Earlier this year I asked my friend and ex-colleague Ibe whether he would like to help me restart the Fronteers meetups in Belgium. Neither of us had ever organized something like this before, but we really missed these events. That was reason enough to embark on a little adventure together.
Fronteers is the association of frontend developers in the Netherlands and (the dutch speaking part of) Belgium. They're most famous for their annual conference, but organize local meetups and workshops as well. They also used to run one of the biggest meetups related to frontend development in Belgium. Due to a variety of reasons, the meetups stopped about a year and a half ago.
Step one, create a team
The first thing we did was reach out to the previous committee to see if they had some interest in helping us with organizing the new meetups. We also used the already existing twitter account to check if there were some people interested. Combining some existing members and new people, we found ourselves a new team.
Step two, organize the first event
We were really excited to organize our first meetup. To start we needed to find a location. Immediately a company offered to host us, and to provide some snacks and drinks.
The second step was to find some people who wanted to give a talk. Luckily, Ilias who works at our host company volunteered to give a talk. One down, one to go. We quickly realized it's not easy to find speakers. Our meetup was coming closer and closer and since there was no time to find a second speaker, I decided to give one of my own presentations.
Now that we had a location and 2 talks lined up, the only thing left was getting the word out, and the people would come, right? After all, Fronteers was already an established name, and already had a twitter account with almost 600 followers. After some tweets and retweets, 43 people registered for this meetup, not bad. Unfortunately, people registering does not mean that they will actually show up. Our first meetup had just shy of 20 people. Better luck next time!
Step three, keep on going
So we've organized our first event, some things went well, some things could be improved. Time to organize a second one.
We found a host, and after some searching found 2 amazing speakers. Roel talked about accessibility and WAI-ARIA and Thomas proved us that microservices on the frontend are also a good idea. Not only did we have 2 cool speakers, also the crowd doubled in size.
How did we manage to get more people the second time? To be honest I have no idea. I think it is combination of a few things.
Since Belgium is a small country, we choose to organize our meetups in different cities all over the north. This has some up and down sides. You manage to reach a wider audience, since you're not limited to a specific city or region. On the downside, not all cities have the same amount of developers, and thus, potential audience members.
Leuven, the city where we organized our first meetup, has a limited amount of companies involved in web development. Ghent, where we organized the second one, has a thriving development ecosystem. I think this is one of the reasons we managed to get more people to come and listen.
The second reason is quite simple. We've had more time to get the word out. More people became aware we restarted the meetups.
We took a slow start, but we're determined to keep going! Our next meetup is already planned for the end of November.
So why am I writing this blog post?
Organizing these meetups made me realize that organizing an event takes time and effort. Here are some things I learned while doing so.
- Be grateful to the companies willing to host a meetup, they're awesome.
- It is hard to convince people to talk in front of an audience. Most people have no problem giving a quick demonstration in front of people they know. Once the audience changes to strangers, or increases in size, it becomes more intimidating to give such a presentation. I think people with more experience should be open to help people who are giving a presentation for the first time. This might give them the confidence to do that, helping them to kickstart their public speaking career.
- When registering for an event, try to go. The people organizing these events are counting on you attending when you apply. Of course something can always come up last minute, but if you can not attend for some reason, notify the organizers.
- A community should be open to anybody willing to be a part of it. The only people that do not belong in a community are the people who are not welcoming towards others!
- Having a network of other people with a similar interest can be useful, and you can learn a lot from each other. Don't be shy, and talk to each other when attending an event.
If somebody reads this blog post and is interested in presenting at a Fronteers meetup, we are always open for people wanting to talk about something they're passionate about, or something they discovered recently. Any topic goes, as long as it is remotely related to frontend development.
In the last year, I've stepped up as a speaker myself, and with some conferences under my belt, I am always willing to assist anybody who can use my help with public speaking. We can try to shape a talk about a topic you're interested in. I can give some feedback to CFP submissions or talk descriptions. We could also rehearse your talk together to see what's good and what can be improved. If you're interested in this kind of help, send me an email!
Being a part of a community can have a lot of benefits, so go and attend a meetup or conference. Maybe you're even interested in helping other people who spend a lot of time and effort in organizing these event for the community.
And remember, community work should never be an obligation, but something you feel like doing. If you have other things to do, don't be afraid to do them. Spend some time with your kids, go walk your dog or sort your postage stamp collection by date.
Call For Proposals or Call For Papers ↩︎