Insider advice about starting a meetup

PRODDUCT has been in some awesome locations with cool speakers. How did you get PRODDUCT going? Any cool hacks and non-obvious advice?

Darius Salehipour's avatar image.

For the first event, we simply reached out to the people closest to us who happened to be into startups/development/design.

Zain (the guy I started it with) and I had connections at two accelerators (500 Startups and Boost VC) because I've gone through both, and Startup House on Howard Street in SF (because we lived there at the same time). Startup House is filled with tons of energetic, smart, tech people who are all doing their own projects - so it was the perfect audience for PRODDUCT, a group for product focused startup founders/enthusiasts. The location for the first event at RedFin was a connection through Zain who is an avid conference attendee and networker. So we had a decent (40 person) audience and a beautiful space to throw the first event... perfect to kick PRODDUCT off.

We planned quite a bit what we'd do during the event. We stressed the fact that people need to learn something and talk with cool people if they are going to be taking time out of their day to come to our event. So we gave the event a focus, not just product but product + product/market fit; and we made sure to invite people who are _actually_ running startups, and people who are maybe just about to start something. A good ratio of men to women is probably a "non-obvious" tip for anyone putting together an event for tech people. It creates a different energy in the room, a good one - it's noticeable.

Non-obvious advice:• If there's food, eat first. People will sit comfortably for a long time after eating - ready to listen to almost anything. • Have a panel, not just one speaker. Reason: some people don't jive with other people; if they don't like the one and only speaker, the experience sucks for them. Also, it's easier to avoid awkward pauses with more than one speaker on the panel as another can chime in, or you can pass it to the other person if one doesn't have a solid response.• Get a good ratio of men and women. As I mentioned above, it creates a good energy, it's no longer an "all girls/guys club."

We knew to keep it later in the day as everyone who'd want to come is hard at work during the day, even late into the night. Also the location needs to be close to the majority of people who'd be attending (sounds obvious but some people don't realize just _how_ crucial it is. Its way easier to not go to an event than to go to an event, so make it ridiculously easy to attend).

From there it's really about keeping momentum by doing it consistently and taking pictures and videos to share on the meetup page and/or social sites for people to know it's legit, and that lots of people actually go to it, ideally they see people they know in the photos.

And don't aim so specific for your meetup audience, in PRODDUCT we combine designers, developers, business focused people, and investors. I'm guessing that makes a big positive impact since most of the members probably work with people who do exactly what they do; so it's a nice break from only speaking one 'language' all day.

I had a good head-start on all of this because I've been building startups now for over 2 years, so I've been building connections with people across SF at one point of another, through friends or through investor networking. So that is a _huge_ help.

TL;DRThree basic ingredients for our successful meetup growth:1. Right people connections (audience + venue)2. Free food for attendees (sponsored by venue)3. Panel of hip/relevant speakers (Product Hunt founding members were our first panel)

Fredrik Olovsson's avatar image.

Food first is a good one! It can be a warning sign when events serve food last, because it's sometimes their only chance at making people stay (but they will only stay once).

Darius Salehipour's avatar image.

Yea it gets people excited and that's half the reason they come - free food. Waiting to serve food until the end is a weird practice - maybe it works for some things, but I think you shouldn't tease people when it comes to food ;)

We purposely plan our events to start aroud dinner time so it only makes sense to begin with food.