Meetup malaise

All photos courtesy of David Pearson

So this week with considerable assistance from the main organisers in London and the very generous sponsorship of the Just Eat technical team in Bristol I helped put on a 300 Seconds event in Bristol.

For those that don’t know 300 Seconds is;

“..a series of talks by and for the digital community. We believe that digital is better when we can learn from the brilliance of the many, not just the few. With our events we hope to give our peers, and in particular women, a means of gaining confidence and experience in speaking in public.”

It seemed like a worthy project to me and with the seeming demise of Ignite in Bristol and the lack of any consistent generalist digital meet up going on I thought it would be worth a shot of trying to making it happen here.

The immediate offer from Just Eat of a venue and sponsorship was pretty amazing (and if I wasn’t clear enough on the night I was extremely thankful) and there immediately seemed enough interest to give it a go. This was though a bit misleading I think and I allowed myself to get carried away by a kind of Twitter event slacktivism.

Anyway we went ahead and booked a date and started publicity. A few speakers immediately volunteered and while it was difficult to get as many women speakers as I’d have liked it was a nice balance and on the night they were brilliant. Passionate, funny, interesting. All you could hope for really.

The venue as well was lovely and the fact that there was even AV support was pretty brilliant. The Just Eat guys provided a mountain of pizza and a lake of beer and soft drinks. The only thing that was missing were attendees.

Of the 60+ people who signed up only 26 arrived on the evening and that included the speakers and organising team (who didn’t sign up) so the actual drop out rate was even higher than it seems.

There were clearly contributing factors. The weather was rubbish as was the traffic. It was half-term (which as a non-parent I rarely consider). There were other events happening on the same evening — in particular it clashed with a MySociety Ignite event in Bath. I understand all of this but nonetheless it was pretty disheartening and a little bit embarrassing.

This is isn’t have a pop at anybody who didn’t attend — I don’t think there was some grand conspiracy. Things come up. People double book, or have to work late or feel under the weather. It happens. But.

The Social Media South West event in Bristol — a monthly meet up that was organised by one of our speakers (Beth) and attendees (Mike) recently went on ‘sabbatical’ after a drop out rate of 75% meant it just wasn’t worth the effort in organising it anymore. And that is the thing — even these small events take organising and effort. They don’t happen without a certain amount of graft and at some point you just have to decide whether it is worth that effort.

As everyone was quick to remind me this sort of drop out rate is normal for free events and you just have to factor it in. I understand that — really I do. I have been on both sides of things but nonetheless after taking a few days to think about it I’ve decided that I won’t be on the organising side of that fence anymore. I’ll try and continue to support anything I think I could contribute to and I will occasionally speak at events if asked but that will be the extent of it. It isn’t like I don’t have enough to do with the day job and away from that it has always been this, the writing, that I enjoy most.

So once again I’d like to say thank you to Ann and Lily for coming from London to host and to David for also making that trip to take such smashing photos and video it all. To the wonderful speakers who did such a great job. To the extremely generous sponsorship from Just-Eat (and Rob in particular) and to those few hardy souls who did come along and clapped and supported and provided such great company.


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