This is the third entry in this series, in addition to the overview, I’ve written an entry on informal meetings, covering the more relaxed gatherings that can, and should happen amongst your members between the formal meetings.
One of the most important ways to maintain and expand your group is to set and stick to consistent meeting times and locations. Regular meetings ensure that everyone has a chance to plan ahead. A regular meeting time and place makes it easier for your members to arrange for babysitters, avoid making conflicting plans, and in general remember the event. It also makes life much easier for the planners, as there is time to choose a topic, presenter(s) and verify the location reservation.
Anticipation = Participation
By planning ahead you can broadcast future topics and play up the presentations and discussions, generating excitement within your group, and hopefully driving your members to spread the word to their friends and colleagues who may not be aware of the group.
Location Location Location
There are several important factors that come into play when choosing a venue for your gatherings. Here are some things you should keep in mind when looking for a venue:
- The size of the group that will attend, which impacts the amount of:
- Seating – remember to calculate for people bringing computers!
- A central location, that is easy for the majority of users to reach via the major modes of transportation in your city (highways, subways, canals etc.)
- The facilities:
- A WiFi connection
- A projector and screen
- Ample seating, with table space for laptops
- A room quiet enough for the presenter to be heard, and separate from the rest of the location’s clientèle
Home is Where You Hang Your Hat
The ideal location is one that you can use for sevaral meetings in a row. In this case laziness is a good thing. By not moving it every month or two, everyone knows where you’ll be come meeting day, so they don’t have to scramble at the last minute, looking for an old e-mail , or even worse, start on their way, realize they don’t know where the meeting is and opt to go home. It happens. It happens far too easily.
A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
While that’s a bit trite, the saying rings oh so true when you are building and planning for a group. Take a bit of time up front, and you’ll find that your group will grow much more quickly, and predictably. Keep an eye out for what works and doesn’t. If you move to a new location and see a major drop in attendance for two or three meetings in a row, step back and think about what changed, and whether you should rethink your location choice.
And remember, the group should be fun for you and your members. You will have to do some work, but it pays big dividends. As always, if you have questions, suggestions or critiques, just let me know in the comments or the contact form!