So you want to host a devmeet?
dA is now ten years old and we celebrated in a big way with dozens of meets all around the world. Paging through the responses on several journals and news articles regarding these meets it has become clear that while droves of people want to attend, most are afraid to take on the responsibility themselves. Now it's important to remember that hosting a devMeet can be a challenging but it is ultimately a rewarding experience.
But how does one go about organizing an hosting a devMeet?
We're going to outline several simple steps to hosting a meet and include tips and tricks along that way which can help you hold your first successful meet in your area.
Getting started: How to plan your meet
Before anything else, a word on time. Give yourself pleanty of time to organize a meet. If it's your first one you don't want to rush anything. Give people as much time as you can for them to be able to come. Most workplaces require notice for a day off, and people have prior commitments they need to see to. In general, 1- 3 months from whatever date you pick to hold your meet is plenty to finalize plans, spread the word and generate hype and excitement for it.
1) Your first step in this journey is to locate a regional group (or perhaps create one of your own!) Begin your search at the groups portal and search by keyword for a group in your area. Start with a specific location, like the city you live in and expand your search from there. Don't stop at just one group. For example, if you live in Austin, Texas you could find a group called #KeepAustinWeird, expand your search and you'll find #TexasDevMeet. Neat! You've now found two local groups! But don't stop there! Expand your search to a larger region, perhaps a keyword like south-west, southern, western. If your country is small enough perhaps even search the whole country (see #Britain). Now join them!
But, Alicia, why? Well, if you found a group like TexasDevMeet that specializes in devmeets, you might be able to find a meet in your area soon and also people to help you hold meets! But even if the groups in your area aren't specifically for devmeets, don't fret, +watch the group anyway. It'll come in handy later.
If by some small chance there are no regional meet groups in a feasible area for people to travel then perhaps consider creating a group of your own, but make sure you've done a thorough search! Not only is it polite not to step on another's toes, but hey! They've done a lot of the work for you and a few minutes searching can save you hours later and help your meet be successful!
2) Once you've located groups it's time to scout locations and brainstorm for the meet in your area! This is the most challenging part of holding a meet. Just like real estate location, location, location is the most important thing!
So what should you look for in a good location and what should you avoid?
-Look for open public places where seating is unstructured and free. Parks, public landmarks, cafés with open seating are all good options because they do not require a predetermined number. Many parks and all cafés have tables that allow people to create art in a pleasant environment.
-Make sure the place you meet is recognizable and easy to find! If you pick a big park, make sure you pick an exact part of the park preferably with an identifying landmark. It can help to take a picture of the spot you intend on meeting at.
-Look for low cost or free options. We're starving artists after all. Make sure any cost incurred is the guest's choice. If you go to a café they're not obligated to buy anything, on the contrary if you pick a place like an amusement park they have to pay to get in.
-Avoid adult only locations and loud distracting environments. A very large percentage of deviants are under 18 much less 21 so loud dance clubs and bars are probably not a good choice. You can extend this rule to include locations that are very loud and distracting because they do not allow you talk and get to know each other
-AVOID restaurants that need everyone to show up at a particular time or small crowded venues.
Deviants aren't always punctual and there's nothing worse than getting a table, ordering, and having people show up when there's no room.
-Avoid structured events like zoo's, amusement parks, and museums for the initial meet. Again, deviants aren't always punctual and these are all activities that are mobile, meaning you won't be in one place long enough for stragglers to find you. If you want to do a meet in a location like that by all means do but I would suggest meeting and hanging out at a nearby café for about an hour before hand. Not only would this allow those who are running late find you but it gives you time to do what meets are all about: getting to know each other.
3) So now that you've found your perfect location it's time to announce that you're going to have a meet! You now have three or four platforms on dA on which to announce it. The first is your journal, the second is the devMeet forum, the third is dA's news article. What's the 4th? Remember those groups I told you to join? Yeah they're going to come into play!
*Remember you can also announce and link these things on twitter and facebook but more on that later!
How do you go about announcing your meet? What information should you have? It's important to remember the who, what where, when, and why you learned in elementary school.
The who: Who can come? Ideally the answer to this should be anyone but make sure you are specific if there's a type of person that should probably not come. IE babies or toddlers or people with sensitivity to heat or sun (if your event is outside in the summer) Be sure to encourage people to bring friends and family even if they don't have a dA account.
The what: What exactly is it you're planning to do? Be specific if you have activities planned. If your location has a website please include the link so people can check it out themselves. If you plan on having a meal together include a link to the menu. If any of your activities require payment PLEASE list what kind of price a deviant will be looking at paying. Also list any materials welcome, such as paints and cameras, or restrictions that your location has, for example some parks do not allow glass bottles.
