Organizing R meetups is really easy and fun25 Apr 2016
At the time of writing this post meetup.com counts 241 R User Group Meetups with 115,609 members. This is incredible and shows how big and amazing the R community is. But who are those people organizing all of this? And how do they find the time to do it? Well, I don’t know. I only know who organizes the Zurich R User Group - which are right now mostly Muriel, Christoph and myself. And to be honest the time it takes to organize a meetup is surprisingly little.
The Zurich R User Group was born in November 2015 after Christoph and I had been discussing about doing it for more than half a year. The first meetup was held on December 7th. Since then we have had two other meetups and it has been a great experience so far. Today we are 301 members of the group and the last meetup was already attended by about 70 people. For a city with 400,000 inhabitants that seems pretty big to me.
So your city has no R User Group yet? Go ahead and organize one. It’s easy. I can tell you a little about my experience and what needs to be done.
What are the things that need to be organized?
Things you have to do every once in a while
Just think of who would be interested in having a good reputation with R users. This can be companies who offer products that might be interesting to R users or potential employers of R users. Our sponsors so far have been RStudio, Zurich R Courses and Sanitas. We or people we know (thanks Kirill) approached them and they were all willing to help. After all snacks and drinks are not expensive.
Find people to help
The whole idea of a meetup is about community. You don’t have to do everything alone. Christoph, Muriel and I have so far each taken the responsibility of organizing one event. We help each other and are always happy for more people to help.
Things you have to think of for every meetup
Approach people you know, if they want to present their project. Announce open speaker slots in the meetup event. Ask people if they know interesting people who could present something. Talk to people at the meetups and encourage them to approach you if they would like to present. That is what we did so far and never had problems finding great speakers.
Sponsors like hosting events. Otherwise Universities are a good option. Make sure to not only have a room to hold the talks in but also a nice area for networking and drinks and snacks afterwards. So far we had one meetup at the Sanitas offices and two at the University of Zurich. Booking the rooms at the University was easy since Muriel and I are members. Microsoft has approached us recently with the offer to host a future meetup.
The drinks and snacks
If the sponsor hosts the meetup you don’t have to worry about it. Otherwise you can order stuff. For the meetups at the University we ordered from coop@home once and just went to the supermarket the other time. We got some beer, water and soft drinks as well as fruit, chips and other salty snacks. We made the water available already during the talks.
Make sure everyone feels welcome
There are a few things we do to (try to) make everyone feel welcome:
- Have mixed difficulty talks.
- Have different speakers (I have heard of a meetup where the same person has been presenting several times).
- Have some buffer time before the talks for people to arrive and get to chat a little. It also prevents from interruptions due to people who arrive a little late.
- Keep time of talks below 30 minutes and the whole presentation part at one hour (this is people’s free time after all).
- Just be kind to everyone and have fun :)
It has been a lot of fun hosting the meetups and talking to all the interesting people coming so far. I hope we have started something that will go on for a long time :)