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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 14 Issue 1
January 2020
Meetup.com: Find Social, Educational, Business Events and More Near You


Since its start in 2002, Meetup.com (along with their mobile apps for iOS and Android) has become a very popular platform for promoting in-person events involving a large variety of topics. Read on for an overview of what it is and how it works, along with some pros and cons to consider, whether you're interested in finding events to attend or publicizing events that you run.

The basics

On Meetup you will find Groups organized around particular topics that you can join, each offering in-person Events that you can attend. Each Group has an Organizer, and each Event has a Host.

Meetup is geographically-based, designed to show you Groups and Events in your area. (Although not strictly in accordance with their policies, I have also seen one group whose meetings are internet-based discussions, which are held online, not at a physical location.)

You can sign up for free, and use the website (and mobile app on your iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.) to join as many Groups and attend as many Events as you like.

Meetup will also offer suggestions for Groups and Events that you might find interesting. In order to make this as effective as possible, you can select from a long list of Interests (topics) as part of your Profile.

I have found Meetup to be a very low-pressure, low-commitment way to explore a wide variety of fun and interesting local events, including social (discussion groups, dinners, games, movie nights, dance, sports, adventure), educational (relationship skills, woodworking, writing, arts & crafts, photography), business events (networking, development, goal-setting) and more. See http://www.meetup.com/topics for a list of popular topics.

Even though there is a tremendous amount of information on the internet and plenty of online communities that you can tap into, there are also lots of people who enjoy in-person, real-life events, and I think that's a big part of what drives the popularity of sites like Meetup.

As of this writing, according to http://www.meetup.com/media Meetup has over 330,000 Groups with 44 million members and 84,000 Events every week in 2,000 cities across 190 countries.

Meetup Groups

In order to attend a Meetup Event, you have to join its corresponding Group. You can be a member of as many Groups as you want.

Many Groups are free to join, some charge membership dues after a trial period.

You can find Groups in a number of ways, including:
  • By simply landing on meetup.com and scrolling through the Suggested Groups you'll probably see listed there.
  • By searching on meetup.com using keywords. Be sure to select "Groups" as part of the search; selecting "Calendar" will display Events instead.
  • By finding links to Meetup Group pages from online searches, looking at an individual's or organization's own website (if they've created a Meetup Group), etc.
If you find an Event that you want to attend but you're not yet a member of its Group, with a few clicks you can easily join.

A Group's page on meetup.com will include a description, how to contact its Organizer, information about its members, as well as links to its Past and Upcoming Events, if any.

A Group's Events can give you an idea of the topics, costs, number of people interested, where and how often they meet, and more. Some groups also list Proposed Events.

When you click to join a Group, you may be asked a few simple questions, which typically include why you want to participate and your level of interest. Some also require that you have at least one photo in your profile. With many Groups, after clicking Join you'll become a member immediately, but some require approval by the Organizer first.

I've noticed that some Organizers only use Meetup Groups for publicity, while others use Meetup as just one of many ways that they publicize their events online.

Meetup Groups can have one of two "content visibility" settings:
  • Public: All information is visible to members, non-members, and search engines.
  • Private: All information is visible to members, while some is hidden from non-members and search engines, including the Group's members and the locations and descriptions of Events. This can be important for support groups and other organizations that need to protect the privacy of their members and meeting places.
While you can send an on-site private message to a Group's Organizer (if you have questions or suggestions, for example), you can't publicly comment on a group for others to see.

Meetup Events

Similarly, there are a number of ways to find Events, including:
  • By simply landing on meetup.com and scrolling through the Suggested Events that you'll probably see listed there.
  • By searching on meetup.com using keywords. Be sure to select "Calendar" as part of the search; selecting "Groups" will display Groups instead.
  • By searching online and finding links to Meetup Event pages, looking at an individual's or organization's own website (if they've created a Meetup Group), etc.
Some Events are free to attend, others charge a fee. Many accept payment in advance using a credit card, some accept cash at the Event.