The where: This is a good time to introduce the where as well. Be specific and give instructions on how to get there. You can do this pretty simply by using google maps. Simply input the address, copy, and paste. If you plan on having more than one location feel free to take a screenshot of directions from one location to the other but provide the address as well.
The when: Be sure to specify a time and date that deviants need to arrive! Let them know how flexible the time is. If you have the ability and access utilize dA's polling feature to decide on a date that works for the most people. In general, weekends are good as it's most likely that people will have the day off and afternoons and early evenings are best. Provide a wide range of dates and try to do it as far out as possible (a month or more is advisable so people can request off)
Last but not least, the why: It is' good to remind people of what they are coming to the meet. So why are they? To meet, mingle, create art and share their love for dA and all things dA. This also means some of the best opportunities to lol about dArama llamas and memes.
A small note: Be open and flexible to people's feedback. This does not mean that you have to change your plans because one person says they'd rather not have coffee but if you get a lot of feedback on a particular point then consider it and make sure to UPDATE people on it.
Now that you've announced your meet it's time to promote it!
Remember those groups I told you to join? It's time to send the founders a note with a link and a brief summary of your meet plans and politely ask them to consider pimping the meet. Offer to send them the text of your journal so they can post easily the full announcement. Now if you've joined a group and have already posted a journal through that group you can skip noting the founder of that group, obviously!
Post a news article linking the meet blog in order to get more +heart's on the article. The more popular an article becomes the more deviants it reaches that you might not have found otherwise.
Post a thread in the devMeet forum indicating that you're having a meet your area, include a link to your journal.
Link your journal in your twitter and ask your friends to retweet it, do the same on your facebook and invite all your friends. It can help to create a facebook event and invite people there.
Get creative and hunt down deviants in your area. How? Deviation searches! Browse art and search by keywords that are local to you. Start with your town name or a landmark in your area. The deviations that come up are likely to be from deviants that have some connection to your place. Sure they might have just been touring but it's possible they live in the area as well. A lot of deviants have a general location on their bio and if it's near you feel free to drop them a note and ask if they'd be interested in coming. The worst they can say is no! But be personal in the note and make sure they know you're not spamming, you just want to meet local people.
Personal experience—no one has ever gotten upset at me for inviting them to a party. But you must do it in a polite way.
A final tip on planning: Be sure to update your announcement occasionally so that watchers who may have missed the first announcement can be reminded. Keep an eye on the weather if your venue is outdoors and alert your watchers accordingly. And remember if you change anything make sure to update your watchers! Which means updating every blog post you've made and posting an amendment on your forum thread. As a rule—try not to change anything too big.
Now that you've planned your meet it's time to get down to the business of throwing the meet itself!
Do's and Don't's for the host:
If you're holding a meet in an open space like a park you may or may not have any activity planned but some that are nice are art collaborations, field day activities (Frisbee anyone?), poetry readings, and other group games. However, these things are not mandatory! They're just options and ideas.
Honestly, meets happened pretty organically. It's your job as a host to make sure everyone is comfortable. That means talking and mingling with people, introducing yourself and striking up conversations. Find out what kind of art people do and if people have similar interests, introduce them!
-Do let the management of the venue you're using know you're using it if it's an cafe or restaurant.
-Do try and keep an RSVP list of people who are coming (they'll shout it, trust me)
-Do make a sign or get someone reliable to make a sign indicating a devmeet
-Do bring name tags and markers for people to writer with
-Do introduce yourself and be sociable, the host should meet everyone who comes. Give both your real name and your screen name
-Do thank people for coming
-Do encourage people to take photos and create art!
-Do get there early!
-Do relax! Let things happen naturally.
-Do take a group photo!!!
-Don't rush things, either in planning or at the meet itself.
-Don't try and fill every moment of the meet with activities
-Don't change anything last second!
-Don't worry if there aren't a huge number of people there! Smaller meets mean more chance to get to know people better
-Don't panic!! Let things happen naturally (yes this needs repeating).
The most important rule is to enjoy yourself. If you're enjoying yourself and are confident then others will be more relaxed and able to enjoy themselves as well. It sounds cheesy but it's so true. Remember, it's your party! If you follow these rules you should avoid most of the follies I experienced when I first started hosting meets. It's a learning process and it will be for just about everyone who attends. Trust me, if an experienced host of meets attends they probably helped you plan the thing! Not everyone will be perfectly pleased, and that's okay. That is natural. What is important is that you enjoyed yourself and met new people.
Good luck and happy meeting!