the key to keeping members active and engaged is consistency”.

To Shawn, being consistent means being attuned to your membership and understanding trends in your Meetup group.

Here are the three key attributes that make it work for his members:

Be welcoming: “People know when they come to our Meetups, they are going to find a friendly and engaging group of people. We work hard to create that atmosphere. Going to an unfamiliar place to meet new people can be intimidating. It’s easier when you trust that the organizer will be actively working to make sure people feel welcome.”

Keep your calendar busy: “There’s always something happening. People join Meetup because they want to do something!”

Leverage popular Meetups: “We have events that we’ve been running for years that you can expect to see twice a month, or more. Sometimes people find the thing they like, and they want to keep doing it, so we make sure it’s available for them. We actually have quite a few popular events, mostly because we run them consistently and make sure people know they can expect a good time”.

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Celebrating opportunity at the first-ever Tech Meetup at the White House

Adapted from Scott Heiferman’s introduction at the Tech Meetup at the White House on Friday, April 17, 2015 #WHMeetup

We are invited to the White House today because the people in this room are forging the future in a non-obvious way.  People here are opening doors for people who are opening doors for each other.  (I stole that line from Seth Godin, and I love it.)

And speaking of doors, Megan, thank you for opening the doors to the White House to us today, and for seeing the potential in people. You, your team, and the President are making a difference by hosting us today.

We are here to talk about opportunity. To see and imagine how Tech Meetups will create more opportunities for more people.

There are 30,000 Tech Meetup organizers in this country and we’ve gathered 50 of the best here today.  These Meetups help people get training, get jobs, get funding, launch businesses, and help companies take off. They inspire and change lives.

I became a Tech Meetup organizer a couple years after we started Meetup, the platform. (Meetup was used by people like Illinois State Senator Barack Obama in his run for the U.S. Senate. Whatever happened to that guy?)  Meetups were booming, but there weren’t many Tech Meetups.

I was inspired to start the NY Tech Meetup having heard that Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs’ co-founder) said that if there were no Homebrew Computer Club, there’d be no Apple.  Homebrew was a community where you could demo technology. It gave them opportunity. Maybe Silicon Valley wouldn’t be what it is today without that community back then.

So I started the NY Tech Meetup, and at our first Meetup, only one person showed up. I asked her to be my co-organizer.  Her name was Dawn Barber, and she helped it grow in its early days to where it is today, with over 40,000 members.

Dawn is here today. Dawn, you created opportunity for people.

Now there are Tech Meetups everywhere, and I’m so excited to see you all here, from Alabama to Alaska—poised to grow your local tech economies. I’m excited to see all of you.

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Girl Develop It—don’t be shy, develop it!

“In 2010 we felt like there was way more talk about the gender gap in technology than there was action,” recalls Girl Develop It Co-Founder Vanessa Hurst. “We thought, ‘can I personally help one other woman feel comfortable learning technology?’ And the answer is yes.”

In 2010, Hurst co-founded the first Girl Develop It Meetup in New York City. “We decided it was time to provide a place where all questions are okay, and everyone can learn in a supportive environment.” Today that Meetup is over 7,500 members strong, and Girl Develop It Meetups have spread to 50+ cities around the country. Over 41,000 people belong to a local Girl Develop It Meetup, and the GDI community is growing faster than ever. “It’s an incredible thing to be celebrating five years of Girl Develop It this summer,” says GDI Executive Director Corinne Warnshuis. “What started as a single Meetup in NYC has become a nationwide movement. The strength and growth of our communities highlights how powerful and important it is to bring people together under a common purpose.”

This fall, Girl Develop It hosted their first summit in New York City, and we jumped at the chance to meet a handful of their extraordinary leaders and capture their stories on film.

 

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The St. Louis Board Game Meetup celebrates ten years of gaming

On Thursday, February 26th, the St. Louis Board Game Meetup will get together at local hobby shop Game Nite for an evening of games. The Meetup heads to Game Nite every Thursday after work for games and conversation, but this Thursday is different—this is their ten year anniversary. The St. Louis Board Game Meetup is made up of over 2,000 members who get together more than fifteen times a month to play games. Today, it’s one of the most active communities in St. Louis, but organizer Timothy remembers scheduling their first Meetup, exactly ten years ago.

Timothy is a self-described avid gamer. “Gaming is in my blood,” he says. “I’ve been a gamer all my life, pretty much. My father had been interested in board games since before I was born, and our family summer vacations would always include the new game that dad had bought and kept secret until our arrival.” When Timothy moved from the U.K. to Saint Louis in December 2000, he quickly set out to find local gamers. He connected with a handful of locals online, but was discouraged to find that the group rarely got together. In 2005, Timothy resolved to give it another shot and RSVPed for a Meetup with the St. Louis Board Gamers. “I went,” he recalls, “and brought a small box of games with me so I could easily be identified. But no one but me turned up.” Shortly thereafter, the organizer stepped down, leaving the Meetup leaderless. “I decided that I could make it work,” says Timothy. On January 29, 2005 he stepped up as organizer, and scheduled his first Meetup. “I was more excited than anything.”

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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.”

