I know this title sounds catchy. But I did start a WordPress meetup group knowing 0 people in the town. Here is what came out of it.
My prerequisites were the following:
- I knew no one in a town
Well, actually, that was exactly the reason for me to start it. Because of the war in Ukraine, I spent quite some time in Richmond, Virginia, at my boyfriend’s. But I didn’t know a single person there outside of his circle, and not a single WP person of course. So I thought it would be nice to meet with other WordPressers there. I checked for the local WP meetup group, and there was not one in Richmond (all WP meetups around the world are here). I thought, well, it can’t be that in this 200K+ city no one is doing WP. Perhaps, I can start one and we can get connected?
- I never started a meetup group before
I have been running WP Kyiv for the past 5 years, was a lead for WordCamp Kyiv in 2019, and was in the organizing team for WordCamp Europe starting from 2019, but I have never started a meetup group myself, I only joined existing ones before, and didn’t have much knowledge about how to start from scratch.
- I didn’t have a place for a meetup
In Kyiv I know other IT people, startup owners, coworking spaces owners, bar owners and so on and so forth. Here I knew no one like that.
- I didn’t have anyone to speak at the meetup
Usually, people would come to meetup to learn something, right? 🙂 To hear a talk they are interested in. As I knew no one, I didn’t have anyone to give a talk. I gave a few talks in the past myself, but I didn’t see it as an option as I am an organizer in this case, and would love someone else to speak at the event organized by me. Preferably, someone local.
So this left me with the questions — who would come, where would we hold the event, and who would speak?
Here is what I did:
- I started by reading Meetup Organizer Handbook. I learned a lot of things there – for me the ideas for the activities at the meetup were especially useful.
- Then I filled out the application to start a new official WordPress meetup group. When you start
an official WordPress meetup group there is a page created for your group on meetup.com under the main WordPress account, and all the events organized by your meetup group will appear in WordPress Dashboard for people that are in the area nearby.
- I knew that the preference was that you start WordPress meetup in your own city, so I described the situation as is (that I am not local but was spending quite some time in the city recently), hoping I’ll be given a chance to start the meetup nevertheless.
- And I was! One of the WordPress Mentors got back to me soon saying that I was approved to organize a meetup in Richmond, and that I should book a call with the Mentor to get us started.
- In a few days, I had a video call with my Mentor — Isotta Peira, whom I had not had a chance to meet before, but who name I had known for a long time. Though there’s a lot of info available to read on make.wordpress.org, it was truly valuable for me to talk with Isotta in person, ask her questions, and get some advice from her.
- I added info to the meetup page, just telling my story and why I started this group.
- I understood that it wouldn’t be super easy to start a group without knowing anyone, but I had a plan 🙂 I scheduled the first three meetups in Hangout format — just to meet with people and get acquainted. And I hoped that maybe, after these 3 hangouts, there will be a person who would like to make a presentation at the 4th one, and there will be people willing to listen to it and we’ll have our first “real” meetup 🙂
- I scheduled 3 meetups in a row — so that people know that this is not a one-time thing, but a recurring event, and also can plan ahead to attend.
- I scheduled all 3 in the same place, for consistency.
- For the venue I googled a local pizza and beer place with good reviews, and went there for dinner. Both pizza and beer were great, as well as the staff. So I booked a table that could fit up to 9 people for the next Tuesday (I’m an optimist, yes). But worst-case scenario if no one came to the meetup at least I would have nice beer and pizza in a nice place again.
- I also reached out to WordPress DC group, which has more than 4,000 members, and the organizers were very kind to include an announcement about our newly created Richmond meetup group in their email — so now people from that group who live close to Richmond could have got to know about this as well.
What came out of it:
First Meetup — hangout:
It was me, my boyfriend, another WordPresser, Jamie, and her husband. So there are 4 people in the picture, but technically it was 1 real WordPress person who joined this meetup except for me 🙂
Second Meetup — hangout:
It was me, Jamie, and 3 more WordPressers this time!
Third Meetup — hangout:
It was 4 WordPressers this time! And as we all had all gotten to know each other by that time, and discovered how different are backgrounds are, and how much we can learn from each other, we decided it would be cool if we take turns presenting from now on!
Fourth Meetup — a “real” one, with presentation and slides!
We had this meetup scheduled at Virginia Commonwealth University — a real class, with a projector and such.
Jamie Hansen who was the very first person to join this group prepared a presentation, based on her daily work, to share things that she knows well — but for others might have been fairly new.
I came in earlier to set up my laptop as I was going to make a short intro with slides about the WordPress community and meetups.
It’s 5:45 PM — no one is there. 6 PM — and no one is there. 6:10 PM — not even Jamie.
I was a bit worried, yes.
And then it started all of a sudden — people started to come in (turns out it was not easy to navigate in university to find the auditorium).
The room was becoming crowded, and the very last person who came in took the last free chair — it was 16 of us!
We didn’t have a live stream, but I managed to record Jamie’s presentation so that we could share a link with the community later. I was so excited, that I forgot to take a picture of us though 🙂
The current state of this meetup group:
After that, Jamie and Sam stepped in to organize further events and are taking very good care of this meetup. At the time of writing WordPress RVA meetup group has 67 active members, and I receive emails saying a new member has joined almost every day — makes me very happy 🙂
Started on February 16, 2023, this group has already had 6 meetups and one is upcoming in 2 weeks. So ff you happen to live in Richmond — join, and if you know someone from that area — share the link with them.
Overall, I hope this post will encourage other people to start a WordPress meetup group too — whether you know other WordPressers in the town or not, whether you have a venue and a speaker to give a presentation.
And if you do — write a story about it 🙂