Organizing your first hacker meetup

It’s always interesting to meet hackers with common interests, and to try to engage in the community that helped us get to where we are. Sometimes, that community can need a little help getting organized. This is what we learned from arranging our first local meetup.

Here at Opbeat, we are big fans of the popular Python web framework Django. Since our product and a lot of other awesome products are built with Django, we wanted to find and connect with others who have the same interest in the framework and in Python web-development in general.

Together with our good friends at Iconfinder, we decided to create a meetup group in Copenhagen to try and foster a more active Django community in our part of the country.

Organizing an event like this isn’t very hard. Here’s a brief outline on how we did it:

Get Organized

Sites like Meetup.com can help you get started quickly. (Alternatively, see django-meetup which was the outcome of the first DjangoCPH hackathon.) Invite friends and prospective members and have them spread the word via social media and related user groups.

Date and Time

From our experience, it is best to host these type of events after hours on weekdays. We chose to host it at 7 pm, early enough to let people get there after work but not too late, so as not to have very tired participants.

It’s hard to get people to sign onto an event without a set date. So commit to a date as soon as possible - in fact, do it right now.

Venue

Your meetup group needs an initial venue. A big meeting room or a lounge area at your office can easily serve as a venue. A lot of cities have co-working spaces and shared offices for entrepreneurs. It is usually not very hard to get permission to borrow a location for a good community cause. Also, if there are any tech meetup groups in your local area, take a look at the venues they’ve used.

Remember, for events with talks, you will also need a big screen or a projector for the slides. Most offices have this type of equipment.

Supplies

A little beer and pizza goes a long way in lubricating the discussions. Make sure you get enough though. Our first meetup attracted about 30 people and we got pizza, beer and snacks for about $200. You will obviously need a lot of coffee too.

Companies often see meetups as a channel to access potential job candidates, so make sure you reach out to local companies to help sponsor the meetups.

Agenda

There are different types of meetups. You could host an event with a specific topic, with related talks and a moderated discussion. Or you can arrange a more hands-on event like a hackathon. These are especially good for meetups related to programming languages or frameworks, where it can be fun to dig into the code and build stuff together. No matter which format you choose, just state it clearly in the meetup description.

If you decide to do a talk event, you will need to find some suitable speakers. I suggest you keep talks to be no longer than 30 minutes. Talks are supposed to be introductions to specific topics which the attendee can then go home and research further.

At the first meetup, it is a good idea to:

  • Give a brief introduction of the purpose and scope of the group.
  • Ask everyone to briefly introduce themselves and why this meetup is relevant for them.
  • Give a talk yourself about something you’re passionate about. (Ron gave a talk on why he loves Django so much.)
  • Encourage participants to pitch in with organizing future events.
  • Immediately before the meetup ends, ask everyone to go home and think about which subjects they can give talks about and which topics they would like to learn more about.

Conclusion

We were definitely satisfied with how the first meetup turned out and the feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive. This has motivated us to keep hosting these events and to build an awesome community with our fellow developers.

It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to do this, so you should just get started immediately. Get a few co-workers or friends to help you out.

It just takes the effort of a few individuals to get the ball rolling and once it’s up and running, the community will gather momentum and take on a life of it’s own. It’s a great way of giving back and we will continue to do it.

A picture from the first DjangoCPH meetup

About the author
Ron Cohen is co-founder and CTO at Opbeat. A founding member of Django Copenhagen, Ron enjoys sharing his experiences with code and ops around the world.
You can follow him on Twitter or GitHub.
About the author
Vanja Cosic is Opbeat’s community manager, and is the go-to guy in the office for the latest tech. If you have any suggestions, feature requests or just want to troll, you can reach him at vanja@opbeat.com.
You can follow him on Twitter or GitHub.