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.

—————————————————————————

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