Have you ever wondered what it takes to plan a meetup? Are you unsure of the work it takes to start one? I have helped create meetups ranging from casual meets to larger ILD fare and I have learned some strategies along the way that may help guide you. Obviously for more casual meets, the requirements are less stringent but still require a plan.
The following groups of questions should help narrow down what you’d like your meetup to be! If you have already begun to think of some ideas for your meet, keep the following in mind as you read:
- your venue
- cost estimates (if there is a cost associated with the meet; meals, tickets, raffles, and so on)
- a theme and/or dress code if necessary
who is attending?
- This is an important first place to start, especially for places that ask for a head count before the day of the event. A good idea is to set up a Facebook event page to invite your local comm and other frilly pals. This will give you a very rough* idea of attendance.
- *However, don’t assume people who have marked themselves as “going” on Facebook will attend your event. Ask your guests to RSVP to you* directly via email or DM. Speaking from experience, this is more of a requirement for larger meets.
- Newer comm members will likely feel more comfortable attending casual meets. Do your best to make these folks feel welcome and as the event host, they may come to you with questions. Be patient and encouraging; answer their questions kindly and thoroughly, as we were all new once!
- Create a spreadsheet of confirmed attendees and a column to indicate if they have paid their ticket in full. Being as organized as possible has helped me a lot personally!
- You can also have a list of attendees in the event page, but keep the spreadsheet for your own records. You can also create a separate tab on your spreadsheet for a wait list if you have a limited number of tickets available.
- For an event in which food will be served, ask your attendees of any food allergies or sensitivities. You can keep track of these as a separate column in your spreadsheet.
- Be mindful of transportation. Try to set up a carpool group on your event page and have public transit options available as much as possible. I like to list the best methods of transportation in the description of my events so they’re easy to find.
- If you are visiting a location with an age requirement, I suggest saving yourself a headache and make this abundantly clear in the event title and description that way there are no misunderstandings.
- For larger meets, I would definitely suggest asking 1 or 2 of your friends to be your co-hosts. This will help split the tasks and responsibilities leading up to the event and day of!
- Opening a group chat between you and the other hosts is also an easy way to stay in touch and be on the same page.
- Consider creating a shared email address that all hosts have access to.
- If you have created a spreadsheet to keep your attendee’s info/payment/allegies/etc, make sure your co-hosts have editing privileges.
- As a group, decide who will be responsibile for what leading up to the meetup and day of.
what is the activity, idea, or theme?
- Make sure you and your group will be safe during the meetup. Choose a location you know to be lolita friendly and communicate to your venue’s liaison who should be contacted with any issues that arise.
- If the meet is to focus on the venue, you may want to take the opportunity to plan a theme that compliments your event. For example, a private boat ride in the summer could be themed for nautical or pirate style to go along with the aesthetic of your venue.
- Even if a meetup is themed, I rarely ever require everyone to fit the theme to a T just because not everyone may have items in their wardrobe that can accommodate it. If you decide to go with a theme with coord requirements/suggestions, make sure those expectations are clear, easily available, and with enough notice.
- If you are unfamiliar with a venue, visit it before committing to a date and/or putting down a deposit. Take a notebook with you and ask the liaison any questions you may have.
- For attendees that have accessibility requirements, make sure your venue is accommodating of these needs.
- If your meet is outside or requires a decent amount of walking, remind your attendees of their footwear choices and suggest low-heeled shoes, flats, TPS, or boots.
how much will it cost?
- Venues, restaurants, or event spaces you may rent for your meetup may require a minimum amount of people to attend or have tiered pricing for specific numbers of guests. This will likely mean that there is a nonrefundable deposit that must be paid first to secure your requested date.
- For meetups with dates close to holidays, book the venue as far in advance as you can. Sometimes the date you want will be unavailable if you wait too long to reserve.
- If you are selling tickets of any kind for your event, I would highly recommend that payment is nonrefundable. To remain flexible, it’s good to note that it’s okay to transfer a ticket if the attendee can no longer go to a person on the wait list. This is to protect you and your co-hosts from having a nasty surprise bill at the end of the day.
- For selling tickets, I also highly suggest letting everyone know:
- What is included in the cost of the ticket
- If they are first come, first serve
- How many are available and if there is a limit to how many tickets 1 person buy
- The date and time the tickets will go live and how to reserve them
- If payment is due immediately when reserving the ticket (and to list the date and time if there is a later deadline)
- For meets that are at restaurants or cafes, ask in advance if checks can be separate for each person. If you are attending a catered service and tickets have already paid for the meal, request your venue liaison to order separate checks for people that order off-menu. I see this happen often at dinners/brunches/tea services where there are upgrades or alcohol available.
