Running/attending a regular meetup

Running a regular meetup is something anyone can do, and it takes relatively little effort to get started.

Why run/attend a regular meetup?

When you’re on the road, it can sometimes be difficult to make local friends. If you run or attend a meetup, it’s an excellent chance to mix locals and travelers, as well as attract users to the platform. There are benefits for everyone involved…

  • Hosts: You can find last-minute guests at a meetup, or you can bring your guests to a meetup to meet other travelers and they can make plans together. Meeting other hosts, you can swap stories or generate new ideas for how to host in your area

  • Travelers: You can find a host at a meetup, find other travelers to make plans with, or get tips and advice from locals attending the meetup

  • Locals: If you can travel or host, you can still get a chance to meet travelers or swap travel stories, itineraries, and plans

  • New people: No better way to get an idea of what hosting/staying with hosts would be like than meeting the people who do it! If someone’s not sure about hosting, they can get a feel for what their guests would be like… and if someone’s not sure about traveling and staying with hosts, they can see what the hosts might be like, too

Choosing the right venue

Think about what would make your attendees comfortable. A good venue has affordable (if not dirt cheap!) food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and a low noise level so that a smaller group can chat and get to know each other. Definitely make sure there’s no cover charge, and even better if it’s okay if some people just order water - a lot of travelers have no extra money to spend at all. For a beginning meetup, why not choose a place that is not very crowded or a time where business tends to be slow. Make sure you check with the owners/management beforehand by talking to them about what your meetup will be like and discussing together the best time to have it.

Being flexible about attendance

It’s totally normal and expected for you to be the only attendee for the first few weeks. Bring a friend or two to get things started, if need be. The important thing is that you’re there at the same time and place every week/two weeks/month, so that anyone from the community/traveling through knows when and where to find you. Some people may come and stay an hour or so, others may not show up until your meetup is technically over. Don’t worry about it! Bring something to do alone, or a game to play if you’re not sure what to talk about with just one or two other people. If you do your meetup regularly enough, you will see the numbers grow, and you’ll be planning less and less as other members step in to help. After you get a good group of locals and travelers coming every week, you can even try to negotiate some discounts with the management.

Recruiting local people

Once you get more local people to come to your regular meetup, try to convince them to take on a more active role. Maybe sometimes you’ll be late or miss a meetup, and that person can step in. Don’t exclude anyone from coming to your meetup! You never know when a local person who hasn’t heard of what you’re doing could be interested and become a member themselves. It doesn’t hurt to send messages out to others in your community to just get the meetup going at first, or to try and rope people in who might otherwise not be interested in coming. Hearing from someone who is actually attending/doing the meeting might be the push they need to join in.

Try some activities

I ran a meeting in Hiroshima every Wednesday for nine months. Our group never got bigger than 15-20 people, so we were able to do special activities for a smaller group, like gift swaps and pub crawls. One thing we did week in and week out was make nametags. Sounds cheesy, but it was a fun icebreaker that showcased everyone’s artistic skills. And at the end of the meeting, everyone took their nametags off and stuck them in the meetup log book, so we could always go back and see who had been at which meetup. I highly recommend doing something like this for a smaller, new meetup!

I hope these tips help you start a meetup in your area. If you have any other ideas, please add them to this thread!

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I will say this is more successful in some places than for others. I tried setting these up in Sitka, AK- but no one ever showed up. (We had a few people in town on the site, but they had no intent on meeting other hosts in town.) I did attend a meeting in Ft Collins though, and that was way more effective.

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It’d be good to collate methods people have tried (both successfully and unsuccessfully) to see what methods have worked in starting things up. How did you go about it?

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I think the trick is to find a town with hosts that have lots of travel experience. I was by a loooooong shot the most experienced guest among Sitka hosts. Almost everyone else just hosted and were never guests. In Ft. Collins, that group had more experience with being guests- and I think that made a big difference.

