This month we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the New York MongoDB User Group. Over the past year, the group has grown to over 700 members, and we consistent have a packed audience for our sessions. In fact, our meetup last week had a wait list. I thought I’d take this opportunity to provide some insight on how we’ve been successful in growing this meetup.
Use meetup.com: This one may be obvious but I think it’s important to emphasize. Not only does meetup have a lot of great tools for event organizers, but they do a really good job of making it easy for meetup members to find relevant groups. Make sure to tag your group and include a description with keywords so that your group appears in meetup searches!
Get great speakers: Make a wish list of speakers, and then just start asking people! After organizing dozens of MongoDB events, I’ve been amazed at how willing people are to present. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of asking. And if the person says no, ask them to refer someone else.
Consistency is important: It’s important to establish a routine early on. If you consistently meet on, say, the second Tuesday of every month, your members will come to expect the meetup. The first few meetings of any user group will be small, but at every meetup, new members will join your group. So meeting at least on a monthly basis is very important. We have all the NY MUG meetups listed far in advance, even if we don’t have a speaker lined up. This also makes your life easier when you are approaching speakers and hosts. It’s much easier to ask a speaker “Can you present at the May 19 NY MUG?” than going back and forth coordinating dates. And hosts will appreciate having the events reserved far in advance.
Cross promote: Consider partnering with other technology meetups. This is a great way for communities to learn from one another and gain exposure to new technologies. It could be as simple as ocassionally posting on other meetup lists. For example, when we had a presentation on Scalable Event Analytics with Ruby on Rails and MongoDB, I cross-posted the meetup on the NYC Ruby mailing list and we soon had a dozen new members in the group. I also typically list our events in Startup Digest, LinkedListNYC, Gary’s Guide, Charlie O’Donnell’s newsletter, Mashable, and more.
Social media: Consider creating a twitter handle or hashtag for the group. Ask the presenter to tweet or blog about the event, and ask the key members of the group to do the same. Post the hashtag or twitter handle at the event so that members know to use it.
Find a great host: We’ve had awesome luck working with Buddy Media, SpringSource, and Gilt Groupe to host our meetups. Lots of companies are open to hosting meetups, especially if they are recruiting. Another great way to find free space is to contact co-working facilities.
Raffle off prizes: Prizes are an excellent way to get people to come to your meetup. An easy and free way to get great prizes is to join the O’Reilly User Group program. They will send you free books to give out at your group, as well as discounts on upcoming conferences.
Continue the discussion after the meetup: We spent $30 on a tripod and lens for my iPhone so that we can easily record and take photos at sessions. Encourage the presenter to send a message the group with the slides to start a conversation among the entire meetup.
Hope that this helps! Will keep posting as new ideas come to mind.