Some advice on running online meetups

IBM Developer SF hosted over 100 online meetups in the past two years and I also shared how to scale Developer Relations with online meetups. In this blog post I want to share what works for us, how we run the online meetups, what we do before, during and after the event. Pick what you believe will work for you.

Online meetup on Crowdcast

Before the online meetup

This is what we do or try to do before an online meetup.

  • Publish the online meetup 3-4 weeks before the event (like a regular in-person meetup)
  • Promote the event via regular channels such as Twitter, LinkedIn (like a regular in-person event)
    • If hosting an event with a partner, ask them to promote the online meetup to their community
  • Publish on Meetup, Eventbrite or any other platform you usually publish events on
    • A note about Meetup: they seem not to like when people post to many online events but I don’t know their official policy on that
  • Make it clear where to register for the online event
  • If the event is with a remote employee or external partner, schedule 15 minutes dry-run a few days before to make sure the software you are using works for them and they can share their screen

During the online meetup

This is what we do or try to do during an online meetup.

  • Run an event with two people. One person will be the host and another the presenter. It’s not always easy for the presenter to answer questions in the chat. The host can help with that. The host will also help with any logistic questions (such as if someone not able to hear)
  • Practice but don’t make it too formal. It’s OK if you make a mistake or something doesn’t work. Mistakes make you a human
  • Online meetups are of course different from in-person events but you can still make them feel like a community event. For example, ask people to tell you where they are from in chat
  • It’s OK if you don’t have answers to all the questions – again, you are a real human. But do get back to users with those questions. For example, you can publish a blog post with all the questions from an event
  • If running a hands-on workshop, make sure the steps to build the example are super clear and easy-to-follow — think building a “Hello World”-like project
  • When a link or a resource is shown during the event, share the links in chat so that viewers can easily copy or click on it
    • Keep in mind it’s usually more challenging to help someone individually in an online meetup
  • Share all the links or resources shown during the meetup at end and post them in chat again
  • Share any upcoming online events. Encourage the attendees to join your Meetup (or follow on Crowdcast) to be notified of any upcoming events.

After the online meetup

This is what we do or try to do after an online meetup.

  • Share the link to a recording on Meetup or any other place where you published the event if possible
  • Upload the video to YouTube. This will help you build your YouTube channel content. YouTube is highly searchable web site
  • Publish a blog post with the online meetup recording embedded. This is part of content creates content approach.
  • Continue sharing the event recording on social media (for example once a month). A high-quality online meetup is a great evergreen content

General

Some general guidelines.

  • If you plan to run the online meetup on regular basis, try to keep a consistent schedule. For example, we run our online meetups every Wednesdays, 9:30am Pacific Time
  • Do share your contact information and show how viewers can reach you after the event. Our job is to help developers be successful and that includes developers reaching out to us with questions via various channels (email, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc)

Tooling

Picking a good platform for online events is of course important. There are many great tools to host online meetups (or webinars) out there. We have been using Crowdcast. I will share below why we like it.

  • Runs in the browser, there is nothing to download or install (Chrome browser recommended)
  • Customizable registration form. We only ask for the absolute minimum information – name and email – that’s it
  • A built-in chat (right side). Attendees can start asking questions even before the event started
  • A Call to Action button (bottom center green button)
  • A separate window to ask questions (Ask a Question). Also, any chat message can be moved to Ask a Question window
  • An option to create a poll
  • Useful built-in analytics (the map above is from event analytics)
  • This is probably the biggest benefit – any event is automatically recorded and the recording is available at the same URL right after the event ends. You don’t need to press record (which you will probably forget) or download/upload the video to make it available
  • Option to simultaneously stream to Facebook, YouTube or a custom source

I hope this blog post helps you run your own online meetups. I’d love to hear what works for you and please share anything that works for you and not listed here.

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