I had a nice view of a freshly frozen lake and a fading sunset -- two things that happen too early in Minneapolis in November. The scenery went largely ignored from inside our conference room. We had more important matters to focus on: Brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and our favorite CMS. This was the first meeting of our new Minneapolis Umbraco Meetup.
I learned more about packages in that 15 minute discussion than I learned in the last year of experimenting with them on my own.
I was excited to sit around a long table with some co-workers and new friends I had made over the past few months of trying to get this meetup off the ground. We recapped the Umbraco US Festival that a few of us had attended, took bets on when V8 will go live, and talked about what we want to get out of a meetup. Many of us had different backgrounds in Umbraco and have different experiences with tools, patterns, and development practices. We were all excited to learn from each other and were able to brainstorm a couple dozen discussion topics for future meetups… I’m pretty sure we have enough topics for all of 2019 already. We ended by looking at the popular Umbraco packages and sharing our experiences with them. I learned more about packages in that 15 minute discussion than I learned in the last year of experimenting with them on my own. All in all, I’m super excited to see where this meetup will go in the future.
If you’ve ever thought about starting a meetup, here are five things that I found to be extremely helpful to get one started.
1. Network with other Umbraco enthusiasts
The first rule of meetups is “you need people to come to your meetup.” If you’re like me and don’t already have a large network of Umbracians, this will be the hardest part. Doubly so if you’re an introvert like me and would prefer not to talk to strangers.
I got through it and so can you! Here’s what worked for me.
Use the power of LinkedIn. Search of “Umbraco” and specify your city as the search criteria. Then send a friendly message to anyone who pops up in the results.
Figure out which companies use Umbraco. If you know of an agency or dev shop that uses Umbraco, send them a message! See if you already know someone working there or try to figure out the right person to contact about spreading the word about the meetup.
Offer to meet for coffee or lunch. For some of you, this is no big deal. For others, this will be terrifying. While networking still doesn’t come naturally to me, I’ve come to realize how beneficial it is for creating and keeping relationships. So many meetings that seem scary up front end up turning into a friendship. Other times we realize that something their company does fit right in with what my company doesn’t and we find ways to work together. The IT world can also be pretty small, depending on your city’s size, and even smaller if you narrow it down to Umbraco users (in the US at least). You may just end up working at the same company as the person you’re meeting.
Like I said, this part might be hard, but keep working at it until you have at least a few people who are interested in a meetup.
2. Get Support from Umbraco HQ
Umbraco HQ has been incredibly supportive in starting this meetup. In fact, I had started trying to get this meetup going several months earlier and lost steam as my projects went into overdrive. Ilham Boulghallat from Umbraco HQ sent me an email and offered to set up a meetup account (and pay for it) to help make the meetup happen. That was the push I needed to make it happen. On top of that, Ilham also mailed me a box of SWAG to hand out at our next meetup!
All in all, the support from Umbraco made getting this meetup going a LOT easier.
Andrew Barta, our US trainer/ambassador joined our meetup remotely and was able to give a lot of support and give updates from HQ. All in all, the support from Umbraco made getting this meetup going a LOT easier. Here’s even more info about how Umbraco HQ can help.
3. Get Support from your Company
You can totally start a meetup without a company to sponsor it, but man does it help to have a company supporting you. My employer, Emergent Software, loved the idea of a meetup and let me use work time to plan it, paid for snacks and pizza at future meetups, and lets our development team attend the meetups as part of our work week.
Hopefully your employer sees the value in a meetup. If they don’t, here are a couple angles to try to help them see the value.
Recruiting Supporting the development community and your own developers rarely goes unnoticed. Sponsoring a meetup is a very inexpensive way of making your company better known to developers compared to other recruiting efforts. Having goodwill attached to their name will pay dividends when trying to find quality developers in the future.
Free Marketing It’s great publicity to support the development community. Customers and partners are looking for someone they can trust. If your portential clients or partners have heard about your company in a positive light, they'll be that much closer to wanting to work with you.
4. Talk to Other Meetup Organizers
There is a wealth of knowledge and experience from other people who have taken this journey before you and me. Learn from them and ask for advice!
During the first day of the Umbraco US Festival, I didn’t have anyone to eat lunch with so I sat down next to a nice looking stranger (did I mention I’m an introvert and this is way outside my comfort zone?). That stranger turned out to be Ravi Motha, the organizer of the London Meetup. He had lots of great advice. I’m sure he’d help you out too if you reach out, right Ravi?
There’s also a channel on the Umbracians Slack for Meetup Organizers that would be a perfect place to ask questions or for advice.
5. Just do it
Set a date for the first meetup, and make it happen. It’s easy to put things off or wait for the perfect time. One of the best things I did for myself was to pick a date and give myself a deadline. You may not be able to get every person to the first meeting but there’s a huge value in just starting and meeting consistently.
Starting a meetup has already been worth it
Those are my tips! Yes, it was a bit of work, and yes, I had to go out of my comfort zone. Starting a meetup has already been worth it for the people I’ve met, the Umbraco knowledge I gained on the way, and the great topics we’re going to get into at our future meetups.
If your local community doesn't have an Umbraco meetup already, maybe you should be the one to start it! Give yourself a deadline and start with step one this week. What's the worst that could happen?