Building and nurturing a community of users is vital to any tech organization’s success. If you want to get the word out about your product and build meaningful relationships with your user community, you’ll want to empower your community contributors to lead successful meetup groups. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the learnings from building up a support program for our global Camunda meetup organizers over the past three years.
I’m the Community Manager at Camunda and a people connector at heart. One of my greatest passions is building meaningful relationships that serve global communities and empower individuals. I strongly believe that exchanging ideas and learning about the experiences of others can be a great source of knowledge for everyone, and attending a meetup is the perfect way to do so. A meetup brings together people who share similar interests, which will allow them to connect, ask questions and exchange personal user experiences.
Camunda is an open source software company reinventing process automation. This means at Camunda meetups you’ll find open source and process automation enthusiasts who join to share best practices, ask technical questions and discuss the industry’s latest developments – including Camunda’s contributions. However, the concept of meetups can be adapted to many different settings. We have around 40 local Camunda meetup groups all around the world, from Russia and India, to Germany to Brazil, and many more countries. These groups host events about our products on a regular basis. All of them are led by community contributors who do an awesome job in building-up local communities. We’re extremely proud that our community members come from various backgrounds and it’s a pleasure to work with such enthusiastic individuals on a daily basis.
If there are members within your community who would like to build local communities to talk about your product, you’re in luck and should support this in the best way possible. Here are the six most important things I’ve learned from building up our global meetup organizers program over the past years.
1. It always starts with one person!
The success of a user group depends highly on the organizer as well as their motivation and dedication to the group. An ideal meetup organizer is passionate about your product, demonstrates product expertise and is reliable. You most likely have an idea of who your most active and engaged users are. If not, one of the first steps in order to set-up a successful program is to find out who your super users are.
When we first wanted to scale our meetup groups, we thought we would start to focus on specific locations and then find suitable organizers for the group. We learned quickly that this approach doesn’t work in the long run. It’s much harder to set-up a successful meetup group without a local organizer who is driven to build a sustainable community. It’s really about supporting this one dedicated person (or a group of people) who functions as the engine of the meetup group.
At Camunda, we organize (online) events frequently to engage with our community and get to know the members. Plus, in our Forum and other online spaces there are many individuals who facilitate discussions and answer questions. Those people are the perfect candidates to reach out to. To keep track of community contributions we use the community experience platform Orbit, which helps us to identify our super users.
2. Understand your Organizers’ Goals
Deeply understanding the goals of your meetup organizers helps you to build a sustainable program. Something I strongly believe in is that intrinsic motivators are much more powerful than financial ones. People who are dedicated to giving back to the community and sharing their knowledge to support others, will make the most successful organizers.
In order to gain insights into what possible motivators are, reach out to existing organizers and ask them why they’ve set-up the group. You might hear that they want to widen their network, give back to the community, grow professionally or gain public speaking experience. At Camunda, most of our organizers want to connect with like-minded people and grow their network. If you don’t have any organizers yet, get in touch with some of your identified super users and ask them about potential goals they have in mind. Staying in close contact with your meetup organizers and truly understanding their motivators will help you shape the program and offer the right support.
3. Put people first
Relationships are key. No matter how awesome your product is, a meetup program simply can’t be successful without the local organizers who put in the work. So always ask yourself: “What can I do to best support them?” Or even better: Ask them. Often, we assume that people expect or want certain things, which doesn’t reflect reality. To prevent going in the wrong direction, stay in touch with the organizers, find out what their needs are and adjust to meet those needs.
Being transparent and creating a sense of belonging is indispensable to creating meaningful relationships. At Camunda, we organize internal quarterly meetings exclusively for all our meetup organizers, which take place remotely. In those meetings we share product updates, ask for feedback and create a platform to ask questions and initiate discussions. Always keep in mind: Building meaningful relationships and trust doesn’t happen overnight. It’ll take time but it’s definitely worth it.
4. Be specific & share best practices
Especially for people organizing meetups for the first time, it’s extremely helpful to receive specific tips and hear about best practices. Take your time to onboard new organizers well, make them feel welcome, share insights from other user groups and whether there are specific guidelines that they need to keep in mind. This will make them feel more confident when starting their own group.
At Camunda, we created a Meetup Starter Guide (take a look at ours) to share specific tips with people who are interested in setting-up a meetup group. This helps community members to evaluate if they actually want to become an organizer. I’ve also found the quarterly meetup organizers meetings to be a good platform for us to share best practices and onboard newbies.
5. Trust the experts
Giving tips and sharing best practices is extremely helpful and often needed. BUT, showing your meetup organizers that you trust them with leading their user group and empowering them to work autonomously is even more important in order to build a successful program.
At Camunda, meetup organizers come from all around the world and it’s impressive to see how they build up Camunda communities in their cities. Our meetup organizer in Brazil, Mauricio (@mbitencourt), always goes above and beyond to reach out to his own network and encourages people to join his events. And it pays off: usually, more than 150 people join his events and the feedback is great. We wouldn’t be able to organize such big events in Brazil without our local meetup group.
Especially, when working with global communities, you need to rely heavily on your organizers. They are the experts when it comes to their culture and the preferences of their specific audience. Ask them what they feel best practice is in their country and learn from them. This is one of the most exciting things when working with global and intercultural communities, you can broaden your horizon!
6. The network effect: Let people help each other
People like to support other people! Luckily, this is true in a lot of cases and something I experience on a regular basis within my work. So who can give newbies and fellow meetup organizers better tips than the people who organized successful meetups before? Exactly, experienced meetup organizers!
Invest time and effort to connect your meetup organizers with each other and like that build up an internal meetup organizers community. At Camunda, we organize quarterly voluntary meetings and have an exclusive Slack workspace for all our organizers, where we also let them connect to Camunda employees.
Have you set-up a similar program already or are you evaluating the opportunity of establishing one? If you would like to connect to talk about your idea or experiences, feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org, LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Luca Buchholz is a community builder at heart. She is passionate about building meaningful relationships that serve global communities and empower individuals. Luca is the Global Community Manager at Camunda. Over the past years she’s built a support program for a network of global meetup organizers and manages the Camunda Champion Program.