Why Meetups Matter | Building an Offline Community Culture

The start of a new year is an important time to set resolutions, make a fresh start and get more involved with the community around us. As an author, Meetups are a way to bring people together and create communities that help us and those around us, do more of what they love.

Whether you’re thinking of participating in a Meetup or hosting, it’s valuable to explore how it can go beyond the online social networking activities that we engage with every day and creates connections away from our usual social circles or work desks.

A large part of this value stems from the mixture of personal and professional development facilitated through Meetups. The old ideas around passive ‘networking’ or formal conference-style gatherings, is no longer the only way to meet others in a similar industry. Now, Meetups are the place for both person and their business to come together with others, allowing for an exchange of ideas, inspiration and collaboration.

Our latest Envato Meetup in February was held in Sofia, Bulgaria and hosted by local author, EntroSolutions. The Meetup was a big success, with double the attendees than expected and many traveling across Europe to make the event – this marked a growing interest in more Envato author events in the future.

“Some people came from other cities just for the event (plus the guys from Romania)! Since people who came were very enthusiastic and happy that there was such an event we plan to have another one in a few months – maybe in June/July.”

We know that amazing things happen when people show up for each other and come together. The more of yourself that you give to the Meetup, the more you will get out of your relationships and opportunities. Adapted from our previous article on the importance of Meetups, we will be looking at ways to cultivate meaningful connections for your personal and professional development, and how to make the most out of Meetup events and their conversations as a host or attendee.

Check out why Meetups are important for you and your development as an author and some of our tops tips below.

Conferences Are a Great Conversation Starter

Everyone looking to attend a conference will, first and foremost, focus on the talks and the conference itself. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of useful information to absorb from talks and presentations! This, however, depends entirely on everyone’s personal level of expertise and interest in the specific topics being addressed by the conference. What this means is that you might attend a conference hoping to gain additional insights into a particular topic and leave disappointed, due to the limited amount of time dedicated to any specific topic. In contrast, if you’re just starting off, trying to gain additional insight into any given topic, you might experience a few ‘Aha!’ moments from a talk being held by some of the presenters.

No matter which scenario applies to you, there’s always a sure-fire way to get more out of attending a conference by using it as a means to connect with your peers and friends and enhance your experience. Attending a conference using a ‘Meetup’ mindset will allow you to achieve just that. 

Check out Celeste Headlee’s TEDx Talk on How to Have a Good Conversation. Here, she shares her experiences as Reporter and what she has learned in balancing talking and listening as the key to a great conversation, away from screens and technology.

More Perspectives Give You Better Perspective

Generally, it’s always a good idea to collect more perspectives for a better understanding of any given topic. Having more people in the same room, while it may seem daunting to some, is the perfect opportunity to come together and have a closer look at all that’s being discussed. There may be things you can all agree on, but the most interesting conversations are usually sparked by topics that hold different meanings and conclusions for others.

Doug McColgin explores how networking with people outside our immediate industry, can help to get out that “closed ‘Worksphere’ of people from our organization and our trade associations” in his TEDx Talk, Networking is Not Working. He believes that meeting and engaging with inspirational people from different industries and backgrounds can help to broaden perspectives in work and life.

As an author, get together with members of the Envato community from a different marketplace to your own – trade war stories, learn new skills and see the faces behind the avatars!

Asking Questions in a Safe Space

The best part about these conversations is the fact that they’re open to all levels of knowledge and expertise. That means that you can have a subject matter expert coming together with lesser experienced peers, sharing knowledge and progressing as a group. If you’re the more knowledgeable guy in the room, don’t shy away from helping others progress, as you stand to gain a whole lot yourself.

Whether it’s a certain amount of respect, fresh ideas or maybe even just to hear things you’ve not considered yourself up until that point. Likewise, if you’re ever feeling unsure about something, or simply confused, you should never feel obligated to keep those questions to yourself. Simply put, there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

Use the conference and topics as a pretext to dive deeper into the specifics and feel free to approach subjects that haven’t been raised. You’ll be surprised at the level of knowledge and valuable information that can come out of something as basic as a friendly chat.

Author Caroline Goyder shares her experiences conquering her fear of speaking to others in her TEDx Talk, The Surprising Secret to Speaking With Confidence.

The Truth About Networking

Networking can seem daunting when it feels as though people will only want to speak to you based on what value you can offer them or the opportunities available. However, this is the biggest misconception of networking.  

In reality, meeting new people has a beneficial impact on one’s ability to come up with creative ideas, finding better solutions to problems you may have been unable to solve previously, as well as to simply help with finding new partnerships opportunities, which otherwise would never have existed. It’s all about shifting the mindset to allow for that personal and professional focus.

Tim Ferris has an interesting approach to ‘playing the long game’, which explores the importance of meaningful networking and to be genuinely interested in those you speak to at these events. He encourages us to invest one deep connection with one person, as opposed to speaking to many people in short bursts. Check out how to network like a pro using Ferris’s tips in this article here.

Finding Your Group and Engaging With Strangers

It is, of course, a good idea to network as often as possible, but sometimes this may seem like a difficult task if you’re an introvert or attending an event alone and don’t have any direct connection to anyone else there.

