How to organise a WooCommerce meetup

We all love WooCommerce, right? Maybe your gig is developing plugins, designing websites, or setting up eCommerce stores. Whatever it is, organising a WooCommerce meetup is a great way to contribute to the community. You’ll also meet like-minded internet people, and connect with local entrepreneurs!

Prospress has three team members organising meetups across three different cities in three different countries (San Francisco USA, Vancouver Canada, and London UK), and a fourth might start in Brisbane Australia soon. It seemed like a good time to write up some of the basic wisdom we’ve accumulated.

We hope this post will be useful for Matt in setting up the Brisbane meetup. We also hope it is useful to anyone else who wants to organise a WooCommerce meetup in their own area. If other experienced meetup organisers out there have additional tips, please let us know in the comments section.

The first steps

The very first thing you should do is read the guide from WooThemes on how to start an official WooCommerce meetup. Next, you should contact Louise, Michael and the Woo team responsible for meetups to request permission to organise an official meetup. You can contact them by completing the contact form on the WooCommerce meetup page. If it’s all approved, Louise will set you up with a Meetup account (like this one). This is where you’ll schedule your meetups and communicate with your members .

The three basic ingredients

There are three basic ingredients you will need for a successful meetup. There are also strategies for how to acquire those ingredients. The three components you will require are:

  1. attendees,
  2. speakers,
  3. and a venue.

It seems pretty straightforward, right? Let’s look at how you get each of these factors into place.

1. Attendees

Once you have your meetup.com account set up, you can be proactive. Get the ball rolling by contacting the organisers of your local WordPress meetup! Ask them to either tweet or message their members (or both) to raise awareness of your meetup.

It’s also a good idea to check with the WordPress meetup regarding their meeting schedule. You don’t want to step on toes/create schedule conflict by organising the WooCommerce meetup on the same week. We encourage you to reach out to the organisers of the meetup to make sure it’s clear to them that your meetup will focus specifically on eCommerce. A WooCommerce meetup is there to complement the hard work the WordPress meetup is doing, not to replace it.

If there is an existing WordPress meetup in your town, and if you can establish a friendly rapport with the organisers (if you don’t already have one), they can often help with advice on good venues, catering, and they might even suggest some of their members as potential speakers.

There are other great opportunities that can come from cooperating with the WordPress meetup. For example, you can co-host the first meetup with your local WordPress meetup, like we did with the first WooCommerce San Francisco meetup. This will help you get some traction with attendance at your first meetup and put the group in front of existing WordPress users.

2. Speakers

Finding speakers and getting a decent roster of speakers organised can be a lot harder than finding the attendees (but in time, your speakers will come from your attendees). As mentioned above, your local WordPress meetup might be able to suggest potential speakers. You can also reach out to your own network through Twitter or through work contacts. We had some good success by scheduling a “meet and greet” for the first meetup, and then messaging all the members to see if anyone would volunteer to speak at subsequent sessions.

You can also try asking in the meetup organisers’ Slack channel (ask Louise to add you), as someone might know someone in your hometown. If you have a good relationship with the WordPress organiser, you could also ask them to tweet on your behalf.

Speakers will generally bring their own topics. But, if you aren’t having any luck finding volunteer speakers, you can try sending out a call for a “Show and Tell” style meetup. This allows several people have 10 or 15 minutes each to showcase something they are working on or a problem they have encountered (like this WordPress meetup in Vancouver). You could also look at previous meetups in other cities, check out the topics they have covered, and then send out a request for speakers to address that specific topic.

3. Venue

The decision on whether to seek out a permanent venue or change locations is partly up to you and partly down to whether you can find a good venue. I personally like having the meetups at the same location. I feel it really helps people to plan their travel etc if the meeting is at the same place, at the same time, on the same day.  On the other hand, one of the co-organisers of the San Francisco meetup, John Kent, loves to experiment with different venues. At least in a town like San Francisco, it helps attendees discover and explore new spaces around the city.

The Vancouver meetup is lucky to have the event venue sponsored by the Network Hub, which is a very cool coworking space downtown. I found out about this place through talking to the local WordPress meetup organiser. I then approached the Network Hub about becoming a venue sponsor and am really grateful for their support.

