I’ve been presenting at a lot of meetups recently. With the move to virtual, if you want to spread the word about your project or company, you can speak to between five and 50 interested developers pretty easily. As a co-organizer of the Boulder Ruby Meetup, I can also tell you that I am always on the hunt for interesting speakers. Zoom makes it possible for speakers from around the world to talk to meetup attendees.

Why might you be interested in doing this? Well, if your product is aimed at developers, speaking at meetups is a great way to display that you and your company “get it” as well as get some brand awareness. It’s definitely retail rather than wholesale, but you’re still getting your name out there.

Organizers look for topics related to their meetup, from speakers who are responsive and know what they’re doing. As an organizer I’m looking for diversity and local representation, but am also happy to have folks from around the world present. We’re pretty open about the talk topic. Some of the talks are about ruby and rails, others are about generic technologies (machine learning, networking) and others are about the tech industry (ethics, interviewing).

Create a presentation

You want this to be on a topic that is technical, and related to your product, but not about your product. For FusionAuth, I present on JSON Web Tokens. If I was working for the Duckbill Group, I’d focus on the top 3 most expensive part of your AWS bill. For TimescaleDB, I’d talk about generic performance optimizations for PostgreSQL.

Do not hit the audience over their head with your product. Instead, display your awesomeness by teaching them something you’ve learned in a field adjacent to your product. Don’t worry, you’ll have your product name on every slide, and you can put in a slide or two about your company, but the focus should be on teaching something, not a pitch.

This is going to be time intensive, and the most effort, so see if you can spin off other useful artifacts. Can you make a screen cast on a similar topic? A blog post? Submit an article to Hackernoon?

You can also pitch a presentation to a meetup without fully writing it, but I’d suggest at least outlining it before reaching out to any organizers.

If possible, I like my presentation to be technology agnostic. Topics like authentication, databases, logging, etc all cut across different languages. Your presentation will be applicable to more meetups if the bulk of the explanatory slides be language agnostic. Feel free to tweak it by including a couple of slides or code examples in a particular language.

Find meetups

The meetup search tool is crap (most of the meetup UI needs some help, to be honest). I ended up creating a spreadsheet with the names of big cities in the USA in the left hand column and the names of various technologies (Ruby, JavaScript, etc) across the top. Then I built a URL searching for <city name>+<technology name>+meetup. Running this query on google was invariably better than trying to use meetup’s search tool.

Once you find a meetup, look at past events to see what kind of topics they cover, if they have online events, how big it was, and how active the meetup is. If it makes sense, send a message to the organizers. This is a good task to batch up and do weekly.

Reach out to organizers

Reach out to organizers via a meetup message. Some organizers aren’t doing meetups right now. You can scout their meetup page and see if they have online meetups. Sometimes I’ll ping an organizer even if they don’t because sometimes organizers will be interested in restarting a meetup or aren’t aware of the possibilities of remote speakers.

When you reach out, explain that you have a talk about such and such a subject and that you’re interested in doing a zoom meetup. If you’ve done it before, mention it, as that may make them more comfortable with you. Also, mention that you are interested in presenting to their meetup: “I’d like to present to the Boulder Ruby Group about JWTs”.

This serves two purposes. It shows that you aren’t a spammer because you took the time to customize the message at least a bit. And, when they reply to you (which can take days or weeks), you’ll know which meetup they run. There’s no way to go from a message to a meetup organizer to the home page of the meetup they help with. What? Yes, as mentioned, meetup has some UI flaws.

Follow up in a few weeks if they don’t respond. Messages get lost or forgotten. I also often ask if it is ok to take the conversation to email, because that’s less likely to be ignored or missed than meetup messages.

If they are interested, nail down the exact date and time (including timezone). Provide them with your bio, talk title, talk description and duration. Ask if they need anything else (pronouns, headshot, social media, the presentation for their review). I can tell you as a meetup organizer that it is quite nice to have these provided.

What you need from them is:

  • how you will connect to the meetup (zoom link, streamyard account, something else)
  • the length of the presentation
  • whether you can give anything away (electronic stuff is good, t-shirts cost a lot of money to ship but are good too)

I had one organizer want to review my talk, and a few others were happy to look at other presentations I’ve given, but other than that, the bar is pretty low. I also have a pretty extensive online presence; if you have less of one, you might need more proof that you will be a good speaker.

Remember, meetup organizers are volunteers and are looking to provide fun, useful content to their peers. Make it as easy for them as possible.

Conclusion

You won’t reach thousands of people when you do the Zoom meetup circuit, but you will get some great feedback on your presentation and help educate folks.

The largest audience I presented to was around 50 and the smallest was around five. I also got some great questions that led to additional slides and helped round out my presentation, which I was also able to submit to more traditional conferences.


© Moore Consulting, 2003-2021