With the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup celebrating its two-year anniversary earlier this month, I’ve been thinking about the lessons that I’ve learned about organizing this happy little group of WordPress designers, developers, administrators and more. I’ve put together a few ideas about top lessons that I’ve learned over the past 24 months.
1. Group Members Do Put Skin in the Game
People come to a WordPress meetup to learn, to share, to grow and to have fun. By and large, our members attend to engage and to add value to the group. They put their own time and energy to get to our meetup on a Monday night. They even put cash into it now (we charge $5 to attend, the money from which goes back into the meetup to cover the meetup.com fees and appetizers during the meetup). That’s the best kind of group, where members are committed, giving of themselves and trying to grow together.
2. Work Hard or Don’t Bother
To properly run a monthly meetup takes a good amount of time and energy. Organizing the meetup location, finding speakers, promoting the meetup online and running the gathering on the night requires more than just a few hours per month. Having done this for two years now, I really appreciate that if I don’t put in enough effort in advance of the meetup, then, the members don’t get as much value than if I do it properly. Cutting corners reduces the value for everyone.
3. Keep Pushing Others to Push Themselves
One of the things that brings me great satisfaction as an organizer of the Philly ‘burbs WordPress Meetup is seeing our members blossom from quiet attendees at their first meeting to professional, engaging speakers not only at our meetup, but also at WordCamps. I’ve seen first hand that asking people to step out of their comfort zone and supporting them when they do so leads to great things, both for that individual and for the community.
4. When You Think You’ve Seen It All, You Haven’t …
In the two years since starting this meetup with Coreen Tossona, I’ve been repeatedly astounded by the way that surprises pop up at almost every turn. A marketing professional learning to tweak a child theme. A web developer growing in appreciation for the perspective that no plugins isn’t always a bad idea. A designer learning to embrace version control. Just when I begin to feel like I’ve been there, done that, something about the people in this group deeply impresses me with some new facet to their game. It’s nothing short of inspiring.
5. Give of Self and Karma Will Pay You Forward
As I wrote on the first anniversary of our meetup, giving to the community is hugely rewarding in and of itself. I learned that lesson last year and I am repeatedly reminded of that truism. Through my work in organizing our meetup, doors for exciting opportunities have been opened to me and I’ve had the chance to meet and interact with some amazingly talented and successful people. And it’s not just been me. I regularly hear from our members about how they are working with someone else in the group on a new project, or how they were able to get a new job after demonstrating new skills nurtured and enhanced by our monthly conversations. Active participation in our group, and gifts of self to that community, are repaid by the community. It’s a beautiful thing.
As we roll into the next year, I look forward to further surprises, more inspiration and even greater levels of sharing and giving.