- Many museums and attractions offer a group discount for tickets if purchased all at once. It would take some coordination, but your group may qualify for such a discount if it’s available. Check their website or call their ticket office for more information.
when will the event happen?
- This is important because people have to work the event around their own schedule. Try to be mindful of that fact that not everyone works a 9-5 Monday-Friday job. Most often, meetups are planned on the weekends regardless, but if you decided to go out during the week, I’m sure you would have folks that are interested!
- Feel free to poll your local comm for the best date that fits their needs. Choose the date that the majority of the comm votes for. If there is a chance of inclement weather and a venue is already booked for one day only, see if it’s possible to add a rain date and choose the second-most popular date.
- Check the weather report a week out, a few days out, and the night before your meet and update your attendees accordingly. I live in New England where we can endure all four seasons in about 8 hours, so it’s understandable things can change a bit before day of. However if people in advance are notified they’ll be able to have a contingency plan for their coord/transportation/etc.
- Be clear in where the meeting point will be and where your group will end your event if you’re visiting more than one place. For example, if your group will visit a local bakery for treats and then go to a store to shop afterwards, I would make this information clear and on the event page with addresses for both locations listed.
- In the same vein as the previous point, have an idea of when the event will begin and when it’ll end. Especially if you have a reservation somewhere, it’s important to be as punctual as possible! As the event creator, you should arrive to the venue before anyone else in order to set up with enough time before guests arrive.
how is your meet unique and interesting?
- Many people hang out with their friends in their free time at places like tea houses, bakeries, go shopping together, etc. So with that said, if you make meets often that fall into these categories, they may start to feel a stale after awhile.
- Do your best to think of ideas and venues outside of the “norm” to keep people interested.
- Try looking in your local newspaper for things going on in your city or online (I like browsing Facebook’s events tab for local happenings). You may have festivals, cultural events, museum exhibits, pop up shops, etc that you didn’t know about!
a note about extra gifts
- You can entice your attendees with raffles, goodie bags, mementos, artwork, professional coord shots, door prizes, or other fun extras that will make your meetup extra memorable!
- If you need help financing the costs of any extras, figure out your total budget and divide that by number of persons attending, then ask for that divided cost to be their entry fee. If the meetup already has a ticket price, tack on the divided cost. As a rule of thumb I wouldn’t add more than $10 to the cost of a ticket. Raffle ticket prices will depend on what you have for prizes. Personally, I haven’t spent more than $5 per ticket at lolita meetups that feature raffle prizes.
- For your extras, ask your comm to help you out! This could be in the form of donations for the raffle, artwork for the event, hand crafted keepsakes, photography, and so on. I am lucky that my comm has many talented folks!!
- If you do plan on this, budget to commission any creator you ask for help. I have commissioned friends for artwork from my own pocket and this typically runs anywhere from $20-$60. Always make sure your artist/creator is ok with you using the commission for your own use. I made small postcards from artwork I commissioned for an ILD one year.
- Sometimes artists and creators are incredibly generous and will provide items to you at no cost, but do not plan for that or ask for free stuff. If you have a personal budget and don’t use all of it, you can set it aside for the next meetup you organize.
other things to consider
- Remind yourself to do a sweep of the area before leaving the venue for items left behind – you can post photos of the items to the event page to help find its owner.
- If the venue promises you something, be sure to get that in writing in your contract.
- Be as clear as possible in directions, post photos of entrances to venue online, and have adequate signage showing where entrances are.
have a backup plan
- Be sure you and your co-hosts can be easily reached day of. List contact info on your event page to make it highly visible. If you don’t plan on checking your phone for a certain time during the meetup, make that clear to your attendees.
- Always have a plan for the worst possible outcomes; a rainy day during a picnic, multiple cancellations day of, lost attendees, folks showing up late, tourists approaching your group, and so on.
- Expect the unexpected, but don’t stress yourself out too much! Enjoy the day you have worked so hard to create for you and your community.
did I miss anything? do you have any stories?
What was your most successful meetup? Have you ever run into logistical issues planning a meet? I would love to hear about them! And if you have any questions regarding my post, feel free to comment below or reach out to me directly at abraponpon at gmail dot com!
Until next time,