With the amount of Meetup members and Meetup groups growing rapidly, especially of late, it’s important to know how to best utilize these unique and specialized gatherings for career fulfillment - use these tips to maximize the value you get from attending and networking!
“What do you love?” asks Meetup.com as you view its homepage. Just below, the website encourages users to “Do more of it with Meetup.” Based on Meetup’s own About page, there are approximately 35.3 million members of the website that belong to any one of just over 300,000 groups across the globe. Are you a part of that 35.3 million? Perhaps you should consider it. We have written numerous times about the value of face-to-face networking in our blogs and it should come as no surprise that within the recruiting field, we here at Jobspring Partners consistently see that the most important hiring decisions are made only after a face-to-face meeting has happened.
Different from other events and event series, Meetup groups tend to be very connected to – often born from – the local ecosystem, providing a consistently relevant audience that also offers the opportunity to grow your personal network with people in your own industry.
To top it off, the Meetup community is rapidly growing! For these reasons, it’s important to keep your in-person networking skills as sharp as possible. Here are some tips to reap the maximum reward from these groups and events.
Before the Event
Know the group. How many people consider themselves members of said group? What are the key goals that the group looks to accomplish? Some groups exist to solve problems, some to facilitate networking opportunities, and still others to provide additional content sharing through panel discussions or demo opportunities. It’s important to identify which camp this group belongs to in order to provide necessary context and a framework of how the night may go. For instance, if the group doesn’t do events focused on product demos from local companies, it may not be the best event for pitching your brand-new startup idea. The audience of the group simply may not be who you're looking to get in front of.
Secondly, know the event. If you RSVP on the Meetup page and show up without any other knowledge of the agenda for the evening, you may end up incredibly turned-around once the event begins. Will there be a speaker session or panel discussion or is the event an extended networking period? Having this knowledge beforehand helps color your goals for the evening. If most of the evening is blocked-off for a panel discussion, it’s unlikely that there will be a large portion of time dedicated to networking. Logically, if your aim is to collect business cards, you will most likely experience a difficult time of it if there are only 15 minutes before and after the event to speak with other attendees.
Finally, know yourself. it’s important to set some tangible goals. Whether that means your goal is to leave with a set amount of business cards, shake a certain number of hands that evening, or leave with the email address of a manager that will be hiring for a role in which you’re interested, having preset goals is important for holding yourself accountable. If possible, set yourself three types of goals: a networking goal, a learning goal, and an interaction goal. This way, you are constantly working towards accomplishing something and feel incentivized to meet, learn, and connect.
During the Event
You’ve elevatored up to correct floor and you’re standing in line to be checked in. You see how many people have already arrived: so many new faces and so many members potentially to be added to your network. What topics do you plan to discuss? Consider bringing a few pre-prepared questions for the people with whom you will be interacting. There’s no shame in having three or four questions that you cycle through during your conversations – it’s much better to be prepared.
Now that the networking has begun, it’s easy to lose track of the time as you meet all sorts of interesting people and begun discussing a myriad of topics. It’s important to note that you should constantly be cognizant of the goals you set beforehand and how each conversation is moving you closer towards those goals. More likely than not, a lot of your goals can be boiled-down to something very generic like “learning”, and this is great! Learning should certainly be one of your primary goals at these events. Provided you can either learn something new or share some of your unique knowledge with the audience, you can chalk that conversation up as a win. But it’s important to have a back-up plan in case that isn’t happening.
For example, what if you feel trapped in a conversation as it begins to derail a bit from the topics you were hoping to discuss, and you no longer feel yourself gaining value? Have no fear about politely excusing yourself from a conversation, most people will understand if you feel the need to step away. The night is full of opportunity to spend time with other individuals, just make sure you are respectful to the conversation at hand as you leave. Similarly, if you find yourself wanting to enter an ongoing conversation, don't be afraid to jump in when the time feels right. Be ready to calmly introduce yourself if the conversation lulls a bit and take the initiative to add something to the discussion to keep up momentum.
After the Event
When the evening has wrapped up, you’ll have one more thing to do to make the most out of your Meetup experience: follow-up. You can certainly let this wait until the following morning, but hold yourself accountable to do any follow-up you deem important within 24 hours. If you don’t follow up soon enough, or worse, don’t follow up at all, you risk blending in with any one of the many people that someone else spoke to. To prevent being reduced to a Meetup amalgamation, keep your follow-up short and sweet, while also personalized; make sure to add a sentence that reminds the recipient of you or the conversation you shared. It’s also recommended you connect on platforms simply beyond e-mail. Luckily, social media platforms offer a variety of opportunities to friend, follow, or connect.
The conversation doesn’t just begin and end at the event; almost every Meetup group has both a homepage where members can post discussion points or an actual discussion board to ask questions, post about similar events on the horizon, or continue to connect. Make use of these tools because the attendees of any given event are only a small percentage of the group at large. By using the group’s webpage, you’re much more likely to get the attention of other members of the community, those who couldn’t attend, and those who simply aren’t quite as active.
The Community Is Waiting with Open Arms
Now that we’ve given you the tools to make the best use of your time at the next tech-focused Meetup you attend, the next step is on you. Create yourself a Meetup profile, circle a few potentially interesting events over the next few weeks and make time in your schedule to attend! If you need a bit of help finding the most-relevant local Meetup groups, maybe start with Tech in Motion. Although we may be biased, Jobspring Partners has worked to create an inclusive, generalist community that hosts frequent events that offer something for everyone.