Category Archives: Social Events

Brand your events. You’ll be happy you did.

Nashville Hiking Meetup logoI joined Nashville Hiking Meetup in July of 2007. After several months of participating in hikes, leading hikes, and taking over the group in December of that year, someone suggested we have a social event at a bar or restaurant. Surprisingly enough I was skeptical. I said, "I know these people like to hike together, but will they like to socialize and drink a beer together?"

Boy, was I wrong.

We planned our first crowded barsocial event for January 6, 2008 at a local pub. Trip leader Seth had the brilliant idea (which I later learned was the idea of his then girlfriend and now wife Anna) to call it "Drink a Pint" which then morphed into "Drink a Pint Night" over time. People loved the event from day one.

Fast forward to modern times. We typically do one Drink a Pint Night per month now, attracting usually 100 people or more. Now members expect the "Pint Nights" (as most people call them now). By giving the regular event its own name, people identify with it and can refer to the mixer quickly as in, When is the next Pint Night?

Social events have become great way for current members to catch up with old friends, and new members to meet a few folks to realize we’re not crazy before they head out into the woods to hike or camp with us. Add a great brand name to your mixers and other events (and partner with other meetups in the area) and I bet you’ll have a winning combination. Furthermore, promise a venue you’ll bring X number of people into their establishment on a certain night, you’re bound to find a long term sponsor.

drinking beerNo, we’re not the only group in the world to use the event moniker “Drink a Pint Night” but it has stuck. I’m proud to say that our friends at Bowling Green Hiking Meetup have also taken on that brand.

Our pals at Tennessee Hiking Group do a great job at thinking up creative (although a little cutesy for my taste) titles for their events such as “Romancing the Stone: Standing Stone SP, Cooper Mountain Trail” and “Fiery Gizzard —> And we’re off to see the Gizzard…”

How have you branded your recurring events? Let us know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

Resources: Brand your events. You’ll be happy you did.

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The 10 Tips on Choosing a Venue for Social Events

My group Nashville Hiking Meetup (and I’m sure many others) plans regular social events throughout the year in order to keep the group connected. Although we’re not a social group by definition, getting people together apart from our outdoor events is a key goal.

Social events have many benefits: existing members can re-connect with folks they may not have seen in a while, new members can get a feel for the group and meet existing members without having to take the leap on a long day hike with us, and a leader can use these events for making special announcements or giving awards.

Drink a Pint Night (September 2012) with Nashville Hiking Meetup at Sam’s in Nashville, TN by Reiner Venegas

But how do you choose a location? After several years of successful social events, we’ve learned a few things about picking a venue:

  1. Determine and document your basic requirements of any venue:
    • Number of people you generally have RSVP and whether you can fit comfortably in a venue.
    • Location or proximity to city center.
    • Parking or public transportation convenience.
    • Food and alcohol choices.
    • The image of a venue and how it matches your group. We’re a hiking and outdoor club so I don’t see us having a social at a swanky hotel.
  2. Figure out how much variety you want. You may meet at the same place every other month and alternate with a new place on those off months.
  3. Seek out unconventional locations. Not all socials need to happen at a restaurant or bar. We’ve had events at members’ homes, fitness clubs, car dealerships, and park picnic sites.
  4. Seek out new places by word-of-mouth. Ask other meetup leaders what venues have worked for them.
  5. Seek out places that may be willing to make you a deal. A brand new restaurant may be more likely to book your event in order to get the exposure. Also, monitor Groupon and other daily deal offers. This often indicates a willingness to get people in the door.
  6. For a restaurant or bar, book on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. These are typically the slowest nights and a manager is likely more willing to work with you.
  7. A large party sometimes scares the manager of a venue. Quite often they’ve been burned in the past (75 people promised and only 10 show up). Offer one of your previous venue contacts as a reference. I know this sounds unconventional—a manager calling a competitor—but quite often just making that offer will convince the manager you’re real.
  8. Create a short list of the best venues you’ve worked with including contact information and share this with your leadership team (in case you’re not available to run a social in the future).
  9. Locally owned restaurants and bars almost always have more flexibility in offering specials and discounts. If you can, avoid the chains who often have to “check with corporate” before they can give you a drink special, for instance.
  10. In very, very few cases, and only when you really want a venue, make a deposit guaranteeing sales. Risky, but will get noticed.

Tips for successful relationships with venues:

  • Communicate often with your contact at the venue.
  • Encourage your members to tip the wait staff (and tip well if appropriate). This is the best way to get welcomed back and get exceptional service the next time.
  • Scout the venue ahead of time if you’ve not been there and arrive early on the day of your event.
  • Afterward, follow up with the venue contact to communicate any problems. Don’t trash the venue on the social networks. Work out your issues directly with venue management first.
  • Follow up with the venue contact afterward to see if they’re happy. This may seem counterintuitive—you and your members as customers should be happy—but you won’t believe how far this goes to solidify a relationship. This is sort of like a reverse Yelp: “please give me a review of my group.”
  • Promote the venue before and after the event. Make clear mention of the establishment in your event posting, on Facebook and Twitter, and in any email you send to members.

What advice to you have on choosing locations for social events?

 

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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Advice on running social events

Recently the management team at Chattanooga Hiking Meetup announced their first social event after hiking together for over a year. This is a great milestone as it shows that members of a hiking meetup want to get together socially.

I emailed the team a few tips on prepping and running a social event:

  • Get people talking about the event ahead of time by posting friendly notes on the event page such as: “Hey, great to meet you on the hike. See you at Big River!”
  • Cross-post on the Chattanooga Hiking Facebook page as well as inviting your friends who aren’t yet members of CHM. Send emails and Facebook notes to your friends who aren’t members saying “this is the best event to meet other members before getting out on the trails with us.”
  • If you send new members welcome messages when they join, include a note like “We’re having monthly socials to get to know each other informally. Our next social is 9/13 and details are here: http://www.chattanoogahiking.com/events/31475952
  • Try to set a consistent place to meet at the restaurant or bar so you can tell your members “we’ll be by the big stuffed grizzly bear.”
  • Work with the venue ahead of time to get drink specials or free appetizers (this gets easier as you have more events and know your typical attendance numbers).
  • Leaders can wear something noticeableand consistent like red shirts and let folks know ahead of time “our trip leaders will be wearing red shirts.” We’ve had fun with this at picnics where all the leaders wear sombreros, for example:

    Nashville Hiking Meetup trip leaders wearing sombreros at recent picnic

    Nashville Hiking Meetup trip leaders wearing sombreros at recent picnic

  • The most difficult thing for new members is meeting the first couple of people. Keep a watch out for folks with that lost look and offer to introduce them around at the event.
  • Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to delegate ambassadorship to another member. You guys are the bosses, so if you feel comfortable, don’t hesitate to introduce a new member to one of your friends and ask them to introduce the new member around.
  • Keep having the social at the same venue until people get tired of it, which they will. Start shaking things up by going to different places and maybe creating monthly themes. We’ve done events at bars, restaurants, a MINI car dealership, outdoor gear retailers, park picnic shelters; we’ve had food bank collections, fundraisers, and used book collections, etc.

Do you have any tips on running social events for your meetup or group? Let me know in the comments.

See Kelly Stewart’s Google+ profile.

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