What’s your best tip for hosting a successful in-person meetup for other entrepreneurs in your community?
The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.
1. Set the Tone
I host a monthly event for entrepreneurs and young professionals; I’ve learned that you have to set the tone, starting with the very first event. I wanted to create a non-intimidating environment where people could come with social and/or professional aims. To accomplish that, I packed the room full of people who could help me create that environment on the first night. Then, I watched it repeat.
– Darrah Brustein, Finance Whiz Kids | Equitable Payments
2. Outline Goals Beforehand
Clearly outline the goals of the meeting beforehand, as meet-and-greets can be a waste of time if you’re not organized. Most entrepreneurs want to meet in person for specific, detailed reasons, so tell your meeting partner what you want to get out of the meeting beforehand to make it more successful.
– Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance
3. Create Solutions
Let’s get down to business. The best entrepreneurial meetups I have attended create solutions to the problems we all face through the power of crowdsourcing. Have everyone write down their single most pressing issue, and have everyone offer a solution. Attendees leave the event feeling inspired to face the challenges they came with — and altruistic for having solved the problems of others.
– Benjamin Leis, Sweat EquiTees
4. Surround the Meetup With a Group Activity
At Levo League, we host in-person meetups for young professionals living around the world through LocalLEVO. What has made these meetups so successful is aligning the meetup with a group activity. Our NetWORKOUTs are an excellent way for young professional women to network while enjoying a complimentary workout.
– Caroline Ghosn, The Levo League
5. Keep It Small
The real way to build lasting relationships with other entrepreneurs is after you’ve compared pleasantries and quick words about your companies. It’s when stuff gets real — and in my opinion, stuff rarely gets real unless there’s a small number of people and that’s the explicit focus.
– Derek Flanzraich, Greatist
6. Answer Questions Early
As an attendee, it can be frustrating not to know the time, date and place with enough time to make plans. Be sure to cover all the essential details so more people can attend. Answering non-obvious questions, like public transit stops, parking costs or whether a venue has vegan options, can make your life easier with fewer email replies to send.
– Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems
7. Remember: Time Is of the Essence
Every entrepreneur is short on one thing: time. We want to socialize and network with fellow entrepreneurs, but we don’t want it to be a waste of time. Therefore, when organizing a meetup, schedule it in a central place, don’t plan for long-winded speakers and encourage people to come and go as they please. Entrepreneurship is about being flexible. Meetups should fit this mentality as well!
– Alex Lorton, Cater2.me
8. Just Do It
No matter where you live, you can be sure that there are a lot of people interested in the same things you are. However, while a lot of those people would like to be a part of a meetup, they will never go out and start it. Be the leader. Start the group, and the rest will follow.
– James Simpson, GoldFire Studios
9. Think Outside the Box
One of my colleagues organized a “Boston UX/Tech Hockey Scrimmage.” It was one of the most fun meetups I can remember, and it was a lot less awkward than standing around and having to make conversation. Instead, we formed real bonds and had a lot of fun.
– Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply
10. Make It Inspiring
Always have a defined reason for going — this could be a notable person attending or speaking. As the meetup organizer, it’s your job to ensure people leave the meetup inspired. People may not remember exactly what was said, but they will always remember how it made them feel.
– Dan Martell, Clarity