The New Playbook for Successful Group Organizing

Learn why the new model for successful communities is to offer a combination of online and in-person events.

People at an event

Connecting people has been the core mission of Meetup ever since it was founded in 2002. In these past two decades and counting, that guiding light has never changed, but the ways that people connect have grown over time and adapted to new circumstances. 

For many years, in-person events were the gold standard for Meetup’s community-building efforts around the world. But in 2020, when the entire globe faced an unprecedented pandemic, Meetup and its dedicated organizers had to become open-minded. In order to keep people connected during the era of social distancing, Meetup began offering online events for the first time. 

Meetup groups of all kinds not only weathered the storm, but actually showed incredible growth despite the challenges. Online events had unlocked a new value-add for organizers and members alike—the ability to meet anywhere at any time. 

Now, in 2023, what has emerged is the new playbook for successful group organizing. Hosting a mix of in-person and online events is the current trend that Meetup’s most successful communities have in common. If you’re searching for a way to increase event turnout and add more members to your group, learn more about why you should adopt this approach. 

The magic of IRL events

The thing about meeting in real life is—and this will sound obvious—it’s real. No matter how immersive an online experience may be, it’ll never match true physical presence. With an online event, you always have to accept some level of buffer between you and others. But when you pick a local spot to gather and you actually put yourself out there, something special happens. 

Human beings are social creatures. The social fabric of our lives has been based on in-person connection for our entire history, apart from this relatively tiny blip called the Internet Age. That’s why Meetup was founded on the idea that IRL connection is necessary for true friendship to emerge.  

For one thing, the casual observation and small talk aspects of community gathering are much easier to do in a physical location. Not only is there more stuff in your atmosphere to connect over, but you can more easily pick up on social signals when you’re engaging with more than a cropped image of a person on your screen. 

At the end of the day, the magic of IRL events is simple to understand. There’s nothing like connecting with locals who share your interests. It can make a new city feel so much more inviting, or deepen your love of your hometown.  

group by beach

The benefits of online events

During the height of the pandemic, the emphasis of online events was about meeting safely. But beyond that, virtual gatherings continue to provide elements of community-building that are difficult to achieve with IRL events alone. 

The main draw of online events is that they’re easier to attend. As an organizer, RSVPs aren’t limited to your local area. From the perspective of a potential attendee, an online event is more accessible and requires a lower degree of commitment, making it more likely that you’ll give it a shot. Starting with a casual online event is a great way for new members to break the ice. 

Online events are also cheaper to host. You don’t have to worry about the potential costs of booking an event space, or the headache of finding a last-minute backup venue if bad weather rolls through town. 

In addition to these logistical factors, hosting an online event also creates more curatorial possibilities. You can feature talented, knowledgeable, and experienced guest speakers from all over the world with the freedom that virtual gatherings offer. Check out this simple list of best practices for hosting online events.  

Embracing the two-pronged approach

A healthy mix of both IRL and online events ensures that you’re meeting members where they are. 

No matter the theme of the Meetup group, it’s undeniable that your community is built from the participation of unique individuals. Each of those individuals has their own preference for gathering in person, virtually, or some combination of the two.  

To help facilitate this kind of diversity, Meetup Pro will soon release a new feature: hybrid events.

This kind of event can be posted with two location links—one that shows the address of the physical event space, and one that leads to the simultaneous virtual hangout. That way, your hybrid event will appear in potential attendees’ searches whether they’re looking for an IRL or online event!  

The Meetup team’s internal data shows that the fastest-growing groups host both IRL and online events. Learn more about powerful organizing tools like hybrid events that are available exclusively through Meetup Pro

Last modified on November 15, 2023