This is where finding someone that’s passionate about the same things, or has the same interests as you comes in handy. While you may not feel immediately inclined to spark up a conversation on your own, having someone around to support you, may just do the trick. And besides, you might actually have that effect on them, leading to twice the conversations!

Malcolm Azania’s (Minister Faust) TEDx Talk on How to Engage in Better Small Talk looks at how to master those talking skills and asking unique questions.

It’s All About That Personal Connection

If you need a good reason as to why you should be taking networking seriously, consider the following scenario: If you were to take up a new contract with a collaborator, who are you more likely to choose? Someone you’ve never ever met, or someone you’ve either met personally or who comes recommended by someone else you know?

In case you’re still thinking about it, the answer is the latter. You should always be expanding your network and getting to know new people and peers in your industry and beyond. They will become your referrers, your direct clients, partners and friends.

Aliya Dossa’s TEDx Talk on Why You Should Talk to Strangers explores the results of a class project with 101 conversations with complete strangers (over the course of 101 days) and how this helped her learn more about human interactions and trust.

Not Everything Has to Be About Business

While it might seem like a good idea to talk about something work or business related that’s been bugging you for a while, try to be mindful of the fact that others might be less inclined to address those things then and there. Sure, if it’s something that can be cleared up easily, go right ahead! Otherwise, aim to simply schedule a follow-up meeting/call/email at a later point.

What about that hobby that you were always passionate about and just led you to the most amazing discovery, earlier in the week? You’d be amazed at how invigorating it can feel, to gain new perspectives on something you thought you knew absolutely everything about already.

Mark E. Sackett shares his insights on how to make the most out of the people we come across, away from the business cards and the typical career-related questions. Instead, he asks “What are you passionate about and what makes you get up in the morning?” Check out his TEDx talk on the art of active networking here.

Independently co-existing

The most interesting aspect of being part of an online community of creatives is how we can all independently coexist, while at the same time, strive to achieve similar goals. In fact, unless conscious efforts are made to connect with other members, everyone progresses on an individual and completely independent path. While that is the most frequently encountered scenario, it certainly isn’t ideal, given the proven benefits of collaboration and joint efforts.

Meetups can help alleviate this by offering a chance to connect on a personal level, to acknowledge some of the potential experience overlaps as well as to allow you to find like-minded collaborators for projects you might feel too daunted to tackle alone. Of course, going out for lunch or drinks, as a group, may be much more exciting than, say, booking a conference room. But, remember, it’s all about having a great time. Awesome conversations are encouraged in the right setting!

Storyteller, Danny Harris explores how meaningful conversations and simple acts of kindness helped to form deep connections in his TEDx talk Talk to Strangers.

Choosing Between Attending or Organising a Meetup

Attending Meetups are a great way to engage with a community, however starting or ‘hosting’ your own Meetup is a really valuable way to position yourself as a leader in the industry, design rewarding experiences and challenge yourself.

There are lots of variables to look into, from finding a suitable venue, possible costs and monetization strategy, to getting a close estimate of how many guests will actually show up and who they are etc. The more time you have to invest in the planning, the smoother the event will play out. Check out the Meetup Organizer Guide, which will provide you with the guidance and resources you need to create a Meetup that makes an impact.

It is important not to make it about your business. Meetups are a great resource to help build your business, but it first and foremost, needs to provide real value for its attendees and this is about ensuring that it meets the needs of the group and reflects their interests, challenges and questions as a community.

Best practices for Meetups largely has as much to do with learning offline event management skills and implementing social media strategies. Check out the 25 Best Practices for Meetup Organizers and these highlights below:

  • Optimize your Meetup organizer profile by having a clear description of what the Meetup is about and incorporate speaker or featured bios and online profiles for your event, so attendees can learn more about it.
  • Take pictures and videos of the events. Share this with your attendees (with their permission, of course) and use this as part of the marketing for future events using social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • Schedule consistent Meetups with a diversity of formats, speakers, topics and ideas. Make sure to crowdsource your ideas and get feedback from your attendees.
  • Communicate the details to Meetup as thoroughly as possible, give attendees adequate time to RSVP and have a contingency plan (in case of cancellations, venue issues etc.)
  • Follow up an event with feedback to ensure you can gather insights from your attendees and review ways to improve the experience.
  • Look at ways to publicize and promote the Meetup event using social media channels, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by sharing photos, videos, quotes etc.
  • Follow Meetup attendees on social media networks and send them an email after the event to let them know they are supported and that you’re hoping to see them at the next event!

Meetups are a huge opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and peers, gain and share experiences and lay the foundation for future collaborations. These events may seem like a daunting task, but making genuine connections is a powerful thing for many businesses, cultures and collaboration. Realising the opportunities ahead, whether as a participant or host at a Meetup event is the first step to be brave and create a platform to share your story and work with a wider community.

If you’re interested in hosting an Envato Meetup in your local city, click here.

Spread the word with #EnvatoMeetup now!

Monthly Rollup | February 2018
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Monthly Rollup | February 2018