In September 2016, I moved to Pontevedra, a beautiful city in northwestern Spain. I hardly knew anyone there (literally two people), and in my thirties, I wasn't quite sure how to go about meeting people in a new place.
Fast forward to 2022, and the third WordCamp Pontevedra has just ended, an event with 275 people organized by 14 totally varied true friends who I met through one of the most magical places there can be: local WordPress meetups.
We can talk later about organizing events for people who have never organized anything, but today I want to instead focus on the details of meetups.
Have you ever considered going to one? Have you gone, but nothing happened other than attending a talk? Are there no events near you, or are the existing groups totally dormant? We have solutions for everything.
The official WordPress manual definition says that Meetups are locally-organized groups that meet for events regularly (commonly once a month) and power year-round WordPress communities. These events are intended to be relaxed, open to all, and can take many formats (...) Anything that brings together two or more people to share their WordPress experiences counts.
Sounds good? Let's see how you can be part of one of these groups and get the most out of it.
1. If there are meetings, attend... and say hello!
I know it's not easy. Some people are very talkative and connect easily with anyone around them. And then many other shy people spend more time thinking something like, "At what point did I think it was a good idea to come here," rather than enjoying the moment.
I was one of the latter, but over time I learned that WordPress meetups are another world. They’re not marketing events where they try to sell you a product. They’re not networking events where in the end, "wins" are counted as the one who has handed out the most business cards. They're not places where only developer-speak is spoken, and you're not going to learn anything.
On the contrary, they’re a safe place where everyone is welcome, regardless of their relationship with WordPress: user, developer, implementer, or who knows nothing at all... it's never too late to learn something.
The good thing is that everyone has some relationship with the web world, and it's very easy to break the ice by asking: what do you do with WordPress? I'm sure you'll get an answer.
You'll also find that meetup organizers are the best connectors of people, go up to them and say hello, and they'll be thrilled. Oh, and two important things:
If you mark on meetup.com that you will attend... do it! And if you change your mind or any problem arises, change your RSVP status to 'No,' as there are events that reserve space or even some food and drinks for afterward according to the number of people registered.
And secondly, even if the talk doesn't interest you,go anyway. You’ll absolutely learn something, even if it is only the speaker's way of giving the speech. And once the talk is over, there are still conversations with the rest of the members... which is usually the most exciting thing!
2. Have you ever thought about giving a talk?
You may think you have nothing to say. But if you learned something today, you can explain it to someone in the same situation as you were yesterday. And that's enough to keep you chatting for a while.
If you've ever thought about giving a talk, WordPress meetups are the best place to start. A small audience, many familiar faces, and a relaxed atmosphere in which you can jump in without fear. Do you think your mind will go blank? That they're going to ask you things you don't know the answer to? No problem, everything will stay in the group, and you'll gain experience for future bigger events.
I still remember the time I gave a talk about plugins I liked to use, and they asked me two questions at the end... and I didn't have an answer for either of them! We all laughed, and the attendees came up with solutions and proposals; it was really educational and taught me how to get out of trouble.
Besides, the feedback you’ll receive from the attendees will be invaluable, so you can add content and clarify what was not fully understood or didn't go as expected during the live event. Maybe that small talk at a meetup will be tomorrow a great talk at a WordCamp.
They’re a great place to meet friends and coworkers – Photo (CC-BY-SA 2.0) from José Gadea
3. Sponsor your local meetup
OK, this may not be affordable for everyone, but maybe it is for you! Perhaps you have a small company (or you work for a big one) that can provide a small amount of money each month to buy a drink or a snack for the meetup attendees. Or maybe you have a space to host the meetings, a large office with chairs or a meeting room where the talk could be held for free. Or you can lend equipment to record the talks so that everyone can watch them later online.
Or whatever you can think of.
In the end, meetups have few expenses (many have none!) but any help is always welcome, and finding out where to hold the meetup and who gives the next talk are the two biggest challenges organizers face.
Get in touch with the organizers and let them know you'd like to lend a hand; they'll be happy to explore possibilities for a win-win situation.
4. Help revive your local meetup
Was there a local meetup in your town/city that hasn't held a gathering since March 2020 or earlier? It's not uncommon. The pandemic brought a two-year hiatus in which many things have changed: organizers have moved cities, families have grown up, people have changed their work sector, meeting places have closed, and attendees' have forgotten about meetups entirely...
Luckily, from the WordPress.org global community team, we are carrying out a project to reactivate meetups worldwide. We contact the organizers to help them get back on track, try to find new co-organizers, help them with location scouting, and do everything in our power.
If you have read this far and everything sounds great (more or less), but in your head, you can only think, "Juan, this is all OK, but in my city, there is no meetup group, and there is none for dozens of miles around"... then it's time to take action.
No, don't run away!
As I told you at the beginning of the article, I did it six years ago in Pontevedra, Galicia, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I had never organized anything before, I wouldn't say I liked public speaking, and I didn't think anyone would come..but everything went well.
How to take the first steps to organize your own official WordPress meetup? In the organizer's handbook, you have all the information you may need and the form you need to fill in to get started with the topic. And, of course, you can ask me or any other member of the WordPress community team to answer any questions or guide you along the way.
Are you ready to change your life at the next meetup? Go ahead!
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