Tuesday Trainings: How can I best support my meetup group during these challenging times?

As we start to change up the format of Tuesday Trainings we’re going to try some new things. Today and for the two following weeks I’ll share a question that I, and other Community Team DeputiesProgram Supporter Community Program Supporters (formerly Deputies) are a team of people worldwide who review WordCamp and Meetup applications, interview lead organizers, and keep things moving at WordCamp Central. Find more about program supporters in our Program Supporter Handbook., are often asked. I’ve not yet selected our next few so if you have a question that you think could beneficial in this format let me know in the comments. Now onto this week’s topic

How can I best support my meetupMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. group during these challenging times?

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

My best advice on supporting your meetup group through our current pandemic:

What worked in the “before times” as I like to call them, doesn’t really work right now. It’s not just that we can’t meet in person. It’s that so much of what we did when we met in person doesn’t work right now. So let’s take a look at a few things that might help get us all over a few new to us blockers that this virtual set up has set in our paths.

Just ask

If you’re a regular Tuesday Trainings reader you may recognize this “Just ask” response from last week. Sometimes I know I spend so much time in my own head trying to figure out what I can do to make a situation better that I forget the first step. Asking what I can do to help. Asking how I can support a group or a person. If you’re an organizer frustrated and unsure how to make your events better in this pandemic try asking your meetup group members what they would like to see happen. It can be as casual as a question at the end of a meetup or as formal as a survey sent out to all your members or anything in between.

Check the clock

There are a lot of options available that weren’t open to us before. Try finding out if there is a day of the week that works better for your community. Or maybe even a time of day. Most meetup groups meet “after work” in the evening hours. For many that time of day is time that is taken up by other commitments like family, work, friends, and giving ones self a much needed break. With so many of us in front of our computers all day anyway, maybe try a morning coffee meetup or a lunch meetup. This could make things easier for existing members of your group but it could also make room for new members who couldn’t make previous times work.

Change it up

Try a new format or meeting style. If your meetupsMeetup Meetup groups are locally-organized groups that get together for face-to-face events on a regular basis (commonly once a month). Learn more about Meetups in our Meetup Organizer Handbook. have always been socially focused and you find yourself at a loss to help people stay connected when they would ordinarily be just chatting in person make things a little more formal. If your meetups are always structured around a speaker and Q&A try something less structured. A few ideas that you can try out virtually:

  • Help Desk: Make use of Zoom’s ability to move people into rooms and match up people who need support with those who can give support
  • Birds of a Feather: Making use of Zoom’s room features again, you can give people a few choices of what they’d like to talk about and pair them with folx interested in the same topic for an unconference style group of conversations. Ask each group to select a time keeper to keep them on schedule, a moderator to ensure everyone is being given a chance to talk, and a note taker to relay interesting information back to the broader group.
  • Contributor Sprint: Instead of learning something for yourselves, pick a WordPress team you’d like to learn more about and contribute to. Reach out to team reps for guidance on what you can do to contribute to and support the team.
  • Team up: Team up with other meetup organizers you know and become sister meetups. Since we’re not limited by physical space right now you can build community bonds and connections in other locals. Let your community share their expertise with others and they can share their expertise with your meetup in return. We’re already seeing this with groups that are semi-local to one another but you could make this work anywhere that you can make a schedule work.

Be patient

For some of us around the world, this lockdown has been upon us for more than a year. And for those of us whose areas were later to adopt cancellations and social distancing, we’ll be coming up on the one year mark too. In many places things are starting to look up for the first time in a long time. But other places are experiencing 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th waves of lockdown. We have no way of knowing when it will be possible or practical for us to be together again. Rather than pushing for the unknown someday that we can all be together in person again, let’s reserve our strength and build up our communities safely from home. This one really hit home for me as I sat here answering the question from my home where my partner now works full time too. Vaccines are starting to slowly be administered but it will still be some time before we can call ourselves safe. And even when we are “back to normal” things from a health and safety standpoint will likely be forever changed.

Your best advice on supporting your meetup group through our current pandemic?

What have you done to support and change your meetup group during these times? What’s worked? What hasn’t? And if you’re a community member and there’s something you would like to see more meetup organizers put together please let us know that too!