There is nothing better than having a monthly gathering of people coming from different backgrounds that want to share their knowledge and what passionate them about a topic. It's the perfect occasion to meet new people, discover things, find job opportunities, get inspired, etc. What is great about technologies is there is something for everyone, there is a ton of free learning material online and you can reach a lot of people from around the globe.
Two years ago, I stumbled on an ad on social medias for an upcoming tech meetup in my city. The format is pretty straight forward: A nice place where you can buy food/beverages, sit around and chat. There is a period for networking/casual chats, another for attendees to present themselves then you have a couple of five or fifteen minutes presentations. Quite a simple setup yet the benefits for such minimal efforts (going outside and participating...) is just insane.
Before attending my first meetup, I did not have any expectations. I was greatly surprised when I realized how much it had to offer. I met a lot of new folks with unique and interesting journeys. Learning about their projects, their interests, their career path, their jobs, what makes them tick really inspired me. The setting is just perfect for expanding your contact network. You will be shocked to discover how many incredibly talented individuals there is in your community.
I connected with people I never imagined I would met in this kind of events: A well-respected guy in the Erlang community who writes books and travel the world to give talks, guys who worked in silicon valley for successful startups and tech giants, a senior engineer who gives me a lot of insightful guiding advice, indie video game studio developers, professors, scientists, artists, etc.
A tech meetup should not have minimal requirements to attend except for an interest in technologies and anything related (a narrow scope for a meetup just reduce the number of opportunities). It should be clear the event is inclusive to people of all backgrounds and with all kind of skills. It is a great opportunity to promote and share the work of underrepresented groups. It could be the turning point for someone wanting to jump into the tech world, an IT newcomer to learn a ton of things or just a place to hangout for someone.
My local meetup built a website and open-sourced it on GitHub so everyone is welcomed to contribute. In fact, it is a great opportunity for newcomers to make their first contribution. From time to time, they share updates through various channels to maximize the reach: Facebook, mailing lists, websites, Slack, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. The process can be automated so it does not feel like an unpleasant task.
A meetup really benefits from having its very own online place to chat and share outside of the meets. A free and easy setup such as Slack should be enough so the community can keep in touch with everyone, share and help each other out.
You are very lucky! You could organize one and develop so many new non-tech skills. You will find nice places you never knew, learn to schedule, publicize and run an event, find interesting speakers, make friends, etc.
Restaurants especially love these kinds of events because it brings clients and attendees really like having access to good food and beverages. Libraries and universities often have rooms they will happily let you use for free. Twice a year, the local meetup I attend host the event at my university where they get sponsored by the computer/video game department.
Speaking of sponsors: for any company looking to hire new talents it is simply too easy. Letting attendees present themselves a bit (making small groups if the crowd is big) is a social facilitator and something head hunters are really fond of. Do not hesitate to include that in your selling pitch to companies when approaching them. The networking period, usually before and after the event, will do its magic.
Ask companies to sponsor your event with money or by paying for the drinks and/or food or by hosting the event in their offices. Thank them in your opening speech and suggest to display their promotion material. Every now and then, my local meetup is sponsored by a company who will either host the event, pay for food/drinks, give swag or send their senior devs give a talk.
Of course, finding a job is not the sole purpose of a meetup but a great side effect. There is forming collabs, sharing interesting stuff, helping each others, mentorship, etc. By learning the journey of someone else, there is this immense sense of refreshment where everyone around feels very inspired. More than often, discovering a new discipline in tech lead to an interesting topic for a future presentation.
If like me you live in a small city, knowing each other in this field is crucial. You feel like you belong to something, you can provide help and consultancy and you learn the well kept secret of your local scene. In my case, through classmates at a meetup, I met some people working at a company who later offered me an internship. Some of them already knew me so it helped for the hiring process and when I started the transition was smoother.
I hope you are inspired to try attending, giving a talk at or organizing such an event. Feel free to share any benefits that I might have missed, there is so much of them. Shout out to my amazing local meetup SagLac IO who inspired me this article.