Many Events list the location as part of their description (for example, a restaurant or public park), but for privacy reasons some don't reveal the location until after you have signed up (for example, ones that are held in a private home or office). When I've been interested in such an Event and the description has no information about the location at all, I've found it useful to send a message to the Organizer (or post a public comment on the Event) asking for just enough information to enable people to decide whether they can attend, for example the town where the Event will be held, how difficult or easy it will be to park there, and whether it's near public transit.

Most Events are in-person (thus the name of the site), but I have seen a few that are held online.

You may find the same Event listed under more than one Group.

As long as you're a member of the corresponding Group, you can publicly comment on an Event even if you haven't signed up to attend. This can be helpful if you have suggestions or questions that are not covered by the Event's description.

In order to notify the Organizer that you want to attend an Event, you click its "Attend" button. You will then be listed among that Event's "Attendees." While this is required for Events that require payment in advance, it's also important to do for free events for two important reasons:
  • It lets the Event Organizer know who will be attending.
  • It (appropriately) increases the number of people listed as attending, which will probably encourage other Meetup members to attend as well.
I have also heard many stories about people clicking "Attend" for free Events but who never show up. Don't be one of them!

If you're a member of an organization and you know about (and go to) their events separately from Meetup, find out if they also publicize their events on Meetup. If so, you should find their Meetup Events and click Attend for the same reasons.

On the other hand, don't assume that an Event's attendee list or headcount is completely accurate. The real number of attendees may be higher or lower for a number of reasons:
  • The same Event may be listed under multiple Groups, each with a separate attendee list.
  • The Organizer may be publicizing that Event elsewhere, not just on Meetup.
  • There can be lot of no-shows, especially for free events.
If you want to know how full an Event is, contact the Organizer.

Starting a Meetup Group

It's easy to create a Meetup Group, but you will have to start a paid Organizer subscription, which lets you create up to 3 Groups. As of this writing, for 12 months (two 6-month periods each paid in advance) an Organizer in the US will pay $197.88 plus tax, up from $180 last year.

If you want to create more than three Meetup groups, you can upgrade to a Meetup Pro subscription ($360 for 12 months, paid in advance every 6 months), which gives you additional features, including the ability to create an unlimited number of Groups, and costs less then having two or more Organizer subscriptions.

In both cases you also have the option to pay monthly, but that will cost you more. See "Where to go from here" below for links to their pricing pages.

Your Meetup Profile and Settings

There are many parts to your account on Meetup, including these two important elements:
  • Profile: You can choose from a large list of "Interests" which will then fuel the Groups and Events that Meetup will suggest to you.
  • Settings: Your Interests and Groups are visible to others by default, but you can hide them from view under Settings->Privacy.
I also recommend that you periodically review your Profile and Settings to make sure that your account is set up correctly for your needs.

Meetup pros and cons

For regular (free) members:

  • Both the website and the mobile apps are easy to use.
  • It's easy to find Groups and Events in your area that may interest you
  • Meetup has become very popular, so there are plenty of people running Events and attending them.
  • It's confusing when you find the same Event listed under multiple Groups.
  • You can't filter the Event and Group suggestions and notifications by location or keyword. For example, there is no way to specify that you don't care to see any events held in the city of Boston, or that involve exercise or alcohol.
For Organizers (paid subscription):

  • The built-in publicity on Meetup promotes your Groups and Events to other Meetup members based on their interests with no extra effort on your part.
  • Your Groups and Events are also visible in search engines.
  • You can promote your Groups and Events anywhere else you'd like, and use links to send people to Meetup.
  • Your Organizer subscription lets you be the leader of up to 3 Meetup Groups.
  • You can appoint other people to help you run the Group, create and host your Events, and more.
  • The mobile apps let you keep track of your Groups, Events, and Attendees on the go.
  • The cost of an Organizer subscription might be beyond your budget.
Contact Meetup support

It's not obvious how to contact Meetup support. Here's how:
  • On any meetup.com page, scroll to the bottom and click Help, which takes you to the http://help.meetup.com page.
  • Scroll to the bottom of that page and click the "Get Help" button.
  • A form will pop out. Type your question or issue, and then click the "Ask Question" button.
Where to go from here
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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