3 steps for planning a successful open source meetup

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I've started a new role at work, and so I'm going to be planning a lot of events in the near future. This is why I decided to attend Karen Vuong's talk at Texas Linux Fest. While Karen did talk about planning large conferences, I was more interested in learning about hosting small local Meetups. If you want to learn more about planning a larger conference, I recommend checking out my summary of a similar talk at OSCON last month.

The first point Karen made is very important to us all: open source projects suffer from a lack of marketing awareness. It's important to remember that you can contribute to open source projects in many ways other than coding. Events are one way to market your project and get more interested users and community members.

Karen's first few meetups were a great success, and she attributed it to having plenty of free beer and pizza. But when a later meetup had just five attendees (each of them taking home their own case of beer and whole pizza), she needed to figure out what went wrong. Karen gave us three steps for planning out meetups and will be sharing her checklists online:

1. Setup

Once you have an idea for a meetup, just jump right in by signing up for meetup.com and scheduling an event. After the first event, you're going to learn plenty you can take away to host successful events in the future.

One key tip: always remember to look at the meetup.com calendar so you don't schedule your event at the same time as another similar event (Mondays and Fridays are also tricky days to schedule). This was the problem that Karen's meetup hit—they were scheduled at the same time as three other similar events and people had to choose.

Remember that if it's free to attend your event you can expect a 30-50% no-show rate, so instead of capping your event at the capacity of the venue, allow more people to register. (Karen said 50%, but the cautious side of me would probably lean more to the 30% end, just in case.)

2. Promotion

Always remember to take advantage of social media! A tool like Hootsuite can be a big help in getting the message out to multiple venues. Email blasts are another great way to get people who might not see your message on their social media. And remember to send out reminders!

Karen gave a great shout out to opensource.com and our events calendar. Don't forget to share all of your meetups on our calendar so that you can find open source enthusiasts in your area and see what other events might prevent people from coming to yours.

During the event you need to take a lot of pictures and use these in future promotions. Which brings us to...

3. After the meetup

On your meetup.com page you'll see an option to send a "Good to see you" note to those who attended. This shows people you appreciated their contribution. You also want to make sure that all of your post-promotional materials include links to the slides and pictures.

To learn more be sure to check out Karen's slides on SlideShare.

Texas Linux Fest

This article is part of the Texas Linux Fest series. Texas Linux Fest is the first state-wide, annual, community-run conference for Linux and open source software users and enthusiasts from around the Lone Star State.

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Nicole C. Baratta (Engard) is a Senior Content Strategist at Red Hat. She received her MLIS from Drexel University and her BA from Juniata College. Nicole volunteers as the Director of ChickTech Austin. Nicole is known for many different publications including her books “Library Mashups", "More Library Mashups", and "Practical Open Source Software for Libraries".

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