Tips for Starting a Community

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  29. Reward Yourself
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I've been running the Appleton WordPress Meetup group for over a year and I've seen so many great presentations. Just refer back to my previous post about why I love running the meetup so much. In this post I just wanted to share some of my tips for creating a community. These are things that have worked well for this community but every community is different so take these tips with a grain of salt.

Consistency

One of the biggest reasons I stop doing something is because it's confusing. If I'm already nervous about meeting a new group of people the last thing I want to do is worry about when or where they're meeting.

  • Consistent meeting time. We meet the 2nd Friday of every month.
  • Consistent venue. We always meet in the same venue unless one of the co-working spaces gives us space. I make an exception for co-working spaces because I think they're very beneficial for our community.

Take Advantage of An Open Time

If there's a time no other groups are meeting then take advantage of it. There's always going to be some conflict (it's my wife's softball game night!) but if you have a free time slot where most of your users don't have something else going on take it.

  • Meet when there aren't other meetings. There's actually quite a few meetups in the Green Bay / Appleton area. I specially picked 8:30am because there wasn't a single meetup meeting during work hours. I figured that I would be able to get 100% of the people who are allowed to go to meetings during the day. I'm also getting the morning people who don't go to the evening events.

Diversity is Good For Everyone

I think some members of my group would be fine if I presented every month. Or at least they think they would be fine. I only have so much information in my head and to be honest people create new things by learning from other people. I'll have a better meeting topics after hearing someone else's topic and building off that idea.

  • Ask people to present. It's awkward but do it. People are usually willing if you ask them to just talk about a problem they had – even if they didn't solve it.

Bring in the Community

Since this is a community it's important to discuss local events.

  • Share local resources. I always share local WordCamp dates months in advance so people know where to get more information. I also allow co-working spaces time at the beginning to talk about their business.

Be Human

This isn't all about business or technology. Some people are there to network, learn something new, or share information, but I can guarantee you none of them are going to be there if it isn't fun.

  • Encourage conversation. People need to have fun and relax before they can sit down for a hour. Ask people about their lives, pets, sports, hobbies, or whatever else they're into. A few minutes of chit chat goes a long way.
  • Have an ice breaker. I love my ice breakers, you simply say your name, where you work, and answer the question I bring up each month. This past month was “What was your favorite viral video in 2013?”. Not a hard question but we had a few laughs and it only took 5 minutes and everyone was happy and ready to learn.

Let it Free

A meetup is a very structured event. Once people come together let it morph into whatever it will. I've had some meetups end up at a coworking space where we all work together, I've had some end abruptly after an hour, and I've had some where I end up having coffee and chatting for a while about non-web stuff.

  • Have an open end time. If people know the event ends whenever they want it to end they'll stay if they want to hang out more. I also usually say that the presentation is usually just the first 1/2 the last 1/2 if the casual discussion afterwards.

In the end your community might be very different but these work well for us. Regardless of what your community looks like just make one! Just having a community is a reward unto itself.

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