Running a Basic Meetup
This is a guide for running a basic meetup.
If you’re interested in running a meetup (ACX, LessWrong, probably even EA) then there exist more detailed guides – I would recommend Kaj’s, but others exist. This is not intended to surpass them at explaining the skill and art of kindling and sustaining a community. This is intended to surpass them at being short, simple, and covering the fundamentals.
To run a meetup, follow these steps:
What: Decide the title of your event. This should be four words at most. I suggest a format of “[City] [Community] Meetup” such as “Boston LessWrong Meetup” or “Oxford ACX Meetup.” If your city has already had some meetups in the recent past, keep the city and community, and add a word or two to describe what makes this meetup stand out – “Boston LessWrong Article Discussion” or “Oxford ACX Double Crux.” If you want suggestions for activities, see the meetup-in-a-box sequence or the meetup cookbook.
Where & When: Decide where and when the event should be. The easiest place to run a meetup is in a centrally located public park. The easiest time to run a meetup is early afternoon on a weekend. This ensures most people are free, have time to get there, and that you’ll have space for whoever shows up.
Who: Invite people. You can invite people you know specifically, and you can also just announce the meetup publicly. Facebook, Meetup.com, and LessWrong’s Community page are all decent places to announce it. If you only pick one, do LessWrong, but it is valuable to announce in multiple places.
Running the event
Be there first: As the organizer, you should be there at least a few minutes before the stated start time. Stand somewhere visible, preferably with a sign or some indication that you’re the organizer for the meetup. Holding a piece of paper with the title of your event written on it in big letters above your head or taped outside the room you’re in is fine. Wearing a tall and distinctive hat is also a tried and true method if you’re okay looking a little silly in public.
Talk to people: If the meetup has an activity, at some point you should explain the activity and prompt people to do it. I suggest that point is about ten minutes after the official start time of your meetup, or when you get five people, whichever comes first. If your meetup is a general meeting or a discussion, then just start talking to people who show up.
Close things up: As things wind down, pick up anything you brought, put things back the way you found them as best you can. If the venue has a closing time, remind people of this closing time about half an hour and about fifteen minutes before it closes. If you need to leave before your crowd does, I suggest officially designating a new person to close things up. Do this by asking someone some variation of the following: “Hey, I need to go. Do you mind being the temporary organizer? Just remind people when the venue closes and get them to help you clean up any mess.” If they say yes, thank them.
If the place you announced the meetup has a place for it, post a simple message thanking people for coming.
This framework of how to run a meetup does not, in and of itself, describe what people will do at the meetup. That’s fine. Many people enjoy general socialization and opportunities to hang out, and will be happy that an organizer took the initiative to gather people together.
If you do run a meetup, then thank you.
Citation: Anecdotal experience from running and attending meetups. If anyone has actual data I’d be happy to hear it.
Why do LessWrong? Because I predict you will get fewer people, but that more of those people will be familiar with the ideas you probably want to talk about. Why do I think I know what you want to talk about? Because you’re reading about how to run meetups on LessWrong.