The London meetup moves around from place to place, according to their sponsors for that particular meetup. This can be a negative as the venues differ greatly in quality and facilities. A recent meetup was in the basement of a church, and previous meetups have been held in a pub, at WeWork SoHo, and at the RealEx offices. Another problem is that London is a huge city and the logistics of simply getting to a different venue each time can be complicated.

The San Francisco meetup is often held at the WeWork SoMa office (where Brent has a desk). If you belong to a coworking space you can probably either book the meeting room cheaply or you could ask if they will be venue sponsors. Such an arrangement can benefit the venue in that people become aware of their facilities and they attract more clients to their space. It definitely helps you in that you have a permanent home for your meetups. Even if you don’t belong to a coworking space, it doesn’t hurt to ask around and try to find one that will become a venue sponsor.

Otherwise, universities will often allow you to use their space, particularly if someone from your group is a student or alumni. You could also partner with a student organisation (and this provides networking benefits for the students). For example, one of the WordPress London meetups is always held at the same university and usually in the same room. But you can always hold the meetup in a pub or cafe, depending on how many people you have, and whether your speakers require a projector for their slides!

Other considerations

In addition to the three main elements of a meetup, there are several other considerations such as sponsors, social media/promotion, co-organisers, and, of course SWAG!

Sponsors

Sponsors can help with costs such as refreshments and the cost of venue space, or they might allow you to hold the meetup in their boardroom. Sponsors will be conscious of the needs of their demographic and therefore might genuinely welcome your request for involvement. Think about some of the bigger third party plugin developers, or maybe you can convince your own workplace to sponsor drinks and snacks.

Prospress would love to sponsor your meetup! Get in touch to ask us about it.

Organising team

It can be difficult to gather a team of co-organisers when you don’t know anyone in a new city (like me), and when you work remotely so don’t have co-workers you can gently encourage into helping (like me). However, it’s important to find co-organisers in case you want to take holidays, if you get sick, or can’t make a meetup. Just ask your meetup group, and no doubt, someone will volunteer.

WooThemes

If you talk to WooThemes (specifically, Louise), they can help you by adding you to the WooCommerce Organisers’ Slack channel where you can discuss all things meetup related. WooThemes can also send you some swag to give out for speakers, e.g. Woo t-shirts and stickers.

Louise (or WooPeeps) might be able to put you in contact with sponsors. They will know the bigger players in the ecosystem (like payment gateways, shipping/logistics companies, agencies). They might also be able to leverage existing sponsor relationships.

Social media

There are several social media approaches you can take to promote your meetup. I suggest creating a hashtag along the lines of #woocommyvr or #woocommldn. Some meetups have their own dedicated Twitter handle. This would be very helpful when multiple organisers are managing the account.

WooThemes and Prospress will also help with retweets and reshares on Twitter and Facebook to help you get the word out about your meetup. Other meetup organisers will often retweet each other’s meetups to raise awareness.

Food & Drinks

The budget for refreshments can vary based on location and size of meetup. From experience, it’s important to be sensitive to the dietary needs or preferences of your demographic. At the first Vancouver meetup, I organised only two vegetarian pizzas and the rest were meat. I also made the mistake of buying only one bottle of water and the rest were sugary pop/soda/soft drink.

I didn’t take into account that a lot of Vancouverites are vegan/vegetarian. So, we were left with a lot of meaty pizza and bottles of pop. At the next meetup, I organised vegan, raw catering which was very successful. We drank filtered water supplied by the meetup venue. It cost about $100 Canadian and we had around 30 people in attendance.

A recent London meetup spent about 126 pounds on food and drink for 18 people. The San Francisco meetup usually budgets $100 for pizza and drinks for 10-20 people.

Attendance

Before the first meetup, I was advised that I could expect that about a third of those who RSVP to actually turn up. Therefore, when planning venue capacity and catering, you can bet that half of your RSVPs will be no-shows. Of course, there will possibly come a day when EVERYONE shows up and you are caught off-guard! But, we are yet to see that day.

Conclusion

shia

Do it! Lean on the community for help to get started, and in the process you will help build your local community. It might take a little bit of work at the start, but it will be well worth it. If you’d like advice or help feel free to message me on Twitter @ali_terkelsen, or leave a comment below.

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