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Ask DN: Do you participate in local design meetups? How did it go?

5 years ago from , UX Designer

I've organized a Facebook group in my area for designers and we're talking about starting some meetups. Do any of you host or participate in local design meetups? Can you give me some recommendations to get off the ground running?

42 comments

  • joe andersonjoe anderson, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    Hey Ben, I co-organize http://www.meetup.com/Mobile-Designers-Code/ and I've never really done meetups before. Our first one went really well having Meng To as the speaker. He talked about XCode/design. By having a specific topic it drew the right crowd, which made the conversations awesome afterwards, since everyone was anchored around that theme/topic.

    Structure is the key to any workshop/meetup. When people show up they don't know anyone else so it helps to start things off by having a topic and then breaking into smaller groups to discuss other things. I'd highly recommend spending an hour to come up with the programming. Any topics you see rise to the top of designer news are topics that designers will find interesting at your meetups. Talking about current trends, or what things are on the horizon are also very interesting for them. Even going over new apps that have come out (or are about to come out) and pointing out what you think they did well could be a great way to start.

    Hope this helps!

    4 points
    • , 5 years ago

      That does help. I'm not sure that we'll go the route of having monthly lectures / longer talks. Yet, I do feel a need for structure and a theme for the night.

      0 points
  • Ed ChaoEd Chao, 5 years ago

    honestly not big into meetups. Usually they just end up being a bunch of people who know each other gabbing it up and people who don't, just roving about. I much prefer doing 1:1s over coffee. When I do less, I do better. Same goes for chatting with folks.

    4 points
  • Adrian HowardAdrian Howard, 5 years ago

    A few tips from things I’ve seen/done as some small local groups (not all UX) have risen and fell away:

    • For me the feel of small groups are much more about community than any visiting speakers. Solving their particular issues specifically will get more people coming than talking about UX in general.

    • It’s a lot easier for small groups to lose traction. Try and get at least three people involved on the admin side. Otherwise if one person gets busy the group vanishes. Continuity is important.

    • Make it regular so people can schedule it in. If it’s always the third Tuesday of the month (or whatever) people can book it in more easily and remember that it happens.

    • At the end of event N announce the date and topic (if possible) of event N+1. Keep your current customers engaged and turn them into repeat customers ;-)

    • If you’re not sure what to do at event N+1, schedule in some time during event N to figure out what folk would prefer to do the following month.

    • After event N try to post something online somewhere. A blog post, a tweet, or whatever, that shows what an excellent time folk had.

    • Encourage folk who attended to pimp the event for next time.

    • Consider things like eventbrite/lanyrd/meetup.com - they can take some of the effort away from organising contacts / building a community. They also all help with event discoverability.

    • Remind people of the event regularly on social media, mailing lists, etc. I usually try and push announcements out the day the date is known, two weeks before, one week before, the friday before, the day before & on the day. Use things like buffer or hootsuite to schedule in the social media stuff so you can just set and forget once a month.

    • Things like fishbowl discussions and lean coffee can make a nice event that’s a bit more than a social, but less effort than organising a speaker or a workshop.

    • Showing a video of a conference session and having a discussion afterwards is another quick ’n’ simple option.

    • This was something that surprised me - and I have no idea whether it will apply to your area - but to some extent what I found locally wasn’t so much a lack of people - but a lack of a community. Once people stuck their head above the parapet there was a bunch of mutual "gosh there are people like me around here". Once that phase change has occurred it gets much easier to keep things rolling.

    • Keep an eye out for potentially interesting people who might be around locally. We’ve grabbed a few people for a local meet who just happened to be consulting at a nearby company. People have grabbed me in the past for a local meetup elsewhere when they’ve noticed I’m visiting an area.

    Hope this is of some help.

    2 points
    • , 5 years ago

      YES! That was really helpful. Thank you for taking the time. I'll mull this over.

      0 points
  • Sean LesterSean Lester, 5 years ago

    I've joined a local UX meetup group, and recently attended a UX Inspection Methods workshop that went really well.

    I know for me, the biggest draw is things like workshops and lectures and opportunities to learn. Beyond that, the host / founder takes various steps to facilitate networking within the group.

    2 points
    • Ben Grace, 5 years ago

      Thanks for your input. Do you generally get together for workshops and lectures only?

      Since I'm just getting this started, and we have a rather diverse background of designers (print, web, etc) I'm brainstorming what the programming might be. To start, we'll likely meet and talk about what the group wants. I just want to come to the table with more ideas.

      1 point
      • Sean LesterSean Lester, 5 years ago

        Haha well... I've only gone to the one so far. It was really recent. But yes, I can't imagine I would go to anything else.

        0 points
  • Jon GoldJon Gold, 5 years ago

    Chat to @gearoidorourke; http://designandbanter.com/ is one of the best meetups I've been to. Really brought the London design scene together over the past year; and admirable how quickly they made it popular & well respected.

    1 point
    • , 5 years ago

      Would you mind expanding a little? I'd love to know what made it stand out to you? Why was it so well respected?

      0 points
  • Brennan Smith, 5 years ago

    Just don't let it turn into a happy hour meetup.

    1 point
    • Ben Grace, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

      You can see my other comment below, but that's what I'm afraid of. I do want to network, but I want structure, without having to spend lots of time coming up with the programming.

      What would make a good meetup for you?

      0 points
      • Brennan Smith, 5 years ago

        Office space is usually good meetup places, whether it's your location or someone attending. People love to show off their workspaces and it lends to meetup.

        0 points
  • Emelyn BakerEmelyn Baker, 5 years ago

    I don't care if there's a specific topic, or a tech talk, or presenter — I love going to meetups simply to meet people.

    At some point, hearing a presenter telling you a story dulls in comparison to meeting someone new, and swapping stories, just the two of you.

    A two-way discussion allows the conversation to evolve in fascinating ways. I find I learn more than I would at a presentation, where one passively listens for an hour, then asks a single question during Q+A.

    1 point
  • David KizlerDavid Kizler, 5 years ago

    There was a freelance web designers meetup in Oakland that I always had a good time attending.

    I think it worked because there would be some general topic (portfolios, productivity apps, etc). The topic served as an informal icebreaker which helped get people to mingle. The wine, beer and snacks helped too.

    On the other extreme, I attended a meetup for "Startups" that had no focus other than pizza. I slipped away asap because it turned into awkward aimless networking which wasn't for me.

    So from my introverted perspective, I'd have some topic that can unify the group, while still allowing room for social interaction.

    1 point
    • Ben Grace, 5 years ago

      That's really helpful. I don't want it to turn into just another networking group - meetup is full of them. On the other hand, I'm a little hesitant to commit to coming up with programming myself. I'm thinking full-on lectures and talks might be too formal. Something in the middle with a topic for the evening sounds great. Maybe even starting with a video to get the conversation going.

      0 points
  • Beth DeanBeth Dean, 5 years ago

    I used to help run the CWSA in Ohio. We tried the format of having a short presentation from a speaker, or a moderated panel, followed by drinks and discussions afterward. While it was nice to give folks a topic to talk about, in general people were more excited about the informal conversation after, and it was a lot easier to just tell a group of people to all show up in a public place within a time period vs. trying to find a speaker and a space, and getting everyone to show up when it starts. Speaker and topic quality will also vary.

    Restaurants with an open bar area work well so people can drink (or not drink) and mingle without being stuck seated. If you wanted to organize something more formal (like a talk) most area colleges with a design program will work with you to lend you space, or a corporate benefactor in the area might loan you a meeting space and be willing to sponsor refreshments or pizza.

    The problem with the easy to plan, but very open ended option, is you wind up a little bit like a high school dance where people who know each other all cluster together, and it's hard to get people to talk to new folks, and in a bar environment even with name tags, it might be difficult for people from the group to all identify each other. You might want to have just the tiniest bit of structure, even if it's a very basic ice breaker, like having people draw another attendee's name out of a hat to go chat with them. Anything that gets new people connecting with each other in a low pressure way.

    1 point
  • Jeff SmithJeff Smith, 5 years ago

    Pertinent - https://news.layervault.com/stories/29966-swift-workshop--thoughtbot-build-an-app-from-scratch

    1 point
  • Christopher MoodyChristopher Moody, 5 years ago

    I'm a member of a desing meetup group in Las Vegas playfully called Design Avengers.

    We're relatively small (~15 attendees every week) and we've all become good friends over the course of the past year or so of meeting up. Most of us work in technology companies and a lot of us are the only designers on our teams, so we formed the group as a sort of critique and feedback session. Instead of having a formal presentation, we just talk about the challenges we're facing and present any work we need help on.

    It's been a wonderful way for us to grow as designers and as a community.

    0 points
    • Ben Grace, 5 years ago

      Sounds like a great group. I'd love to build something like that into the group! I was just messaging a friend back and forth on an identity she was working on. It would be great to include the group.

      0 points
  • Carolann BonnerCarolann Bonner, 5 years ago

    I've been thinking about meetups and similar events a lot lately. I'd love to experiment with the idea of organizing small groups that meet more regularly and casually than a meetup.

    Most of the meetups I've been to feel more like small conferences rather than a chance to hang/learn/discuss ideas.

    Might be a terrible idea, but it's what I've been thinking about lately.

    0 points
  • Lee Fuhr, 5 years ago

    Nope.

    Seems to be mostly younger and less established folks, so I don't find I end up getting much out of them. That said, I'm an anti-social introvert.

    0 points
    • Carolann BonnerCarolann Bonner, 5 years ago

      Do you think you'd find discussions, rather than presentations, more fruitful?

      0 points
      • Lee Fuhr, 5 years ago

        Yeah, that might be so, especially if I go back to working solo (as opposed to the co-working space I'm in now, which gives this freelancer a semblance of connection with the industry).

        0 points
  • Ricardo VazquezRicardo Vazquez, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    I co-organize http://www.meetup.com/TorontoUX/. We are on our 4th monthly installment so far. I think for us one of the most important things was to bring back the community aspect. We didn't want this to be another Dribbble meetup that seemed misguided and without purpose (at least where I live).

    We wanted to talk in focus groups, develop a feeling of community, and essentially learn as much as we can from each other. On our last Meetup, we invited real companies with UX challenges. We broke ourselves up into small groups, and helped young startups with their design challenges.

    uxchat on Twitter was also born out of this principle of community building. At the end of every Meetup, we have a handful of questions we'd like to ask the global community. This helps in breaking down the silo, and engaging with members near and far away.

    0 points
  • Justin Zupnick, 5 years ago

    I just ran my first Meetup on Tuesday and it's been an incredible learning experience. I already have two more lined up. Here's what I've been doing.

    Keep it niche and focused. Right off the bat I target music product designers & engineers. A whole bunch of people signed off immediately.

    Find the folks you want to join. I personally reached out to employees (using LinkedIn & Rapportive to find their emails) at relevant companies to join and asked if they'd be interested in hosting or leading a Meetup. A bunch of them joined, lending credibility to the group, which led to more focused members joining as well.

    This led me to my first Meetup at the music analytics startup Next Big Sound. This was a mutually beneficial meetup - and I want to keep all of my meetups this way. One of their engineers gave a not too techy talk on how Next Big Sound makes sense of the music metadata landscape. The company increased their visibility and met some very relevant people. Members gained a whole new perspective on music metadata and networked with like-minded people.

    Next up I've got a Meetup scheduled to teach members the Web Audio API and I've got a content analysis talk in the pipeline.

    If you read this whole shpeal, are in NYC, & interested in making music apps we'd love to have you join us. I'd love to have more designers join the mix.

    http://www.meetup.com/Music-Product-Designers-Engineers/

    0 points
  • Jahed MomandJahed Momand, 5 years ago

    I went to Palantir's Dribbble meetup which I thought needed a bit more structure. It was just a super casual thing with the product emblazoned on the walls with projectors, which is fine, but it was hard to track down people on the team, and given the nature of the product, they were all very mum about what they could and couldn't say. Of course all of the products we design are proprietary to some point, but this was kind of silly.

    Great food though!

    0 points
    • Ben Grace, 5 years ago

      If you could add just enough structure to that meetup to make it more compelling to come back, what might it be? What would you be looking for?

      1 point
      • Jahed MomandJahed Momand, almost 5 years ago

        An even cursory attempt at greeting everyone who came to the meetup, introducing team members, and giving us a 30 second rundown of why we're here, what changes have been made to the product that appears on the walls, and why they're excited to share their work with us.

        Not a single one of these things was done - it was just show up, get a shirt, there's the food, good luck finding everyone, type thing.

        0 points
  • Victor LVictor L, 5 years ago (edited 5 years ago )

    I've only ever been to the Philly Tech Week Dribbble Meetup back in April (http://www.meetup.com/teamdribbble/events/163239142/) which was more of an informal happy hour meetup... but being an underage person at a beer garden it was lots of fun writing everyone haikus and networking with the folks who have designed my favorite fonts. <3

    I look forward to my first actual meetup taking place at Philly's Indy Hall on August 9: http://www.meetup.com/phlfux/events/195467912/

    On a non-design related note, I do run and organize High School Hackers meetup group (http://hshackers.org/) as well as Philly's XKCD & MLP meetups. Finding venues and sponsors is all about knowing the right contacts!

    0 points
  • Darth BaneDarth Bane, 5 years ago

    I wish I had better social skills. Love the idea of going to a meetup and meet new people but I'm simply not a social person and would find it hard to mingle or make initial contact with strangers.

    0 points
    • Ben Grace, 5 years ago

      I know it can be scary, but it has really helped me personally and professionally in going to meetups. I'd suggest finding a way to get yourself to go. Many people feel just the same way you do. That's how I felt at my first meetup.

      0 points
  • Nicholas MandelbaumNicholas Mandelbaum, 5 years ago

    Hi, I created a meetup group in Lisbon, Portugal called "Design Monday".

    So far, it's been a great experience. I started it because there was no meetup group in Lisbon, and as I just arrived I wanted both to meet people here and also to learn new things in Design.

    First event was really friendly and spontaneous, we were only 8 people, and had a debate about user research and inspiration. It was hosted in a very cool place called Cowork Lisboa.

    When the group started to grow, we realized that we needed to structure the meetup more because otherwise people didn't know what to do, what to say and it was less intersting. So for the third one, I invited people to talk about personas, and we had slides presentation and 4 speakers (which a bit too much actually, I think two is enough). 4x 20 mn.

    To have a good and enjoyable time, it was important to have a catering sponsor to provide some good food. ( www.cateringlisboa.pt ;-) ))

    To conclude I would say that one important thing is to keep things under control by organizing the event in advance, and keep the presentation super short....

    Good luck with your meetups !!

    http://www.meetup.com/Design-Monday/

    0 points