I’m the co-organizer for four technology meetups in New York City (MongoDB, C++, Python, and Prince Building Tech Talks), and a participant in many, many others (170+ according to my meetup profile). Through my work with the technology community, people have started coming to me for help with their meetup groups. Organizers are almost always looking for space to host their events, and there isn’t an easy way for them to find hosts. I’ve fielded so many space requests that sometimes I joke around that I feel like a broker!
I also speak with lots of New York area companies experiencing rapid growth that want to connect with technical professionals. Yet, these companies are not sure how to engage the technology community.
Several months ago I bounced an idea off of my friend Andy, who is a loyal attendee of both the NYC Python and MongoDB meetups: How about we build a web app to pair meetup groups and organizers together? Andy started prototyping an app, bringing his initial ideas to last week’s Python project night. Andy recruited my friend Dan and several other hackers to talk through the idea and look at ways to use the Meetup API and its directory of spaces to help pair up groups and meetups.
Andy and Dan decided to devote some time to the app during Saturday’s Battle of the Braces hackathon at Meetup HQ. They hacked all day, building out WhereToMeetup. Their demo presentation even included several embarrassing pictures of me. After their demo, Kathryn Fink, the community manager at Meeutp, commented that the #1 problem for meetup organizers is finding space, which reinforced the importance of this project.
Dan and Andy ended up winning a prize for the best use of the Meetup API at the hackathon. Even better, before the prizes were announced they already had a bug fix from someone in attendance at the event! It’s still a work in progress, but you can find the project up on Github.
Thanks again to Andy, Dan, and the rest of the community for running with this idea!
During this whole process, I’ve been thinking about how many companies have great event space that they don’t make available to meetup groups. In some cases, the company doesn’t know how to connect with the community. Usually there are a few interested employees that get discouraged when “the powers that be” starts asking about the group. In particular, Andy has been very enthusiastic about holding more Python project nights, and has been looking for ways to justify to HR the value of hosting a group. To close this post, I thought I’d outline a few key reasons that companies should consider hosting or sponsoring a meetup group.
1. Raising the company profile
Hosting a user group raises the profile of your company within the community. It’s a great opportunity to promote your company, your brand, and your product. Some of the organizers of MongoDB User Group offer development services, hosting platforms, and even a MongoDB monitoring tool. Engaging with the community helps get the word out about the exciting work that they are doing.
2. Passive recruiting
Hosting meetups is a great way for companies to engage in passive recruiting. A tech meetup will bring dozens of skilled, enthusiastic developers into the office. The host of the NY MongoDB User Group mentioned to me that he had hired 4-5 people from the group over the past year. Think about it: using a contingency recruiting agency, he could have spent over $100,000 to hire 4-5 people. In comparison, hosting a meetup seems like a deal! To do this right, you need to have employees on hand to “work” the room. Rather than making a company pitch, the most effective hosts usually focus on getting to know the attendees and showing them a good time. For example, one of our meetup hosts often gives attendees a tour of the office to show off their very cool space. Others give out swag. Still others present on the cool technology that they are building.
3. Building a fun work environment
Engaging with the community creates a fun work environment for the staff. It shows that the company is committed to the employees’ professional development and makes working at the company fun!