I have recently been asked about what it is like to run my own meetup group, Search London. SEOGadget are sponsoring my next event on Tuesday and I wrote a post on their blog about “Never Underestimate the Value of Networking” I have been the organiser of Search London for just over 2 years and in that time the number of attendees has grown from 200 to over 1100. It has been a fantastic 2 years and 2013 will see Search London continue to grow. I have really enjoyed being the organiser of this meetup group and I encourage anyone with a passion in a particular field to set up and run one too. Here are some of my tips on how to run your own meetup group:
1) Join Meetup.com
Meetup.com is a great place to find out about the free and cheap events taking place in your area. It is free to register for meetup.com and there is no limit to the number of groups you can join. If you have not been active in the past 3 – 6 months for a group or if you upset people within the group (which is very uncommon), then you will be removed from the group.
Make sure there is demand for your meetup group. Do not just set one up for the sake of it. I really wanted to run a networking event in search and joined what was called SEO, SMO, PPC I also joined London Bloggers and went to a few of their events. When the owner of SEO, SMO and PPC stepped down due to work commitments, I took over the ownership, rebranded it to Search London and the rest they say… is history.
3) Make a big impact
The first meetup I held featured Finlay Clark from Google who presented the updates in search and what the future held for 2011. I was lucky to have some a well known company sponsor and speak at the first Search London event. I also had another speaker at the meetup. Richard Fitzgerald, blogger of 52burritodates.com spoke about about his website that he created on the back of winning years supply of burritos at a festival in 2010 in which records his weekly dates with a new girl and their “burrito date”
4) Be organised
I organise Search London in my free time as it is independent of any company. I therefore have to plan well in advance and make sure I have the right date, speakers, venue and sponsorship for the meetup. The first are I look at is the date, when is a good time to hold an event. In the search industry, there are many conferences such as SES ans SMX and therefore it would not be sensible to run your own meetup on the same night as one of these major search conferences or any other meetup group. Once you have a date in mind, contact the speakers who you would like to talk at your next event to see if they are free. Then once they have confirmed, find your venue. If you have no or little budget, try and find a venue where there is no room hire fee and instead have a minimum spend. The minimum spend tends to be £500 Monday and Tuesday which increases to £750 on Wednesdays and up to £1,000 on Thursdays.
It can be difficult to secure sponsorship especially in this current financial crisis. It is important to clearly lay out what the sponsor will benefit from by sponsoring your event. Send them a package which will clearly lay out what they will receive in exchange for paying for the drinks/venue for the night. For example, they will be able to present to a captivated audience, they will have their name on your meetup website for anyone to see, they may also feature in the email sent out to the meetup members. In the SEO world, not many SEOs get taken out for the “media” lunches while their colleagues in display who seem to have endless budgets are. Therefore it is always refreshing to be able to attend a meetup group for those in search where there are a few drinks on the house.
Make sure you email your members regularly with updates or news on the next events. Do not spam them with constant emails. When you are at the meetup, speak to your attendees. I really like to ask members to write their name on labels so that it is easier for people to know who everyone is and make that initial connection. When introducing the speakers at your meetup, introduce yourself as well and if this is the first meetup give a mini bio about yourself. At the event, make sure you speak to as many people as you can, especially those who may be new to the meetup group.
I have really enjoyed running Search London and will look to continue the meetup group for the foreseable future. There will be some big improvements in 2013 so watch this space ……….