HowTo: Meetups in Berlin

2012-02-14 20:23
I get that question once in a while - and need the list below myself every now and then: How to actually setup a meetup in Germany. Essentially it all boils down to three questions: Which channels to use for PR? Where to do the meeting? What other benefits to offer to attendees?

When it comes to PR there are several options:

  • Announce the meetup on relevant mailing lists
  • Use social networking sites relevant to your project - in Germany Xing works best, Twitter, Facebook, Linked.In and Google+ are other options
  • Ask anyone you know personally for help with spreading the word
  • If you have one post information on your personal blog

Where to go for the meetup:

The venue usually is the biggest question mark. After deciding on how big you'd like to shoot for initially you can start looking for a location. For your first meetup don't rent a room - with a bit of creativity there are lots of options that are free of charge.

  • If you are a student or have active relations to any university going there usually is the cheapest and least complicated version.
  • Another option is to just book a table in a restaurant that has a reasonably large room. Simply choose your favourite one - knowing the owner helps in getting extra space.
  • Third option is to go to any co-working space that also has a meeting area. In general they are very open to hosting community events - co-up Berlin, Betahaus are just two options.
  • If you are planning a less formal event, your local hacker spaces might be an option: c-base Berlin, in Berlin e.V. are two Berlin examples. Hackers Dojo and Noisebridge are two Bay Area examples.
  • Last but not least look out for local startups that are currently hiring new people: They tend to be very open to hosting events. See Berlin Buzzwords Hackathon providers list for some examples.

What else?

  • Make sure attendees can register themselves - xing works for that, so do Google forms
  • Setup a mailing list or some other notification service to help people track future events (Google Groups works, so does a dedicated Twitter Account)
  • Provide some background online - works but does charge a small fee. Setting up a blog on wordpress or blogger works as well, though it is not quite as interactive as the site.
  • Get in touch with attendees and local companies - usually they are quite happy to provide some financial support to your meetup for free drinks or videos.
  • If you want videos: Recording audio is trivial, putting it online is extremely simple if you use soundcloud's app. Recording video also is rather simple but can be time consuming. Finding sponsors to pay for them if you offer to brand the videos is reasonably simple. For the Hadoop Get Together we usually hire Martin Schmidt. Sites to put videos online: Vimeo works but has rather low upload limits, is a bit better in this respect.
  • Sponsoring in general: Companies looking for developers related to the meetup's technology as well as those providing consulting for that technology tend to be open to supporting local events. What works best is to contact people you already know there - they will know best who to ask internally.

One final note: Being the organiser of such a meetup puts you at the center of a local community. Over time people will start remembering your face and name. Make sure you do the same - you should at least be able to remember faces, affiliations and names of your regular attendees.

A Get Together Checklist

2010-10-06 19:38
Still on the list of potentially interesting books: The Checklist Manifesto - explaining why checklists can still be valuable - especially for complex problems and tasks.

Though not very complex, I chose to come up with a checklist for running a Hadoop Get Together in Berlin as an exercise. I'm trying to stick with advise provided by the Checklist for Checklists.

Parties involved

  • Find two to three speakers two months in advance.
  • Find a sponsor for the videos.

Gathering information

  • Double check time and date with all speakers and newthinking store.
  • Get name, title, abstract from the speakers.
  • Get logo and exact conditions from sponsor.

Spreading the word

  • Put together an announcement text including thanks to video and venue sponsors.
  • Publish the event on Upcoming.
  • Publish the event on Xing.
  • Augment the announcement text by the Xing event and Upcoming links.
  • Send a newsletter to the Meetup Xing group.
  • Send the text to the Get Together mailing list, and if appropriate to the Hadoop, HBase, katta, Lucene, Solr and Mahout mailing lists.
  • On event day send a reminder to the Get Together mailing list
  • Create meetup intro slides including thanks for the sponsors, schedule, announcements of future events.

During the meetup

  • Mention newthinking bar during introduction.
  • Self-introduction of all participants.
  • Get mail addresses of future mailing list subscribers.
  • Keep presentations at 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Get speakers' slides.

After the event

  • Publish talks' slides.
  • Publish links to videos.

The more meetups you have run the larger the chance of the main organiser getting sick the day the meetup takes place. To avoid having to re-schedule the event make sure there are people that are capable and willing to take over moderation.