Today Badass Babe Chrystina is here to share how she connected with bloggers to start a meet-up in her city!
I’ve been blogging at Chrystina Noel for the past three years. It’s my little corner of the internet where I blog about staying in touch with people you love, focusing on greeting cards and hosting parties. I started this blog because it’s so much different than my day job. From 9-5 every day I do construction audits – it’s about as glorious as it sounds. Needless to say, blogging was (and still is) a welcomed break at the end of the day.
Throughout the last three years I have attended blog conferences, participated in e-courses (like Sarah’s awesome Badass Babes e-course), and read books about blogging. I have fallen in love with this culture and these people. I am a people person. I love meeting people and hearing their stories – and about two months ago I decided I wanted to start meeting some of these people in person.
I had been following a few Philadelphia bloggers for a while and I was able to meet up with a few of them one on one (after reading their blogs a bit and developing a relationship). I met up with one blogger for coffee and another for dessert. These connections were made through twitter and email. I started to realize meeting up with people in person wasn’t as difficult as it sounded. All you have to do is ask – and let’s face it, after you get out of college making friends is hard, so most people are pretty excited about the idea in general. And the reason this is less scary? Because all of these people blog. You read about them, you hear their voice, you know their story – so it’s kind of like meeting up with an old friend, but for the first time.
In September, I decided I wanted to try this on a bigger scale and get a group of bloggers together to share stories, advice, and things we learned the hard way.
I started compiling a list of all of the Philadelphia bloggers that I follow and google searched. I ended up with 13 bloggers, some of whom I had met and some of whom I had never met. I drafted an email saying who I was, what I blog about, why I wanted to meet up, and sent a google survey for people to fill out if anybody was interested.
Everybody was interested. Goodness gracious that felt good because sending off that email was definitely not easy to do (you know, one of the ones where you close your eyes and click the button after stalling for 20 minutes). Now that you know a little bit of the backstory, I want to share with you the steps I took to make it happen.
- Make a list of bloggers
Get a list together of bloggers in your area that you would like to attend. Decide if you want there to be a common theme among the bloggers. For me, I decided that I didn’t want to target anybody who fell into the “mommy blogger” category because there’s already another Philadelphia group that does a really awesome job with that and unfortunately I can’t relate to them right now in my life. But maybe you want to target fashion bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, or bloggers with a small business. And dream big. Bloggers are just people and even if they say no, there’s no reason they wouldn’t be respectful about it.
- Draft an email
Introduce yourself. Tell everybody who you are, where you blog, what your story is, and why you want to meet up. I also made sure to tell everybody who was on the invite list to psyche people up and to let them know if they might want to bring a blogger friend because they didn’t know anybody.
- Include a survey
You probably don’t know that much about the people you’re emailing at this point. Now’s your chance to find out. Using Google Survey I asked for people’s names, if and why they were interested in a meet-up, availability, location in Philly (for planning purposes), contact information, blog platforms, blogging goals, favorite blogs, if your blog is a source of income, and interest level in discussing specific topics.
- Choose a date and location
Once the survey results were in, I chose the date best for everybody and then narrowed down a location based on which direction people lived. I wanted to make sure the venue wouldn’t be too loud and had room for a private group. I emailed the venue ahead of time and asked if we could reserve the space ahead of time, informing them that we were a group of Philadelphia bloggers. Venues have been pretty accommodating thus far.
- Email the group
Let the attendees know the date, place, items to bring, the topic of discussion, and who else will be attending. For the first meet-up I actually sent out a summary of the Google survey results (because I assume everybody loves data as much as me) and a list of who would be attending the event so people could prepare if they wanted to.
- Prepare for the event
Make a list of things that you want to discuss for the event, bring any supplies you need for activities, consider creating a swag bag, find pictures of everybody attending the event (because if you’ve never met each other, it’s better if at least one of you knows who you’re looking for), send an email reminder 24 hours in advance to all attendees, confirm your reservation the day of the event, and show up to the venue 10-15 minutes early just in case.
