As I noted in Part One of this series, it is important to have regular meeting times. These formal gatherings ensure that people can plan ahead and raises anticipation and participation. Informal meetups on the other hand, add a spontaneous element and ensure that people form stronger bonds within the group or capitalize on exciting events. I’ve made some great friends by sending out a note to the group, or joining others who have sent an invite to a group to meet for beer and conversations.
When to Have an Informal Meetup
Whenever! It’s as simple as kicking out a note via e-mail, IM, Twitter or the like. Let people know where you’ll be at a specific time, and how they can find you (“I’m wearing a red cap and blue t-shirt”). Different members of Refresh Austin do this every so often, sometimes with a few days of planning, but often at the spur of the moment. The important thing is to throw out an invite. If no one comes, so be it – but odds are good that people want to join you, so if they can’t make it out for this one, they’ll try next time.
What to Discuss
It doesn’t matter. A gathering of like-minded folks will lean towards discussing their shared-interests, but they don’t have to cover the same topics. When I gather with other Web geeks, we cover everything from programming, to cooking, to music to politics. The important part is that we are socializing and having fun.
If you have a specific thing you want to talk about, include that in your note so others know what to expect. This will also give you a great conversation-starter.
Where to Meet
It really doesn’t matter, though if you have a specific topic, or you want to get to know the other folks, I’d recommend a pub, coffee shop, restaurant or the like. Somewhere that encourages conversation. Beer and/or caffeine help. A lot.
How to Kick this Off
Make sure everyone in your group knows that they can be the originator of an invite – the point is to share the opportunity and let the group form strong bonds outside of the formal meetings. You may need to do the inviting the first few times, but you’ll find others will step up as well.
If you already have some friends in the group, encourage them to do the same, or if need be, arrange to meet your friend(s) and ask them to send the invite instead of you. That way others will see that you aren’t the only one. If you are going to meet up with someone who has sent an invite via an e-mail list, respond to the list, so others see the participation. Plus the person behind the invite will have a rough idea of how many to expect and won’t wonder if anyone will show up.
A Quick Template
Here are the things to remember in your invite:
- Where to meet – an address and/or URL are important!
- When you’ll arrive
- How people will recognize you
- What you want to discuss, if you have a specific topic in mind
That’s all you need to know – it’s time to kick out an e-mail to your group and make use of the great network of people you know!