Over the past four and a half years, GeekOut South-West has gone from a simple idea to a huge meetup environment. We have a group of regulars who come by monthly, all of whom have been coming for quite some time now. We then also get a steady influx of new people; some who come by once, some who come and enjoy what we’re about and stick around. So, as an organiser for a large geek meetup, here’s some advice for anyone else looking to run an event.
Every year, I plan provisional dates and titles for my meetups, as I know I want the event to continue throughout the year. As such, I come up with concepts and rough ideas about what we’d like to do. From this Saturday’s meetup of Castle Crashing, where we’re going to celebrate the odd, humorous world of Castle Crashers (and other heroics), through to our ever popular Harry Potter themed meetup – This was all a careful plan.
If you were looking to run a one-off event, or perhaps a recurring thing, you need to work with your venue closely. You need to talk to them regularly and you have to be firm in what your group is about, as well as being loose enough to encourage both participation and feedback from the venue. Ultimately, if it’s a one off event, you’d like to be able to go back there in future without them thinking that you only went there as it was convenient for you – You must show you care about them, too!
Planning the Day
Once you have a time and place, it’s time for you to plan the activities – and this is where I can spend hours each time. Typically, each GeekOut Bristol Meet is the same: I take along a bunch of board games, people get together and they play said board games. There’s a few books or comics, which people are free to look through or take home with them. Then there are a few decorations which I try to print off and stick around the place. Sometimes more physical props are used instead. You need to decide what makes your event special and sometimes the best way to do this is simply to decorate the event, as everyone loves walking into a pub and bumping into a life-sized cardboard cutout of Mega Man!
Don’t get me wrong; as part of the preparation, you are going to have to invest in your event a little bit of cold hard cash. You’ll need to consider how you want to advertise the event and, even though word of mouth is effective, you’re going to need an event page on Facebook. Perhaps you want to reach a wider audience, so you invest in Meetup.com (even in light of the recent controversies). Hey, your Facebook event isn’t doing anything – So you throw some cash at advertisements. Oh, but now you want business cards, flyers, posters – You name it, but you know you want and need it to help make the event be more visible. Unfortunately, this much is a truth behind running an event – You really do need to inject cash in to get a return on visitors.
Each month, I set aside £100 for getting the bits and bobs for a GeekOut Bristol Meet. I typically don’t get anywhere near £100, but each month, the following payments happen:
- £13 Facebook advertisement (great return for the price)
- ~£10.50-£11.00 Meetup fees (again, we get great visibility for this cost).
- £15 for a first place prize
- £10 for a second place prize
- £5 for a third place prize
- The above prize totals can vary, but this is a rough guideline.
- You’ll see now that we’re already approximately at £55 for the month
- The above prize totals can vary, but this is a rough guideline.
- Bits for a competition
- This includes printing, decorative bits, competition parts etc
- Bits for a costume (if I have the time/money to do so).
Now that all of this has been put together, it’s now a case of constantly updating that Meetup and Facebook event page until the day – and I admit, much like everyone else, I forget from time to time. This messes everything up; but this is an idea of the level of work that should go into running a meetup – Even if you don’t intend to fund it yourself. You can ask for a sponsor, which is a great way to pay off the events – But hoo boy, you should be prepared for the level of commitment they will want from you in return. You may have to shill products, you may need to brand your event with their name on it – etc. Be prepared to stand your ground.
Okay, so now that you’ve done all this preparation, it’s time for the big day. You get all of your things together and it’s time to run your event – and trust me, it’s both exhilarating and exhausting simultaneously. You want to be the best host you can be, so some people like to print off a large list of attendees, greet them all individually and then talk to people they want to talk to. However, the fact of the matter is, this isn’t the best approach. You can’t invite so many people into your event and ignore them; yet you can’t go out of your way to force yourself down their throats until they throw you back up.
No, the problem with running an event is that fine balance of trying to guess whether or not someone is happy to be left by themselves, introduced into a group or actually given a more direct line of communication. As an organiser, you cannot be expected to greet everyone, but with a group of regulars, or friends, you will find your event slowly evolves to a point where everyone embraces your values. This is hugely important – If your group is all about bringing your own activities and just grabbing random people to participate, then it may very well be that you encourage your regulars to just do this, sometimes at the detrement of newer people. If you’re running, for arguments sake, a singles group – You may find yourself having to make conceited efforts to get people into the mix.
The point is, on event day, you will rarely be a participant, but simply put you will be the face of your event. You will need to go back and forth, perhaps chatting to key people, in the hopes to keep an eye out for whoever has joined you for the day. If you are requesting money for your event, you’d better make sure everyone is kept happy! Ultimately, it’s a task which will keep you busy the whole time.
At GeekOut Bristol Meets, I’m constantly on my feet. I’m often shuffling games around, putting finished games back, getting the competition sorted and more. I’m often spending so much time dealing with logistics of the night that I find it amazing when I get to sit down for a game of Magic: the Gathering. Further to this, I find that I am often grabbed out of those games to go and address an issue. This isn’t to say the group is problematic; it really isn’t! It’s just that as we are all people, things can happen – and it’s the organisers job to make sure everyone has the best damn time they can.
Here at GeekOut South-West, on behalf of both Joel and I, we thank every single one of you who have attended our meetups. You are what makes the days so special and makes them such important events in our lives. Where our future heads is entirely up to you. Thank you for every second and every memory – Thanks for all of the above amazing pictures to everyone in them and everyone outside of them. Here’s to an incredible 2018 for GeekOut Bristol Meets and GeekOut Shrewsbury Meets. Now leave a comment below, or over on Facebook and Twitter about what your favourite part of our meetups are – If you’ve never attended one, do you feel like you’ve experienced the events through our gallery posts? As always, let us know what you’re thinking.