By guest blogger Eve
Call me lazy.
It’s true: One of the reasons I like to do things with Meetups is that the leaders do some of the work for me. If it’s hiking, they scout the trail, and they figure out times and trains/carpools. If it’s eating, they find out about new restaurants, and they make the dinner reservations.
I went on a hike this past weekend that used mass transit to get us to the hike. However, this wasn’t a simple “get off the train and go,” as the park was a mile from any stop. The leader had spent a lot of time (including a scouting trip) to find the closest transit and then to find palatable routes to the park, minimizing road walking. Even if I had been willing, I don’t know the area well enough to have done that kind of planning. The group enabled me to see an area I thought was off-limits without a car. That is one reason I hike with a group.
But I see far too many Meetup events like this one:
You are responsible for your own travel to [out-of-town location]. You need to make your own reservations for the campground. You can choose the route you want to go; we will not hike together.
At that point, I scratch my head and ask, “Why I am hiking with a group?”
The key to your job as an organizer is in the name – organizer. That means it’s up to you to do more than pick a day and expect people to show up.
To be fair, an organizer can’t do everything. Nashville Hiking Meetup has held events at campgrounds without group sites, meaning that members had to book their own campsites. But NHM provides carpools and plans group outings for these events. For restaurant and movie meetups, it’s reasonable to expect members to buy their own food or tickets. And yes, given a map and an address, your members should be able to find their own way – to local events.
If you are asking your members to do much more than that, you are abdicating your responsibilities as an organizer. I know it’s a lot of work – I’ve done it. But that’s one advantage of having a deep leadership pool; you don’t have to do it every time.
Unfortunately, I can’t give you a checklist of “the things a leader must organize on every event.” Events are too varied for that. As a general guideline, however, if the event is out of town or longer than a day, you should take some of the planning work out of the attendees’ hands. Arrange carpools (and let members opt out if they wish). Reserve a group site. Plan group activities. Give drivers turn-by-turn directions. Arrange group deals with a specific outfitter.
While many people use meetups to meet new people, the job of the organizer doesn’t stop with saying, “Come, meet cool people here at this time.” He or she has to add some additional value, and most of that value comes from the behind-the-scenes work of organizing and planning.
Eve is an experienced trip leader with several meetups and is an Oregon/Tennessee transplant living and working in New York City. See Eve’s Google+ profile here.