Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three Simple Strategies to Unlock the Potential of Meetups

Have you ever tried Meetups? If you haven't, you might be missing out on an excellent opportunity to grow your business. Meetups are professional and social groups that meet regularly to discuss a wide range of subject areas. They're a great (and fun!) way to expand your professional interests, meet like-minded people, improve your business knowledge, pitch a new idea, and hear about the ideas of others.

So, How Do You Get Started?
A good starting point is to identify a relevant group that meets regularly in your location from If you find a group's Meetup topic interesting and share common interests with group members, join the group and plan to attend a meeting.

For some people, the thought of attending a Meetup can be daunting, particularly if you don't consider yourself to be an outgoing person. However, with a bit of preparation you'll be able to venture out of your comfort zone without too much discomfort :).

Getting the Most Out of a Meetup
Here are three simple steps to help you maximize your Meetup experience.

Step 1: Preparing For the Meeting
Before you attend the Meetup, begin with some preliminary planning to help you to get the most from the experience. Spend a bit of time thinking through your objectives. If you are hoping to speak with specific group members, then perhaps, after identifying them online, reach out and initiate a conversation via the Meetup application or online. A good starting plan for a large gathering is to aim to speak with at least 10 people. Set a measurable metric for yourself, such as having to collect 10 business cards. This will keep you focused and help prevent you spending all your time latched on to the very first contact you've made.

Get a better understanding of the format of the meeting. How is it structured? Is there a guest speaker? What networking opportunities will present themselves? What's the dress code?

Think about your pitch. What are you going to share? How you are you planning to respond to specific questions? Role playing can be useful in helping you to think through some sample scenarios.

Don't forget to bring your business cards!

Step 2: At the meeting
When you're there, it's important to keep engaged and to ask questions. Wondering what questions you should be asking? There can be so many; but as a general rule, try to keep them open-ended. For example: Where did you hear about this group? What are your goals? What do you do? What does your company do? What did you think about today's presentations? How long have you been a member? And, of course, don't forget to ask for a business card. It is also helpful to jot a few notes on the business card as you speak so that you can better remember the context of your conversation afterwards.

Budget your time! You might connect with a great person that you just want to continue a conversation with. However if it is clear that the two of you have connected and there is more to discuss, exchange your contact info, agree to follow up, and move on. By staying focused on each other, both of you are missing out on other great opportunities to connect.

Finally, spend more time listening than talking. While Meetup presents a great opportunity to refine your story and pitch, learning how others present theirs will help make yours even better. Once you've reached your goals, you can keep going, or consider the event a fait accomplis and pat yourself on the back.

Step 3: After the Meeting
Now is the time to follow up on all the leads you've gathered. If you got the business cards, then check the notes, get LinkedIn and connect. It might make sense to revisit the event page for any follow up comments and feedback.

Have a private debrief with yourself, asking yourself: what did you liked about the event, or conversely what could be improved. Next meeting, raise the plank higher. Set more complex objectives; such as more cards to collect and more conversations to have, or perhaps take on the role of presenter?

There are many professional/social organizations that meet regularly, but Meetups present a convenient and easy way to connect with others with similar interests. The mobile app allows you to check what's happening and make plans virtually on the spot, which is very convenient if you are in town for only a day.

Rachel & the team

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