By guest blogger Eve
It’s good practice, as any trip leader knows, to read and respond to questions posted about an event. But it’s also worth noting what kinds of questions people ask. Many of them are preventable with better event descriptions, and it’s easier on you to furnish that information up front than to go back and answer it piecemeal. Pay attention to what kind of questions are being asked in your meetup, and learn to answer many before they are asked.
Some people will ask questions because they didn’t read the description carefully. It’s irritating, but that’s human nature. Some questions are logistical and cannot reasonably be answered in advance. For example, here in New York City, it’s impractical for out-of-town events to have a central departure point in the city, so the comments sections are often full of people asking for rides and other people announcing they have cars. The third kind of question is the problem: Where are we meeting? What does CDT mean? Can you provide more details? All of these questions should have been answered in the initial event description.
What, precisely, goes in an description will vary by the kind of event: Nashville Hiking Meetup uses a difficulty rating system for hikes, but it wouldn’t make sense for a movie or dinner meetup to do that, or even for NHM to rate its annual picnic as “strenuous.” However, every event description should answer these basics:
- When and where is the event? Be sure to include an address or map whenever possible. “When” means a start and an end time.
- What are we doing? Hiking? Dinner? Happy hour? Stitch ‘n bitch?
- Are all abbreviations explained? I’m not telling you to spell out “5 p.m. in Seattle, WA.” But your event description shouldn’t require a crack team of cryptologists to decipher, especially if it’s aimed at newer members.
- Who can attend? Does it require experience? Is it for the leadership team only? Are little kids or significant others welcome? What about dogs?
- What does it cost? Are there admission fees? Bar tab minimums? Do members need to pay up front? What’s the refund policy?
- Who is leading it? While Meetup makes us answer this one, event organizers should make sure their profile page includes a recognizable picture and an up-to-date bio — not your life story, but enough information to establish that you know something about this activity.
- And let’s not forget about a descriptive name of your event. That can make or break your attendance numbers.
There may be other questions specific to your activity – hikers want a trail map, movie-goers like a link to trailers, recreational sports enthusiasts want to know if they need to form their own teams. Don’t expect people posting events to remember all these items off the top of their head; even experienced event organizers can inadvertently leave a key detail out. It can be helpful to have one or more event description template for organizers to start from, tailored toward your meetup’s activities.
If you don’t include the basics, members will ask about them. Some will forget to come back and check out the answers. Others will give up reading halfway down the page of questions. And yet others will say, “I don’t trust that this guy knows what he’s doing. I’ll find another group.” You don’t have very long to capture your members’ attention; sell them on the event the first time they see it.
Eve is an experienced trip leader with several meetups and is an Oregon/Tennessee transplant living and working in New York City.