One of the best things about using WordPress is the opportunity to build relationships with all the awesome people who use it. With such a huge community presence around this particular content management system, it may be easier than you think to find help and camaraderie around WordPress IRL (in real life). Enter WordPress meetups.
In 2012, WordPress.org published a blog post entitled “Year of the Meetup”, where community members were encouraged to host more meetups and create more community-based support around WordPress.
What is a WordPress meetup?
A WordPress meetup involves people with a shared interest in WordPress getting together on a regular basis (usually once a month) to talk shop. There are no strict rules defining a WordPress meetup, and there’s no prescribed format for how meetups should go.
That said, when venturing into new territory, it helps to have a foundation from which to build. Here are a few potential WordPress meetup formats, based on how organizers are currently planning events:
- Presentations/lecture series
- Hackathons or developer hacking meetups
- Socials/happy hour type of gatherings
- Workshops: teaching people how to use WordPress and sharing new developments around the tool
- Co-working: hanging out and working on WordPress sites together
- Running a WordPress help desk
Again, these WordPress meetups don’t have to follow a strict format. In fact, they might involve a mix of multiple events, such as those listed above. Some meetups do the same type of meetup each month while others mix up the format.
Why should you attend a WordPress meetup?
If you’re not sure if attending a WordPress meetup will be useful for you, here are a few good reasons to consider giving them a try:
- Meet new and like-minded people
- Expand your circle, making both personal and professional connections
- Learn new things and teach new things to others
The same things can be said about many networking events, but it’s the audience at WordPress meetups that make these events different and worth attending for those in the community.
If you’re shy, you can test out the waters until you’re comfortable with the group of people who regularly attend.
Meetups can also be a great way to get a taste of what the WordPress community has to offer before you decide if you want to attend a bigger WordCamp event.
WordCamps involve two to three days of speaking sessions, workshops, and networking. Though they aren’t free to attend, the cost is purposely kept low ($40 to $50 per ticket to the entire event) to not limit access for any member of the WordPress community.
How do you gain value from a WordPress meetup?
To make the most out of your attendance at a WordPress meetup, there’s only one thing you really need to do: actively participate. That means listening, taking notes, getting to know the other participants, and even helping others and speaking up when needed. The event organizers will definitely appreciate it as it demonstrates their volunteer efforts to make the event happen aren’t going to waste.
Furthermore, actively participating can open you up to new connections and potential business opportunities.
How can you find WordPress meetups near you?
First things first: Check out the WordPress Meetup.com page to find local WordPress meetups near you. There are over 650,000 members in 1,500+ WordPress meetup groups.
If you’re not finding something near you, try a quick Google search and check out Facebook event listings for unofficial WordPress meetups. If there is no local WordPress meetup near you, consider this your call to action. Help make one happen in your local community!
How can you get involved in WordPress meetups?
Beyond attending, there are several ways that you can get involved in WordPress meetups.
Here are some of the biggest ways that you can make an impact on your local WordPress community:
Speaking at WordPress meetups
Speaking at a WordPress meetup allows you to share your knowledge and skills with people who can benefit from them. Organizers are always on the lookout for new speakers for their meetup events, so if you feel like you know anyone or could speak at the event yourself, get in touch to get on the schedule!
As previously mentioned, it’s important to understand that speaking at a WordPress meetup (or WordCamp event) will not be compensated, so take that into account if the engagement you’re thinking of accepting will incur personal travel expenses.
That said, depending on where you live, there may be many different local WordPress meetups to speak at within a reasonable distance.
Sponsoring WordPress meetups
The WordPress Foundation sponsors the official WordPress meetup group fees (and even the cost of a venue, in some cases), but to host a successful and fun event, organizers appreciate having extra money for snacks and refreshments and other odds and ends.
Sponsors can help lift this burden off the shoulders of organizers while giving back to the WordPress community and creating goodwill.
However, sponsoring a WordPress meetup will involve a slightly different process than sponsoring a WordCamp event.
WordCamps, for example, have a set process around accepting sponsorships but local WordPress meetups usually don’t. If you want to help sponsor a local WordPress meetup, the first step involves reaching out to organizers with your interest.
Volunteering at WordPress meetups
Volunteering and organizing are similar duties, except organizers take care of all the logistical details while volunteers are mostly the people helping with day-of tasks: setting up tables, working the registration booth, and doing anything else that needs to happen to make the event as smooth as possible.
Most organizers usually start by volunteering, so if you’re interested in organizing a meetup event someday, you should try volunteering first to get a feel for how it works.
Starting a new WordPress meetup
There are no special qualifications required to organize a WordPress meetup. Here are the basic steps to start a new local chapter:
- Decide what kind of event you want to organize. WordPress meetups can involve multiple different types of activities: a workshop, hackathon, co-working at a coffee shop, or something else entirely!
- Find a venue. For small events, a coffee shop or bar will do, but as the events grow larger, you may want to look into securing a donated venue. If your meetup requires the use of a paid venue, fill out the Venue request form. By following a set of conditions, the use of a paid venue can be sponsored by WordPress Community Support.
