16 rules to help your meetup run more smoothly

Photo taken at the October 2014 SydCSS

When you go to a meet up you probably think that the organisers book a room, ask a few people to come and off you go, super easy. Well it’s not, and I’m glad it isn’t because I take great joy in the logistics of running a meetup.

With SydCSS people sometimes hear me say we’ve got a million rules on how Fiona and I run it. They think I’m joking, whilst it’s not a million there are a lot rules we have that help the night run smoothly.

Here’s 16 of my favourite rules in no particular order

Photo of the half time card used at SydCSS

No speaker will run over time

You’ll be tempted the think “We’ll just go with the flow” or “the presenter will know how long to speak for”. Don’t fall into this trap, even if you’ve managed to get Barack Obama as your speaker. Give them a halfway signal, and tell them when they’ve nearly finished. If you don’t, they will run over, and your audience can become restless.

No shitty food and drink

You could serve a truck load of pizza and cheap beer, and with that everyone will have heaps to consume. But no one will ever say “Wow, that selection of VB and XXXX was amazing”.

Food must be able to be eaten with one hand

It’s always handy (no pun intended) to have a hand free, whether it’s for fist bumps, high fives, shaking hands, holding a drink or clapping.

The MC(s) will not be boring

When your presenters stand in front of your audience they don’t want to see a bunch of glum faces, or people buried in their phone. The MC needs to engage that audience for them, so it carries through into the rest of the night and everyone has a good time.

Seating will be easy to get into and out of

People love sitting on the edge of rows, and when your rows are very long it’s a bit of a hassle squeezing past people… there’s also that awkward moment when you’re in the middle and you need the toilet… Save your audience the hassle by splitting your rows with some aisles.

The A/V must work

Projectors, microphones and speakers are all out to ruin your night. Don’t let them, make sure everything works before the final night, and always have a VGA converter up your sleeve, as it’s not the 21st century for everyone.

Presenter’s presentations must be tested before they get up and present

It’s inevitable that someone will rock up with Linux and tell you they don’t need to test anything (this has happened to me three times in two years). Test everything before hand, and learn how to toggle between screens and how to switch mirroring on and off.

All presenters must use the mic

There’s nothing worse for the audience than not being able to hear what’s being said, even a presenter with a big booming voice can be outdone by a noisy fridge at the back of the room.

"Just Don't" photo of some beanbags used a meet up

No weird seating (eg bean bags) in the first 5 rows of seating

From the presenters point of view, you want the audience to feel close to them. To do this, you need to make sure they’re not too spread out. Chairs in rows gives you this, having people sprawled out on the floor does not… trust me.

At least one question will be asked to each presenter

When a presenter reaches the end of their preso, they want to feel that people were listening. Having some questions at the end gives them this validation, but sometimes the audience can be a little shy, having someone go first often starts a flood of questions.

Photo of a sign at SydCSS

The audience will be helped into the venue

Even though you know where you’re hosting it, and all your regulars know. For new people, they have no idea other than the address you’ve supplied. So make life easier for them by putting a couple of friendly faces on the door, and putting signposts from the entrance all the way to the room.

Photo of handmade fans from SydCSS

The venue will be kept cool

Packing 100 people into a small room on a summers day is going to give you a lot of red sweaty faces at best, fainting and dehydrated bodies at worst. If your venue doesn’t deal with heat very well you can set up electric fans and reduce your ticket numbers.

50% of people won’t turn up

You’ve got RSVP numbers at around 100, you’d like to think that everyone will come along as you’ve worked so hard. But they won’t, things come up, people forget they RSVP’d. Don’t be angry at them, just expect 50% and you’ll be fine.

Volunteers will know what they’re doing before the event

Your volunteers are there to help you, but they won’t necessarily know what you want them to do. Before the night, think about what each person can do, and let them know before hand, or as soon as they arrive.

A back up supply of ice will be established

I’m pretty sure that serving warm drinks (other than tea and coffee) is illegal in Australia. The quickest way to chill your drinks is to put them in a bucket, and cover them with ice. Sometimes you’ll need more than you think.

MCs won’t look scruffy

Some venues take more setting up than others, and with that comes sweating (and possibly wild hair). Take a change of clothes and you’ll look like a different person once people arrive.

More reading on running meetups

This article was inspired by a couple of posts about setting up meetups in Australia: