How to Host the Perfect Meetup November 26, 2007 7:48 AM   Subscribe

So what makes a good meetup?

There's a lot of meetup experience represented here. How about a thread for some cumulative wisdom?

Obviously, there are a variety of successful formulae. But aside from having a meetup in a location where there are 2 or more MeFites, what tends to make them work (good turnout, lots o'fun had by all) or not work well? What are the best times of day/days of week? How much advance notice? What type of location - bar, restaurant, outdoor, event? Identification methods? What have we learned here?
posted by Miko to MetaFilter Gatherings at 7:48 AM (54 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Weekend nights work best, Saturday is easier to get to on time than Friday (some people stay at work late or have other things or have traffic to contend with). Bars seem to work well because you can fade in and out as you please and there's something to do with your hands in a big crowd (like drink). It helps if they have some form of food too, so the people staying a while can get some fries or something. Nametags help in large groups, but less than 10 is fine without them.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:51 AM on November 26, 2007

For larger groups, or groups of folks that mostly don't know each other already, restaurant/pub settings seems to work a bit better than full-on bars, since it tends to be a bit quieter and easier to get a big table across which you can all talk and drink and eat socially. A noisy bar is fine for a smaller, tighter group—Portland meetups have often started somewhere big and then split off to one or two bars later on when the friendly first timers have hit their limit and the grizzled drinky oldschoolers want to play some pool, etc.

Nametags are great. A sign that says "Mefi" on the table makes it easier for meetup-newbs to find you—as does picking out (if possible) a specific location in the joint ahead of time. (We once had someone show up on the wrong floor and the wrong side of a wall for a meetup, wait a while, and then leave because "no one was there". We were about thirty feet away. Look around!)

Evenings, weekends. Other things can work, but again: if you don't know each other, there's more of an Is This A Good Idea thing, and avoiding unnecessary barriers to that sort of getting-up-the-nerve process for meetup newbies is a big part of getting them to show. Returnees know what they're up for, and so will be more flexible about making a less-convenient date if they've found they like the meetup experience.

People vary, obviously, but in my experience, it's about an hourish and a couple rounds of drinks in that meetups usually really start in earnest. Expect that people will be a little quiet or awkward or whatnot early on; don't bail immediately if it seems sort of quiet, they tend to warm up a lot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on November 26, 2007

I've been to meetups at bars, houses, and weird little basement folk clubs. I prefer bars for the reasons mathowie mentioned above. In my imperfect meetup world, they'd all be at a bar that's close walking distance of several other bars. Nothing adds to a sense of camaraderie like bar-hopping with a group of people.

We're having a Dallas gathering this weekend on a Sunday evening, which makes me worry no one will show but happened to be the best time for myself and a couple of others. On the plus side, it's at a bar that serves great food and is on the same block as 3 or 4 other decent spots.

Pleae come to the Dallas meetup. You know who you are.
posted by item at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2007

Bar is the best location, since booze gets people loose and friendly. The two best meetups I ever attended were the big Vegas meetup (for obvious reasons) and one at Pioneer on the Bowery about 5 years ago. What both had in common was a large venue to give people space to mingle, a broad spectrum of attendees (to keep things from getting boring) plenty of time to keep the party going, and they were on weekends so most people didn't have to work in the morning.

ID method? Well, at the Beer Garden meetup we taped a mefi sign to a tree and at another meetup, I brought a box of pancake mix aand left it on the table. Otherwise, in every city there's usually at least one MeFite recognizable from previous photos, or now profil photos.
posted by jonmc at 8:03 AM on November 26, 2007

Weekends are best, although weeknight meetups have worked out OK if there's a good reason to show up (visiting Mefite, etc.) I think people need at least 2 weeks advance notice, and preferably 3 or 4. Any less than 2 weeks and people already have plans. For NYC meetups, I send out MeMail reminders a few days before to anyone who I think might want to come but forget (I don't send reminders to those I know are coming, those I know who know, or those who I think were scared away forever). Location is one of the trickiest pieces, at least for NYC meetups- for us, you need a place that will allow for some come and go and provide room for everyone to mingle and not get weird if we want to stand up or move aruond (one place a few months ago would not let anyone stay standing up; we booked it out of there right quick). NYC meetups have a tendency to start at a bar and then move to a restaurant of some kind. I'm not sure that we've done nametags at a NYC meetup in awhile, and I think that's fine- gives people an excuse to talk to each other. I personally think the "funnest" meetups are those that have a mix of meetup old timers and meetup n00bs, because I like to meet new people and I never fail to be amazed at how cool people keep coming out of the woodwork.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:03 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well, I have to say that I've enjoyed the three uk meetups I went to but prefer it when - if the numbers are right - there is an itinerary: not just a bar, but a nearby eatery, a coffee shop, a local specialist outlet (the Oxford meet up visited our home grown hand made ice cream cafe). The walk from place to place enables mixing up the members and more conversation. We were lucky in that some mefites were gigging at a pub in the town that night - so music became a central part , too.

Music, beer, food, coffee & ice cream: it's hard to beat a combo like that.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:09 AM on November 26, 2007

What makes a good meetup? One word: Wilder.
posted by Jofus at 8:13 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

one place a few months ago would not let anyone stay standing up; we booked it out of there right quick)

are you talking about that place we went to when crash davis came in? That place was way too snooty and expensive for the MeFi crowd, so we went off to Manitoba's.

So the solution is to hold all NYC meetups at Manitoba's. Mainly to increase my chances of being asked to write the official Dictators bio or Rich helping me get a job working for Little Steven's radio show.
posted by jonmc at 8:14 AM on November 26, 2007

I've been to some alterna meetups that have been at people's houses as well as bar meetups. I know we don't have a lot of sub-21 age MeFites but in the US it's tougher to have a bar-based meetup that younger folks can go to easily. I've also seen picnic meetups specifically for the more family-oriented set.

Things that I've seen that work well

- nametags let people choose if they want their MeFi id or their real name as their identifier and help people keep people's names straight, esp if it's the former
- TIP YOUR SERVER - sometimes it's a hassle dealing with everyone and their odd requests (you all can be a bunch of picky eaters and drinkers) so making sure your server is happy keeps the service decent
- something with decent access to public transpo is great so people can drink without worrying about driving etc.
- call the bar/location to make sure it's open when you think it's supposed to be. I've been to two meetups where this was not the case and it can be tough to regroup. Have people's cell numbers just in case, if you can.
- making reservations if you're expecting a big crowd avoids the stand-around meetup which is a great idea
- table identifier! I've been to a few meetups where it was totally unclear which group was the one I should say hello to. Not everyone likes to wander around talking to strangers in bars
- Some people are broke. If the host notices someone who seems to have absolutely no cash for whatever reason, buying a big plate of table food or getting them a drink is a nice idea.
- some people are painfully shy and lord love them they show up anyhow. Being cool about who might not want their photo appearing online (with the caveat that you can't be 100% rigorous about that stuff) or who might want to be talked to if they're not doing the talking is the mark of a good host.
- bring markers, paper, maybe a laptop. One of the things I liked about the 8th anniversary party was that there were social chat and drink spaces and stand around playing video games spaces. There could have been more food. So people got to hang out in proximity to each other and do something in common and have little stuff to talk about "ooh, you really blew up that planet good!"

The big thing I tell people is that in most cases people want to go to meetups to hang out and have a good time. People are very unlikely to bring up weird gripes from the site, so if you're staying away for that reason, don't.

If this page gets full of awsomeness, we should move some of it to the wiki.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 AM on November 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

dash_slot- makes a good argument for an itinerary (and the Oxford meetup was indeed excellent), but in general I'm a fan of staying in one place. This makes it much, much easier for people to come and go at whatever times suit them, without the problems of trying to find where the meetup has disappeared to now. Less pressure all round, particularly if you're trying to get a meetup going in an area where people haven't met up before, and so may be a little apprehensive.

Pub or other drinking establishment that is quiet enough to hear conversation in is another good tactic for this. It's easier to make a gentle exit from a random pub drinking session than if you're at a hosted thing, a sit-down thing, or some other 'event'.

(Plus, if you're somewhere that's 'merely' a drinking establishment, then this discourages eating, thus encouraging more drinking to compensate (at least in my experience), thus encouraging more 'sociality'. Huzzah.)

As for finding people for the first time, I employed the cunning trick of wandering around the pub carrying a messenger bag, playing with my mobile phone and looking scared. They soon found me. The rest is history.

And/or, make a sign.
posted by chrismear at 8:26 AM on November 26, 2007

Actually having a plan of where and how to meet helps. The last Pittsburgh Meetup failed miserably because none of us actually knew where in the bar/restaurant the others were. We all wandered in individually and had no way to figure out who else in the place was from Metafilter.
posted by octothorpe at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2007

I just want to add the coolest meetup trick that someone (I forgot who, sorry!) taught me. When a meetup is just getting started, and you think you might be the first but that guy at the bar looks equally lost, or you don't really know if that loud group over there are mefites or not, instead of muttering to people about internet sites, approach strangers and ask suavely "are you a friend of Matt Haughey's?"
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:28 AM on November 26, 2007 [14 favorites]

Heh. Good timing.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:29 AM on November 26, 2007

call the bar/location to make sure it's open when you think it's supposed to be. I've been to two meetups where this was not the case and it can be tough to regroup.

That's happened to me as well. Who's heard of a bar closed on Saturday night? A business-only district that's a ghost town on weekends, that's who.
posted by Miko at 8:30 AM on November 26, 2007

Metafilger. That would be the other word.
posted by Jofus at 8:35 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

That's a great idea, CunningLinguist.

If a reservation is made at the restaurant, I think it would be equally funny/useful to put it under his name.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:41 AM on November 26, 2007

If you want your shoutouts to be legible in photos, bring a wide-tipped marker. I realized this when I watched DaShiv painstakingly draw big bold block letters with the only available (ballpoint) pen- just 'cause you can read it in person, doesn't mean it photographs well.

Oh yeah, and get DaShiv to show up.
posted by ambrosia at 8:43 AM on November 26, 2007

Miko: I keep typing and deleting my contrarian view that weekends make the worst meetups and that the meetup-as-happy-hour is the best way to go. It might be, in part, because--in my experience--Chicago meetups fail when they are neighborhood-centric instead of Loop-centric. And Loop-centric on the weekends just doesn't work.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:59 AM on November 26, 2007

Heh crush. That's where my awkward weekend experience was: the Loop.
posted by Miko at 9:14 AM on November 26, 2007

grizzled drinky oldschoolers

This is a superb phrase.

That is all.
posted by languagehat at 9:56 AM on November 26, 2007

3 words. Dance Dance Revolution. You shoulda seen all the mefites, even mathowie and pb, doing their best to beat it! It was part of what made the 8th annv meetup super double awesome.
posted by Lynsey at 10:00 AM on November 26, 2007

Blushes Jofus!
The London bunch is pretty well established so I was concerned that newer meet-up mefites might feel awkward. I mailed a few Flickr links so they could recognise us and generally offered to be a point of contact.
(I'd offer to be the Yenta as well but we don't have nearly enough women! are you reading this MeetMegan?)
posted by Wilder at 10:01 AM on November 26, 2007

God, the pub atmosphere is perfect—bars are too loud and restaurants can be too quiet. Best to have booze and something to do.

Oh, and try not to necessarily schedule them with an event. One of my worst meetup experiences was going to a bar where there was an art fair going on, which meant that I couldn't pick out the MeFites in the crowd. Luckily, I got drunk with a cool coworker.

Then it's mostly gossip about the other MeFites, in my experience.
posted by klangklangston at 10:13 AM on November 26, 2007

Then it's mostly gossip about the other MeFites, in my experience.

Really? We usually just get drunk and obnoxious in NYC.
posted by jonmc at 10:21 AM on November 26, 2007

We let jonmc get drunk and obnoxious, but the rest of us gossip about other MeFites.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:28 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was just telling klang about how TPS et al gossip about jonmc at meetups, but you didn't hear that from me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:30 AM on November 26, 2007

Matt Matt Revolution!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:39 AM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

TPS et al gossip about jonmc at meetups,

'psst...that jonmc, he drinks...pass it on'
posted by jonmc at 10:40 AM on November 26, 2007

Seconding getting DaShiv to show up. I hope I can get him to come to my Winnipeg meetup!
posted by Koko at 10:53 AM on November 26, 2007

  • Re-enactments of MetaTalk threads in the style of the SCA.
  • Costumes
  • Shouting
  • Someone with a trumpet playing Taps for banned/departed members
  • Fights
  • DaShiv photos
  • derogatory comments about Newbies
  • Some sort of game where you try to figure out who posted which anon AskMe
  • Hats

  • posted by blue_beetle at 11:46 AM on November 26, 2007

    me! i make a good meetup ; >

    (if i'm not around, DaShiv is second-best, but that's because of his excellent photos)

    --a biggish bar, for flow and mingling of people
    --special guest stars like visiting mefites, etc
    --a nice supply of bigmouthed people and mother hens to help draw newcomers and quieter folks into the group.
    posted by amberglow at 11:49 AM on November 26, 2007

    It's true! Without amberglow, meetups are nothing. And he's been so absent lately :-(
    posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:50 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

    also: Always tell the bartenders so they can direct people to the group--Always.
    posted by amberglow at 11:50 AM on November 26, 2007

    you're the NY glue, TPS--your reminders are golden--even if work keeps me away too much lately.
    posted by amberglow at 11:54 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

    I second the thing about not having an "event" be part of it. If I want to see the Flying Bondozo Twins, I'll go see them, and having a bunch of mefites sitting watching the Flying Bondozo twins in my proximity does not enhance the experience.
    posted by Meatbomb at 12:02 PM on November 26, 2007

    Oh, and frozen custard. And fellow freak Mefites who are holding. And well-lit toilets.
    posted by Meatbomb at 12:03 PM on November 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

    A place that makes photographing easy/possible. Mainly that means being able to move around the group from outside angles. Illuminated jukeboxes etc. in the background are a plus. If it wasn't for this shortcoming, Revival in NYC would be the perfect place: semi-private separate space; connected outdoor smoking area; not organized as distinct tables or booths.
    posted by StickyCarpet at 12:07 PM on November 26, 2007

    Be wary about bringing up controversial issues. The viking debate is way more intense in person.
    posted by spiderskull at 12:11 PM on November 26, 2007

    Respect people who wish not to be photographed or have photos posted online.

    And by respect, I mean, don't make a big deal out of it. Just don't do it.
    posted by Rumple at 12:12 PM on November 26, 2007

    I keep typing and deleting my contrarian view that weekends make the worst meetups and that the meetup-as-happy-hour is the best way to go.

    One disadvantage to weekdays in a metro area is that you'll only get the people who live or work in the city. On a weekend, people can make the trip in from the suburbs.
    posted by smackfu at 1:22 PM on November 26, 2007

    Agreed, smackfu, which is why I think it's good to mix it up- the upcoming NYC meetup is on a Saturday precisely because we've done the past few on Fridays.
    posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:23 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

    I like weekdays. As much as I love you all, there's very little chance that I'm going to stay in town or brave the Saturday rush into the San Francisco to get a meet up.

    I would LOVE a meetup that involved Dance Dance Revoluntion. Or Dance Dance Immolation. Pretty much anything that gives people an opportunity to be silly and provides a conversation focus. It's awkward enough that people who are most comfortable in a digital setting are getting together to try to be social in the analog world.
    posted by small_ruminant at 1:41 PM on November 26, 2007

    Soylent green makes for a tasty meat-up.
    posted by Mister_A at 1:58 PM on November 26, 2007

    Wait, not only do I have to go to a bar, I have to stop calling him "Math-owie," too? I don't know about this meetup thing.
    posted by Gucky at 3:52 PM on November 26, 2007

    As an enthusiastic drinker myself, I'd agree that bars are good for meetups, but I'd also add that meetups for people with children (as was discussed briefly at the bar/restaurant Tokyo meetup I attended) would be better held in the daytime, at a park, if the season is right. In fact, I'm hoping that'll happen here in Tokyo, cause it'd be fun to get some kidz together. (bugbread, I'm looking at you. And misozaki. And gomichild, with one on the way...)
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:06 PM on November 26, 2007

    I hope I can get him to come to my Winnipeg meetup!

    When's the Winnipeg meetup?
    posted by freem at 4:18 PM on November 26, 2007

    the upcoming NYC meetup is on a Saturday precisely because we've done the past few on Fridays.

    Oh, gee, I guess I better go then!
    posted by smackfu at 4:27 PM on November 26, 2007

    Exactly! No excuses! BWA HA HA!
    posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:51 PM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

    Don't underestimate a good monkey knife-fight.

    But yeah, pubs are best, bars are probably second best. I've organized a meetup that started out at a sit-down restaurant on a Friday night, and it was a bit odd at first, plus at least one person didn't show up, and I'd reserved a large table, so that was a bit awkward.

    After that, we moved on to a couple of dive bars and everyone had a much better time, since we weren't bolted down to chairs stuck talking strictly to the people next to us.

    I've never had a bad time a meetup, though. Even when they start slow, things tend to loosen up as the drinks flow and the night progresses. Hopping around a couple of different places helps a lot, ensuring everyone can feel comfortable at a place similar to places they know well. But I'm awfully laid back, and so long as the place isn't annoyingly overcrowded and/or loud, I'm usually going to have fun.

    I just wish more people would show up at the Dallas meetups. Or, you know, someone else would organize one.
    posted by Ufez Jones at 5:20 PM on November 26, 2007

    But yeah, pubs are best, bars are probably second best.

    Actually, a nice izakaya is really best!
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:23 PM on November 26, 2007

    meetups for people with children

    Yes, definitely! Perhaps a picnic or barbecue kind of thingy next spring/early summer?
    posted by misozaki at 11:58 PM on November 26, 2007

    wear pants.
    posted by allkindsoftime at 12:27 AM on November 27, 2007

    Yes, definitely! Perhaps a picnic or barbecue kind of thingy next spring/early summer?

    Okey dokey! You gonna post it to MeTa, or shall I?
    posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:09 AM on November 27, 2007

    Well, since the meetup threads stay open for six months now, I suppose we could post one now and let it ferment like natto...

    Not to derail the thread completely, I think that a setting where people are free to mingle would be ideal. But then, I guess even in a setting where people are seated, everybody can play musical chairs at regular intervals if need be, like we did at the place in Koenji last time.
    posted by misozaki at 3:29 AM on November 27, 2007

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