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I attended the last years the monthly Gent 30+ group meetings (Belgium) and that was/is a success.
The group consists of regular people showing up every few months or so and it has always some people who I never saw before, from time to time also travelers.
It is always organized at someones place with a limited number of attendees, bring drinks and snacks to share.

This local group will be the basis now to start building the local couchers(.org).

I like the idea of the nametags for a meetup log book :ok_hand:

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There was a weekly couchsurfing meetup running in Las Palmas (Canary Islands), that I enjoyed a lot. But it was also announced both on facebook and meetup as “weekly language and culture exchange, meet locals and travellers”. In fact, I couldn’t say on which platform it started, but it was evident it would have never gotten good attendance on couchsurfing alone, even at a time when there were already millions of members worldwide.Still it worked really well for couchsurfing hosts and travellers. I could imagine there’s a lot of places where it’s good to start on existing platforms.

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The best way to get started is to pick something you’ll do anyways and make it more formal. I used to show around my neighborhood on Sundays (I live in a touristic recomended area, I like to show people the not touristy stuff) and hang out grab a beer with travelers/locals/other non CS friends later. With another local friend we just picked up a fixed time and place for the sitting part, and that was the event. We had good attendance, 20 to 70 people, half locals, half travelers… I think the most important part to make it work is get the locals involved, because travelers come and go, locals are the ones that keep it alive. In here locals hang out togheter and lots of us have become good friends (yeah, we are a community :)), so it will be easy to resume once lock down is over, even if there’s not many travelers.

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Agree 100% x 100.

There will always be people who want to socialize, and some who never do. I didn’t worry about the second group, and put all the focus on the local regulars (in addition to travelers). The local regulars also stepped up and hosted the event if I could not (i.e., maintained the continuity).

In my community, there were two types of activities (pre-pandemic).

  1. Recurring. I felt the most important thing was to try and spot newcomers immediately and welcome them personally. As I learned more about them, I would introduce them to people with whom I thought they would have something in common. That sort of connection-making usually meant people stayed. Over time, I saw other locals modeling that same behavior.

  2. Special. In my city, there are tons of events. We would host meetups so that people could get together to join the event. We always set a meeting place and went early, stating we would be there for the first hour so people could find us. These worked out great, and again, other local hosts began doing the same thing.

I felt it was very important to step back and let others take the lead. The more personally invested they got, the more meetups they hosted.

This led to locals opening their homes for potluck dinners, parties, etc.

I also felt it was very, very helpful to recognize locals who stepped up and hosted meetups. Whether we admit it or not, many humans like to “belong” and feel “valued” (what motivational speaker Tony Robbins calls the need to feel significant).

Praise early and often.

Agree. In my city, it happened in reverse. We started with special events, then later added a regular event. The regular event grew to become very successful precisely because people felt they could count on it. The “rountineness” of it was an asset.

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Now I just used Hangouts and man generally like to meet me. No events happening now.

I met ambassador, he said he is not keen in making events but i could do so and he will support me. Weekly meetings took place before but they already stopped before corona. I try to start them again. But actually not much travellers now in town.
And i would be interested to start language exchanges in my town. Thinking to start in octubre.
Also some outdoor sports events maybe- if covid rules change (Instead of the weekly meetup).

I organiced events (but not more than 10 people).
And we Hosts used to “share” surfers- so i was friends with other hosts from town and we made party or cooking together but did not create puplic event for this (introvert). We also never (after getting to know each other) communicated trough cs bc of their “privacyterms”.

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Great to read all your experiences of organising events :smiley: Used to organise a Monthly meeting as well in my city. So I’m pretty aware of which functions are missing now but as I’m designing some wireframes for the events for Couchers I’m curious from you all to hear what you’re missing in way of functionality in the current event function of CS? For sure I’m missing some :wink:

So far included which is not standard on CS (and of course still to discuss):

  • tags
  • possible to directly add a co-host/organiser
  • possible to invite contacts and search them by name, city or a list you can create
  • possible to select directly all contacts by name, city or list
  • possible to create events in the app

@Emily wondering if it would be good to include your great tips as a handbook or so?

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