Starting a Meetup

Write the Docs Meetups provide a great way to connect and continue the conversations sparked by our conferences, slack channel and forum . If you don’t have a Write the Docs Meetup nearby, we can help you get one started. With a little help, you can make it happen with a Meetup in your area!

Start by watching this video:

Write the Docs Worldview

Yes, Write the Docs has a worldview. It’s inclusive and expansive. We welcome everyone who is interested in creating great documentation that helps people develop, use, and maintain products and services. Our community includes technical writers, developers of all flavors, QA, product managers, support engineers, designers, librarians, scientists, community managers, and more.

For more information about the Write the Docs worldview, see Eric Holscher’s Introduction to the conference and community from Write the Docs NA 2016:

Note

For the tl:dr, start watching at the 1:30 mark.

Now for some details:

Launch your Group

You can start a Write the Docs Meetup by using the Meetup.com service. You can use the website or the mobile app to create events, contact Meetup members, promote your sponsors, and more. If you need help with Meetup fees, contact us. We may be able to help.

Create a Meetup Page:

Go to the Meetup website and follow the instructions.

Tips:

  • Topics: We want to include everyone interested in software documentation. Include topics that help publicize your meetups to the developers and engineers in your area, such as Python, JavaScript, APIs, Perl, Ruby, UX, User Experience, as well as standard topics associated with technical writing.
  • Name: Our Meetup names follow a naming convention: such as “Write the Docs”, for example, “Write the Docs PDX”.
  • Members’ name: Our standard name for members is “Documentarian”.
  • Code of Conduct: Do include a code of conduct. For options, see the standard Write the Docs’ Code of Conduct or the abbreviated version used by Write the Docs PDX

After you’ve started your Meetup, send us a note or send us a message via Slack, so we can add your Meetup information to the Meetups list.

Find a Place to Meet

Ideally, you can start by setting up a Meetup at your corporate facility. If your own workplace isn’t a good option for a meetup location, ask other local documentarians or community managers for ideas. Where are other meetups held? Conferences? Do you know someone who works for a likely sponsor or whose company might be willing to host your meetup?

Ideally, you already know a sponsoring manager in a target company. It’s easier if you know a manager responsible for community relations.

Alternatively, the electronic version of cold-calling can help you find a location. Try sending out an email like the example provided in the following template:

Hello,

I am the organizer of Write the Docs {{ city name }} meetup {{ link to meetup page }}. Write the Docs
{{ writethedocs.org }} is a global community of people interested in excellent documentation.

We'd like your help! If you're interested in improving your documentation, help us. We'll provide a resource with different experiences, and potentially
writers who can help with your documentation.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Regards,
{{ name }}

If your first attempts don’t work, contact other tech companies in your town. Post messages on job boards, tech conference websites, or on other tech Meetup channels. If you attend a tech conference, visit sponsor booths to see whether they are interested in sponsoring your meetup.

Alternative Meetup Locations

Don’t limit your search to corporate locations. Several Write the Docs Meetups have successfully met in cafes, libraries, and restaurants. Some businesses might want to help in exchange for the revenue generated by members during your events.

Sometimes, alternative locations are better for smaller groups. For example, one of our groups has a regular coffee klatch.

Find attendees and speakers

Attendees:

After you publish your meetup page, promote it! Here’s a few suggestions to get started:

  • Use your network: ask colleagues, friends, and contacts to promote the meetup.
  • Attend other meetups. Tell them about Write the Docs.
  • Add your meetup to local tech event calendars.
  • Use social media. Several Write the Docs meetups publicize through Twitter (example).
  • Help your fellow Meetup leaders. Retweet their announcements.
  • Announce your meetup on Write the Docs Slack.

Speakers:

  • Look for previous and future speakers at Write the Docs conferences .
  • Scan other conferences local speakers.
  • Review other meetups and conferences for speakers of interest, in areas such as APIs, Agile, software languages, and more.
  • Ask people at your meetups to do a talk.
  • Invite different speakers to each Meetup. Repeat speakers are OK if it’s been over a year.
  • Invite speakers from different backgrounds and don’t limit talks to writing.
  • For example, you might want to invite someone who codes or leads a community in Python, Javascript, or Ruby, and ask them to share a project or approach to documentation specific to their domain. Or, invite an architect, editor, designer, user experience professional, or support representative to talk about their approach to documentation projects and problems.

Try different formats. Alternatives:

If you can’t find a local speaker, find a video of a talk from a previous Write the Docs conference <http://www.writethedocs.org/conf/>. Ask the speaker(s) if they’re willing to field questions. Share the video with the group during the meetup. Set up questions and answers with the speaker during the Meetup. For one successful example, see the following Meetup: So you need to document an API

Starting the Meetup:

Make sure every attendee feels welcome. Spend a bit of time with everyone. Help attendees interact and network.

Joint meetup

Write the Docs shares interests with other meetups, such as

  • APIs
  • Agile
  • Programming languages
  • UI
  • Content Strategy
  • QA

You can set up topics of interest to multiple meetups.

Meetup Logistics

Event Page:

Include a description of your topic, a speaker bio (if available), a schedule, and details about your meeting location.

Venue:

Ideal location: an office with easy access to your community via car or public transportation.

If your location includes security, tell your members what they need to do to access the facility.

Make sure your location includes:

  • Wireless Internet Access: announce the network name and password at the start of the meetup.
  • Display equipment such as HDMI access to a monitor, or a projector.
  • Food and/or beverages: if possible, include vegan/vegetarian options, as well as non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Access for anyone who is disabled.

Meetup Day Checklist:

  • Arrive early.
  • Provide directions to your Meetup.
  • Greet everyone and make them feel welcome.
  • Help your speakers get set up. Put them at ease.
  • Do a head-count at to help you know how many people to expect at future Meetups.
  • Monitor the comments on your Meetup page.
  • Live tweet your Meetup.

Troubleshooting

Meetups don’t always go according to plan. The following list summarizes some of the problems that you might encounter with potential solutions:

What happens when your speaker cancels

When a speaker cancels, think of it as an opportunity! While it’s not convenient, it’s your chance to get others to participate. Here’s one approach:

Go around the “table”. Ask each attendee to:

  1. Introduce themselves
  2. Cite one major problem they have. Make notes.
  3. After the introductions are complete, ask people to comment on each problem.

After Your Meetup

  • Send a thank you note to your speakers. Ask them to post their slides.
  • Send a thank you note to your host.
  • Post pictures on your meetup page. Be sure to get permission.
  • Use Twitter to thank your attendees, speakers and sponsor.