- Have fun
Honestly, that’s why you did this in the first place, right? Enjoy and get to know everybody. The best part about not knowing people is that you have a million topics you can talk about. What part of the city are you from? Have you always lived in this area? What do you blog about? Where are some of your favorite places to eat in the city? How long have you been blogging? The possibilities are endless.
I’ve now hosted two blogger meet-ups. It’s definitely been fun – and a learning experience. Some things have come together easily, and some things I still need to work on. I can tell you one thing though – every blogger who I’ve spoken to has been incredibly supportive and has offered to help out with anything.
Things I’ve learned
- Create a hashtag
This can be a great way to gain a following and to make a name for yourself in your city. Choose something short and sweet to make sure you don’t take up many of the 140 characters. I chose #PHLBloggers after asking the group for suggestions.
- Create a mailing list
This might seem obvious, but I didn’t do it at first. It’s as simple as starting by creating an excel spreadsheet listing everybody you’ve contacted so that you will know who to email next time, you will be able to tell potential collaborators how many bloggers you’re working with, and when somebody asks for you to add them to a list you can say okay.
- Plan an activity
I decided at the first event that I wanted everyone to be able to take something home with them. Each person wrote three things that they blog about at the top of a sheet of paper and then we passed them around the circle. Everybody had 2 minutes to write down potential blog post ideas or questions about the topics, creating a huge list of inspiration for the future. The second event I came up with a questionnaire asking where people need help on their blog and what they are able to help out with on other’s blogs that I plan to type up and send back to the group.
- Rejection is okay
There is absolutely no harm in emailing somebody to ask them a question if you’re polite about it. Ask if a blogger wants to come, ask if you can use a certain venue for the meet-up, ask if somebody wants to sponsor your event. What’s the worst that can happen? People say no? And it’s through the internet, so you don’t even need to practice your rejected face in the mirror first. Winning.
Things I need to learn
- How to facilitate discussions
This is a skill I don’t have yet. I can make a list of items to discuss, but I still don’t know how to ask the right kind of open-ended, leading questions. My plan is to listen to more interview-based podcasts to understand how they get the interviewee to open up.
li>How to reduce the cancelation rate
This is a problem with hosting any and every event – people cancel or mix up the dates – we’re only human. As an organizer it’s incredibly frustrating though, especially when it happens last minute. So what do you do about it? The best answer is to change people a small sum of money ahead of time to make them feel accountable, maybe $10 or $15 to cover the cost of food that day? That’s definitely on my radar, but first I’m going to try hyping up the event more and sharing more focused content. I’d love to be able to share knowledge for free, but sometimes you need more security than that.
- Finding speakers & collaborators
I’m not an expert on blogging. There are very few things I would say that I’m actually an expert on, but there are definitely people that are experts. I have emailed a tech startup in the city to see if somebody would come speak about search engine optimization as well as an accountant to talk about starting a new business and filing taxes. Both groups seem interested so far. In addition there are so many small businesses around the city that would love to get bloggers in their shops and seeing their products. I’ve already emailed a local greeting card shop and writer who owns a coloring business, and they’re both excited about the possibility of collaborations in 2015. I’m also going to be brainstorming a list of potential businesses who might be interested in providing products for a swag bag. My only issue is I don’t want to commit the other bloggers to having to post about items, so I need to figure out the best way to pitch and promote this.
- Legitimizing the group
For me this means creating a website, a page that I can direct other bloggers, collaborators, and sponsors. For now I’m going to host this as a separate page on my blog. There have been a number of meet-up groups that have started in the city, but have died out because they just didn’t have the time to keep up with it all, so the closer I can keep it to home, the more chance I have to stay focused and keep things simple.
Now you know my game plan. I’m excited to see what this venture becomes. Who knows, maybe it will eventually evolve into a blog conference. But that’s a story for another day.
Oh, and if you happen to live in Philadelphia, let me know if you’re interested in joining our monthly meet-up, always room for new faces.