How to Plan Online Community Meetups and Tweetups
Online communities are important to the people who visit them every day. It’s only normal that they want to meet other members in person. You may want to consider hosting some meetups to bring everyone together.
Though there have been instances of successful spontaneous tweetups, the best parties are planned:
Choose a venue for your event.
If you’re not going to need a huge space, see whether a restaurant has a private room you can use, but always leave enough room for unexpected guests.
Create an event page.
Using Facebook or a network specifically designed for creating events, create a page where members of your community can sign up for your meetup. Though you should always leave room for a few guests who didn’t RSVP, you want to get as accurate a count as possible. You also want to make sure you don’t exceed the venue’s maximum capacity.
Determine whether you should serve food and drink.
You don’t have to have a full meal; snacks or appetizers will do. Also, you can offer each attendee a ticket for a complimentary drink rather than provide an open bar.
Attendees aren’t coming for the refreshments; they’re coming to meet people, network, and have a good time.
Decide whether to bring in a speaker or presenter.
Some meetups have speeches or presentations, and yours can too. A comedian can do a funny routine; an executive from your brand can discuss your community and how far it’s come; someone can speak about a topic that’s of interest to all attendees.
Figure out what equipment you need, if any.
If you need a microphone, a laptop, a screen for a presentation, or anything else, make a list so that you don’t forget anything.
Consider whether to have outside sponsors.
If budget is a concern — for example, you’re a small brand and lack funds — you may want to bring in sponsors — brands that help defray the costs of your event in exchange for advertising.
Think up a hashtag.
A hashtag uses the pound symbol (#) to denote a particular search term on Twitter. Then everyone who attends the meetup and posts updates on Twitter about it will use that hashtag to make it easier for people to find news about this event. For larger events, some event organizers even bring a projector, laptop, and stream to show off the hashtags live.
Invite your community members.
Post details about your tweetup on all the channels you use to communicate with your community, including forums, Twitter, Facebook, and newsletters. Make sure that the information about your event signup page is easy to spot.
Count the RSVPs.
Your event page lists all the members who said they’ll be attending the meetup, everyone who said maybe, as well as everyone who said no.
When you present the head count to the venue staff, caterers, and anyone else who needs to know how many people are coming, be sure to add a few extra heads to cover a bunch of the maybes.
Print name tags.
Name tags are ice-breakers. They take away the need for awkward introductions by enabling members to see names rather than ask for them.
Be sure to bring blank labels and markers for any names you may have missed and for anyone who wasn’t on the RSVP list.
Put together gift bags.
It’s not mandatory but nice to hand out gift bags or favors to attendees. A gift doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive.
Print signs and literature.
You may need to print signs (with your brand’s logo on them), or perhaps you want to print a promotional card that provides a discount code for your latest service. Do the printing it at least a week in advance in case something goes wrong and the material needs to be reprinted.