At WIMP we say “Ask a person, not a search engine.” At WIMPspace our slogan is “Cowork. Colearn. Coexist.” Here are some ways that you can host meetups and build a colearning community that impacts more than just your coworkers.
1. Make them free.
Don’t create a price barrier that will exclude people from attending and participating. Instead encourage a $5 – 10 donation. You’ll be surprised the amount of money you still get, especially when you have someone at the door to greet your guests as they arrive.
2. Don’t set up any chairs.
This may seem like I’m telling you to be lazy and underprepared, but trust me on this one. You’ll notice a massive difference in engagement between people walking into a room where they can sit down and wait for the event to start vs. giving them no excuse but to stand and mingle with other people.
3. Make it a potluck.
When people bring food or drink, they’re bringing a part of themselves. You can get to know a lot about a person by what they bring to a potluck. It also makes the atmosphere more casual and open, and encourages conversation.
4. Say “no” to networking.
We like to call ourselves an “unnetworking” group. It’s not about handing out as many business cards as possible; it’s about building real relationships with real people, business or otherwise.
5. Give your guests the floor.
Make the time to do a round of introductions before your actual program starts. Encourage people to share their names, what they do and if they are hiring or looking for work; whatever will break the ice and spark those connections that might make a difference in someone’s life or career.
6. Schedule meetups regularly.
Try to be consistent with the day and time you have events. If members can count on the same day of the same week of every month, for example, it allows them to anticipate when an event will happen even before you have it on the calendar.
7. Make a Facebook group.
Be a lover or hater of Facebook, it’s the social network we all have in common and the one that’s the least obtrusive to get people to use every day. Turn this into the “home” for your group for the day-to-day interaction of your greater community. This way the folks that don’t need coworking can still get a lot out of the group without needing to be in your space.
8. You don’t need a speaker.
No speaker? No problem. Pick a topic that’s been hot that month in your Facebook group and open it up to conversation. You can easily facilitate an open-format conversation where everyone will walk away like they’ve learned something as well as contributed.
Good luck with growing the colearning side of your coworking community! See you at GCUC USA 2015!