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Tech Meetups on the rise across America

When you think about tech in America, two cities tend to come to mind: San Francisco and New York. No doubt these cities boast thriving tech communities, but lately, tech Meetups have started changing the game—popping up like crazy in places you might not expect. Fort Collins, Colorado, for example, experienced a 500% increase in tech Meetups between 2013 and 2014. In Boise, Idaho today, you’ll find 14 distinct tech Meetups (compared to just 3 last year).

These Meetups are playing important roles in the cities that build them, cities where access to tech may otherwise be limited. Tech Meetups have the power to open big doors—to help people learn new skills, find potential colleagues, and unlock new career paths.

Tech Meetups across America, 2015

techmapLet’s take a look at the numbers:

  • There are over 22,000 tech Meetups around the world—that’s 12% of Meetups everywhere.
  • In the U.S. alone, there are more than 10,600 tech Meetups, with over 3 million members—31% more than last year.
  • 1,100 towns and cities in the U.S. have at least one tech Meetup.
  • And 130 U.S. cities have more than ten tech Meetups.
  • Towns including Spokane, Washington, Vienna, Virginia, Provo, Utah, and Charleston, South Carolina experienced an increase of over 200% in tech Meetups between 2013 and 2014.

An RJ Metrics report from April 2014 posits tech Meetups as the currency with which to measure the human capital of a city: “Meetups are where people in tech get together to network, talk shop, and learn from each other. Meetups are human capital factories. If you want to measure the human capital of a startup city, you measure its meetup activity.” We couldn’t agree more—and we can’t wait to see what these factories dream up next.

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Meetup Spotlight: Muslims for Progressive Values

Shortly after September 11th, 2001, Ani Zonneveld, a Malaysian-born singer-songwriter, released a pop album. Ani is a lifelong Muslim, but several American Muslim retailers and organizations refused to promote the album release. The problem? Ani is also a woman, and according to traditional Muslim beliefs, only men are permitted to sing publicly. Ani was outraged by the situation. “I found it to be completely unacceptable,” she says. “There have been centuries of Muslim women teachers, leaders, scholars, poets, and singers, and yet, the woman’s voice within the Muslim community was being silenced even here within America.”

Ani was certain she wasn’t alone in her frustration with the traditional Muslim community. “I knew from statistics that only 25% of Muslims attended mosque. I knew there were a lot of Muslims that were disenfranchised with the traditional mosque, but I didn’t know why they were or where they were. I thought: there’ve got to be Muslim Americans like me who are inclusive in nature, and in favor of gender equality and freedom of artistic expression. I knew they were out there, so it was just a matter of ‘someone’s gotta start this’—so I did.” On January 6, 2006, Ani founded the Muslims for Progressive Values Meetup in Los Angeles.

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Meetup 2014: Culture Shifts by State

As 2014 winds down, we decided to take a look at the year in review, according to our data. Our team dug into Meetup group category growth by state to get a feel for America’s shifting interests landscape over the past twelve months. The results were more varied and interesting than we ever could have imagined…

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Meetup Spotlights: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and there’s so much that we’re thankful for. Mostly, as we enter this holiday season, we’re thankful for the Meetup community—for the 20 million members and organizers bringing community to life in neighborhoods around the world. And this Thanksgiving, over 300 Meetups will be giving back to those neighborhoods, volunteering their time and energy in the spirit of the season. We caught up with organizers behind four of those Meetups to learn more.

In DC, the Beautiful Brown Girls Brunch Club Meetup will be serving up a meal at a local homeless mission and doing some holiday decorating to boot. “When the holidays came around we wanted to make sure we weren’t just thinking of ourselves, but also providing opportunities for our members to give back,” explains organizer Christina. “Our Meetup’s mission is to empower and build each other up, and we take that to heart outside of our membership, as well. It’s all about loving our community, loving ourselves, and loving each other.”

Also in DC, the Embassy Events in DC for Young Professionals Meetup will be preparing, packaging, and delivering meals to elderly people in the community. “One thing I’ve learned about charity,” says Greg, the Meetup’s organizer, “is that people can give money and that’s great, but what they really enjoy is going out into the community to do things.” Volunteering, Greg explains, allows his members to connect with their charitable-minded peers. “People want to make friends with people who think like them, who are willing to give up time on their holiday to do something for others—it shows there are people out there who care.”

Members of Greg’s Meetup volunteering last holiday season

 

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Meetup Spotlight: Memphis Shy Guys

Jennifer is anything but socially awkward. The Meetup she organizes is jam packed with awesome activities—even outgoing locals would call it one of the most active and fun loving groups in Memphis. You’d never guess that Jennifer heads up the Memphis Shy Guys Meetup— A Group for the Shy and Socially Awkward.

Memphis Shy Guys

While Meetup might seem like a strange destination for those with social anxiety—face to face interactions with strangers?!— it works wonders for members, and Jennifer’s Shy Guys are proof. Her members come out in droves for Meetups like ‘Trivia Night’ and ‘Salsa Dancing’—not exactly activities for the faint of heart. There are over 600 Social Anxiety Meetups, and over 400 Shyness Meetups worldwide. Some of them are public, some of them are private, but all of them are designed to support members through a fear of social situations.

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