Okay, so it’s a weekend and you’ve reserved a seat for a tech meetup in your community, but then you’re exhausted and you feel the need to relax at home. You begin to wonder and ask yourself whether to attend or not. You say things like, “I really need to chill at home this weekend” or “why should I go, it’s not like I don’t know the topic being discussed?” and “My friend will bring me gist about it sef”. Well, here is the deal, meetups unlike any social event offers a lot of benefits. They’ve been several meetups over the past years in Nigeria most notably organized by vibrant communities like Google Developers Group, Facebook Developer Circles, Code Pyramid Nigeria, forLoop Africa to mention a few. While some people may be still unsure why they should attend meetups, the real question is how can one fully maximize the benefits?
A normal meetup should offer you opportunities to learn something new, network with new people, connect with future business partners, investors and even lovers (which is quite unusual). You could also get job offers or contract opportunities, and most times you get free food and swag (arguably 90% the reason why most of us attend meetups in Nigeria). Without trying to put “water inside some people Garri” my point is, there are number of reasons why you should (if not must) attend meetups. Be it for personal gain, professional development or just for fun, my focus in this article is to help us to maximize these benefits and become badass(es) at meetups. To become something like rockster meetup kings and queens.
Let’s say you’re taking a stroll on the internet and you jam a flyer about an event, before you follow the registration link it’s important to do the following. First check to see if the date and time is comfortable for you. If you’re not sure follow the event description to see if there are deadlines so you can have some time to plan. Some meetup topic may not look relevant, but believe me no topic is irrelevant, in tech anything revolves around everything. You should make up your mind to learn something new. A good way not to get lost during the meetup is to do some background research on the topic, that way you would be able to follow up with buzz words. In other scenarios we often have products or services and crowned chief executives and managing directors, it’s in our personal interest to have some business cards to share with people during networking sessions. Please don’t take flyers and other branding materials like rollup banners, if the organizer “tear you slap” don’t say you didn’t read it here.
The first rule is to come early and sit where you’ll be able to hear the speakers and watch their slides (if any). Put your phone in silent mode and switch off your internet data (unless its very important), that’ll help you focus. Get a jotter or use notepad to take down key points. Be matured enough not to create distractions or disrupt sessions. If the meetup agenda allows for questions, conduct yourself smartly when doing so if not wait till the designated time. Observe the rules of organizers especially on eating during break, do not litter the venue, just be cool. If you must stand up, quietly and politely ask those beside you to shift so you can make your way. It’s a gathering of intellectuals not savages, so don’t try to prove anything.
This is the most important part of meetups, it’s the best time to sell yourself to all the people who you’ve just spent some time with. Your first aim is to connect with speakers, organizers and special guests (if any). Do not waste a lot of time talking with one person, that’s why you need that business card. If you have limited cards, bring out your jotter and get contacts of people, although I’ll always emphasize on two things. Get their emails and social media handles especially Twitter, you might ask why Twitter. Perhaps because it allows you to discuss with people in a more conversational manner. Try as much as possible to remember names and disciplines of people you meet, this will come in handy when you want to take the relationship a step further. Do not seem in hurry or in need, always stay compose because first impressions count. I’m sure you don’t want people to remember you as one of those bad encounters in public gatherings.
Well, that’s all! As a community leader and tech evangelist in northern Nigeria this article tries to sum up some of my experiences and try to correct mistakes I see meetup attendees make. One more thing however, always follow up with new contacts, call, text, send an email even if its to say “Hi” or to appreciate them for their speech/presentations. Then again, I’m just telling you things that have worked for me previously. You can always get more advice from other community leads and mentors. So in the spirit of community, I urge you to go out there and become a badass meetups attendee.