Monthly Archives: June 2012

Truth in advertising

By guest blogger Eve
Entry Level Help Wanted - Experience RequiredWe’ve all seen Meetups that simply function as advertisements for a commercial endeavor. But there are plenty of other Meetups that, with the best of intentions, don’t offer what they claim to. These fall into two categories: those that claim to offer a wider range of activities than they do, and those that claim to serve a wider range of skill levels than they do.

As an example of the former, I encountered a meetup recently that was called the, shall we say, Thai and Chinese Dinner Meetup. I never did make it to an event, because I kept waiting for a Thai dinner to appear in the all-Chinese calendar. By contrast, the meetups that purport to serve a wide range of expertise levels tend to state that in the “About Us” section rather than in the name. This is particularly common in sports and outdoor meetups.

I am sure these groups are run by leaders with great intentions, but it’s natural for leaders skew events to their own level of expertise and needs. Meetup organizing is a part-time but unpaid job, and even the most dedicated of leaders can struggle with planning and hosting events that meet the needs of all their members’ needs without sacrificing their own.

That’s why every Meetup group should periodically revisit its purpose, description, and name. Sometimes, the answer will be the change the name or description to reflect the group’s actual purpose. If a running meetup only organizes marathon training, its name should not be “All-Levels Running Meetup.” Here in New York City, there is a meetup for almost any interest that explicitly bills itself as advanced, hardcore, for experts, etc.

However, one reason many people turn to Meetup is to take up a new hobby. It is a lot less daunting to try kayaking with a meetup than it is to figure it out all on your own (and not to mention safer!). Meetups keep themselves strong and healthy by bringing in new members. Both individuals and meetups benefit from welcoming novices. Thus, for many groups, a better solution is to seek out additional assistant organizers or event hosts who can add what is currently missing. You might have those people in your group already. Recently, I was impressed when an organizer asked me to host some events he felt the meetup was currently failing to provide; it was a sign he was thinking about the group and recognizing its needs.

There is a risk in adding any new event hosts, so it’s a good idea to give them a short trial periods before handing over the keys to the store (that’s a topic for another post), but there’s an even bigger risk in ignoring a constituency your group claims to serve.

Make sure your meetup offers all the events and activities its name and description suggest. It’s better not to attract a member in the first place than to create a frustrated ex-member.

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Eve is an experienced trip leader with several meetups and is an Oregon/Tennessee transplant living and working in New York City.

How to discourage attendance

By guest blogger Eve

Ever seen an event description like this one?

Yellow River kayak trip, July 18

Time and location: TBA

Note: This route is dangerous and should not be attempted by people without experience in class 5 rapids. If I don’t know you personally, please provide your credentials when you RSVP. This is NOT a baby-sitting group. If you can’t handle it, don’t sign up. I am not a professional guide and am not responsible for anyone who gets hurt or left behind.

Kelly has a great post about giving your event an informative name. Unfortunately, I’ve seen actual events with less information in the entire posting than in his suggested titles. The description above not only tells me nothing about the event, it actually uses more words telling me why I shouldn’t come to it.

In this case, there are some obvious technical questions that need to be answered: How many miles will we cover? Will there be a shuttle? What class are the rapids? Those alone, however, aren’t enough.

Remember, many people who join Meetups do so because they are new to the area. “Yellow River” may signal something very specific and spectacular to long-time locals, but it means nothing to the rest of us. What is the closest town (so I can Google Map it)? Is this a mostly calm river with a few dangerous spots, or a nonstop thrill ride? Does it pass through beautiful old-growth forest? Was it listed in Kayaker’s Digest as a “Bucket List Trip”? In other words, why should I sign up for this event instead of the thousands of other things I could do?

Finally, once we add that information, there is still something off-putting about the language in this event. Many Meetup groups host events that require skill or experience, and it’s only prudent to warn your members of that. But if you aren’t willing to actually lead the event, why have you signed up to do just that? Why would I want to spend my afternoon with someone who won’t notice if I drown? This language doesn’t just frighten away nervous newbies. It also scares away skilled, experienced potential members who want to conduct their chosen hobby in an atmosphere of safety.

Put yourself in the shoes of the newbie. Welcome your potential participants with descriptive, informative, and friendly titles and text.

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Eve is an experienced trip leader with several meetups and is an Oregon/Tennessee transplant living and working in New York City.