How to Design Your First Successful User Meetup: Our San Francisco Story

Juraj Holub

When running a business, there is nothing more valuable than the face-to-face time spent with your clients. We all intuitively understand its importance, but the findings that HBR reported were staggering.

Face-to-face requests are 34 times more successful than an email.

At our meetup, we did not want to ask for anything. On the contrary. We hoped to bring together the growing community of our users in the Bay area and give back.

We had two goals we hoped to achieve with this event.

First, we wanted to provide some advanced tips so our users could get more out of Slido. Second, we aimed to create a space where they could engage with one another and share their best practices.

After a string of iterations and feedback loops, we settled on the topic of ‘How to organize impactful all-hands meetings’.

Keeping engagement at the centre, this is how we designed our first user event in San Francisco:

Let’s start with a story…

A while ago, HubSpot called storytelling the biggest business skill for the years to come.

So we couldn’t start without a proper story.

To open the event, I welcomed guests and shared a brief story.

Of how, four years ago, I joined an eight-member team crammed into a small room and how we have grown to a band of 90 spread across the world since then.

To stress the importance of all-hands meetings, I shared the anecdotes of how we started losing touch with what was happening as we brought more people onboard.

Once I set the context, it was time to move on. In the next step, I ran a series of polls to:

  • Appoint the scariest classical horror film (it was Halloween morning)
  • Point out the cumulative experience with managing meetings in the room
  • Gauge how much potential people are currently getting out of their all-company meetings

To avoid the dragging intros, I kept it short and interactive. We were done in less than 10 minutes.

It was time to share our tips and best practices for all-hands meetings.

Interview instead of presentation

Until the night before the event, I was convinced that we would deliver a traditional presentation with the key messages.

But it felt off.

HubSpot believes that storytelling will be part of every manager’s toolbox. We are convinced that the ability to effectively facilitate conversations will be equally important.

To walk the talk, I invited our CEO Peter Komornik onstage for the interview so we could deliver the content in tandem. The format was not only more engaging but it also took the pressure off Peter’s shoulders to give the entire speech in one breath.

In a 10-min slot, Peter responded to the following questions. (His answers referred to the practices that we have included in this resource. Take a look.)

  • From the perspective of a CEO, what’s the role of all-hands meetings?
  • Why and how do we use Slido to celebrate the highlights of the past month?
  • How do we use ‘Silent Heroes’ to boost the team morale?
  • Why do we dedicate 20 minutes to the Q&A at the end of our meetings?

Addressing the last question, Peter mentioned that it’s important to empower the team to voice their questions and have an open dialogue with them.

To give the participants a feel of this activity, I instructed the participants to take a moment and submit a challenge that they are facing in the context of organizing (all-hands) meetings.

It was not just a self-serving exercise.

The main reason was to get people to think about the issues that the other participants could help them with during the World Cafe discussions that followed.

Tapping into the crowd knowledge

In the first part, we shared some tips from the ‘stage.’

In the second part, we wanted to unlock the potential of crowd knowledge. To achieve that, we created a space where our users could share their tips and expertise with one another.

This exercise defined the spatial arrangement that we had prepared before the opening.

To split people into groups, we set five chairs in four semi-circles. These crescents also naturally endorsed the networking among participants.

participants

 To kick off, I introduced the principles.

Each group member would present a challenge that he or she posted.

In five-min long rounds, the remaining group members would act like experts, share their knowledge and help solve the participant’s problem.

Each group was joined by one Slido member who helped steer the discussion. Another Slido employee took notes so people could focus on the discussion.

To keep the whole session on track, I measured and announced when to conclude a round and start the next one.

In total, there were five rounds of five minutes each. Once each group member had his or her turn, I wrapped up the World Café.

Wrapping up the learnings

To conclude this participant-driven format, Peter and I asked the participants to take a moment and reflect on one learning that they were going to take away from the event.

takeaway questions

Then we encouraged the participants to submit them through Slido. This way, we could amplify the learning beyond the group level.

Everyone could see the pieces of wisdom that the others had obtained from the discussions and got also exposed to additional ideas. 

And lastly…

Before we went back to muffins and coffee, I asked the participants to share their thoughts on the event in a short survey.

We were thrilled to learn that they found both sessions useful. Also, we received a dozen of great ideas on what to improve next.

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