- Find speakers. We’ll share more specific tips in the following section.
- Schedule your event on Meetup.com (and anywhere else where you’ve built a community around it, like a Facebook group). Make sure to include a complete description of the event so that people will know what to expect while also making it sound enticing enough that they’ll want to attend.
- Show up. You organized the event, so it’s your responsibility to make sure everything runs smoothly. Arrive early so that attendees won’t feel lost.
- Host your event! Don’t forget to record attendance, and update the RSVP attendance list afterward.
How do you organize a WordPress meetup?
While the process of organizing WordPress meetups is pretty flexible, you’ll want to keep some basic considerations in mind if you’re interested in starting your own.
As much as possible, the WordPress Foundation encourages meetups to be as inexpensive as possible. According to the organization, “building local communities should be as free as WordPress itself!”
Since WordPress is an open-source software tool, it only seems fair to create free and open access to the community around it.
With this in mind, the WordPress Foundation set up an overarching chapter account on Meetup.com.
Join the official WordPress meetup chapter program
Meetup groups that choose to be part of the chapter program don’t have to worry about paying organizer dues to Meetup.com, since the WordPress Foundation/WordPress Community Support PBC (a subsidiary of the WordPress Foundation) covers that expense.
In exchange for the support of the WordPress Foundation, being part of the WordPress Meetup chapter group requires following a few rules created by well-meaning volunteers that include:
- WordPress meetups are created for the benefit of the WordPress community as a whole, and not for a specific group or persons in mind. Thus, if you’re an event organizer, you have to act in the best interest of the community.
- Membership in a local meetup group is open to all, regardless of age, race, skill, financial status, and so on, and should foster a welcoming environment free of discrimination and violence.
- Meetups are volunteer-run, including speakers. If you’re invited to be a speaker, you may not be given compensation. If there is a minimal fee to be charged to host a meetup, that should focus solely on operating expenses, such as rent for the meeting place.
- Meetups can be organized by a reliable and trusted member of the community.
Find more information on the official WordPress.org Meetups page.
Find speakers for your WordPress meetup
Having great programming is an important part of planning a WordPress meetup, because the opportunity to learn something new is a major motivation behind attendance at these events.
That said, finding speakers seems to be a constant struggle for organizers, especially for those with small meetup groups. Even with the best speakers, it can be tiring to hear from the same people over and over, so you need a pool of talent to choose from on an ongoing basis.
Here are two important tips to help you find new speakers for upcoming WordPress meetups:
Ask members of your group for suggestions
This should be the first place you look for volunteer speakers. Even if no one volunteers at first, one of them might consider it in the future, so keep asking. You can also ask your group if they could recommend anyone or if there are any local experts you should reach out to.
Ask around to find out if there are any WordPress experts coming to your area during a specific time period (like a WordCamp event), and reach out to ask if they’d be willing to attend your event while they’re in town.
Ensure that you communicate all the necessary details, and don’t leave them wondering about anything important. Do your due diligence to make sure that their presentation is working (with a backup) before the event starts.
Speakers don’t usually get paid but it wouldn’t hurt to offer a little token of appreciation and a thank-you note for their efforts.
If there aren’t any speakers available for a given meetup date, consider doing a meetup event in another format.
Promote your WordPress meetup
An important part of organizing WordPress meetups is ensuring that you effectively get the word out to encourage event attendance.
Here are some tips to help you do so:
Join the official Meetup chapter program. Meetups that are part of the chapter program will appear in the WordPress dashboard for nearby users.
Ask sponsors to promote your meetup. On Meetup.com, you can opt to offer perks and get sponsors, demonstrating to visitors that credible brands trust you enough to partner with you (and that your event must be worth going to).
Post your meetup on other event websites. Don’t limit yourself to only posting to the WordPress Meetup.com account. You can also use other websites, such as Eventbrite and Facebook Groups, to advertise your event.
Leverage social media. If you host a consistent meetup, why not create a Facebook group to announce future meetups and to help build community between events? While you’re at it, encourage meetup members to advertise on their own social accounts to invite members of their networks to attend.
Join forces with other meetup groups to host collaborative events. That way, you both benefit by gaining exposure to new audiences.
Create a WordPress site. It not only helps your meetup to be found but also shows that you practice what you preach and know what you’re talking about.
Think about who you’re marketing your events to. Of course, some WordPress users are more advanced than others, so you’ll want to create programming that speaks to them while also making sure to offer programming that’s ideal for beginners.
Host a great event. There’s no more effective marketing strategy than word-of-mouth. If you build a reputation for hosting a great meetup, your attendees will want to invite their friends to join them. A comfortable venue, basic refreshments, and great speakers are the basic components for hosting great events that get talked about.
Remember: WordPress meetups are for everyone
WordPress meetups are smaller and more intimate than WordCamps but feature a similar gathering of people who are interested in learning more about WordPress. Anyone can organize a meetup, as long as it is for the benefit of the WordPress community and follows basic guidelines.
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