Community Organizer's Guide

Overview

For all of us at Elastic, community matters. Our users and contributors have helped to ensure that Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats are more than just code — they are open source projects that people love to use, and love to talk about!

Whether you're looking to gain public speaking experience, wishing to network with like-minded folks in your area, or hoping to "level up" the local community's knowledge base, organizing or participating in a meetup group can be an incredibly rewarding way to contribute not only to the Elastic community, but also to the community in which you live or work.

We realize that people enjoy giving back to the communities they care about, so we've created this guide to help you get started on your path to starting a Meetup user group. It's not quite a "cape" — but rest assured, you'll still be a superhero to many for bringing together the Elastic Fantastics in your area!

This guide is a bit long, but we hope the information in it is useful to the novice user group organizer and those who've attended hundreds of meetups. If you're an experienced meetup organizer, you may just want to drop us a note to meetups@elastic.co to get things started.

tl;dr

  • All Elastic User Groups are governed by our Community Code of Conduct. By signing up to be an Elastic User Group organizer, you are agreeing to abide by the Code of Conduct and to ensure community group participants do so, as well. The Community Code of Conduct is always available online for anyone's review here.
  • Start your community organizing by reaching out to affinity user groups first to spread the word about the upcoming creation of the new group & to recruit speakers. Affinity user groups are existing groups talking about topics that are also of interest to users of the Elastic Stack, such as the local Python User Group or a Big Data User Group.
  • We have a budget for food and beverage for attendees and can arrange for venue & catering via requests to meetups@elastic.co. We cannot help in every situation but we will do our best to assist.
  • Make sure the venue has the correct resources — projector, etc. — and is audience appropriate.
  • We're here to help make you successful in your meetup quest! You can always reach out to us for help via meetups@elastic.co.

Community Code of Conduct

The purpose of our Community Code of Conduct is to ensure that all participants in Elastic community events have the best possible experience. We are all here to help each other learn, grow our skillsets and have a good time!

All meetup attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers, including the event organizing team, are required to agree with the following Code of Conduct. Organizers will enforce this code throughout the event. We expect cooperation from all participants to help ensure a safe environment for everyone.

You can find Elastic's Community Code of Conduct here.

Kicking Off Meetups — In More Detail

You kicking off a community meetup group is awesome! Thank you very much for taking this on.

Before starting a meetup group

Before starting a new meetup group, it is important to ask whether or not you can keep the group fed with activity. If it will be hard to regularly get speakers or you think you will be the only speaker available most of the time, it might be better to instead speak at a different meetup group about Elasticsearch and Elastic Stack topics.

For example, if spinning up a meetup group in Bangkok, Thailand, take a look at

http://www.meetup.com/cities/th/bangkok/

Bangkok TechMeetup sounds like a group that would be quite interested in Elastic related topics. Another good choice might be the BKK Rails & Javascript Meetup if you are interested in either Rails or Javascript. Elasticsearch has clients for both languages.

DIY vs. Affinity Groups

We're not trying to discourage anyone from creating a new meetup group, just pointing out that there are other ways to do outreach to the local community that are easier than doing it all yourself. The process of reaching out to other community user groups (a.k.a. affinity groups) also helps to spread the word to many different potential users since your are meeting people where they are used to going instead of inviting them to do a whole new thing. It is also worthwhile to give one or two talks to existing groups before starting a new meetup group because it will give you the chance to let folks know you are planning to start an Elastic meetup group. At your talk, you can ask people if they would be interested in attending. This process will help you find potential speakers and group members even before you get the group started formally.

If you find there is great interest — and we know that you will — it's time to start an Elastic specific meetup group. It is always nice to have established relationships with other user groups so that you can invite them to advertise your meetings, and offer to do the same to your group members.

Here's an example from Chicago, where the Ansible folks promoted an Elasticsearch meetup to their group after joining the previous night's Elasticsearch meetup ES+Ansible:

http://www.meetup.com/Ansible-Chicago/messages/boards/thread/48547797

When you are ready to get the meetup group going

One of the most important things to do is establish a regular routine for your meetup group. For example, you may decide you only want to meet quarterly on the 2nd Tuesday of the 3rd month. You don't have to decide an exact schedule now, but it is important to tell group members how often you plan to hold the meetup so they don't think the group has gone dead because you're in between events. Even stating that we're aiming to meet every other month is enough.

It has worked very successfully for us to do casual meetups over refreshments — pub or cafe, take your pick — for months where no formal meetups with talks are planned. You don't have to do this every month you don't have talks scheduled, but it is certainly worthwhile to do so if the group has not met in 2 months. Regular meetings keep people engaged and give you the chance to talk to local folks who might want to volunteer to speak in the future.

Adminstrivia — Meetup.com

Amongst the many ways Elastic is happy to support your efforts — more details in this document — we're happy to cover any organizer dues for meetup.com. The easiest way for us to make that happen is to set up the group for you on meetup.com. Just send a note to meetups@elastic.co to get in touch and start the process with us.

If you've already started a group on meetup.com but would like Elastic to help out with organizing and dues coverage, we're happy to help. Contact us at meetups@elastic.co so we can work with you to make one of our employees the Organizer of the group (a user role meaning Meetup.com bugs that user for dues).

How We Set Up Groups on Meetup.com

You are likely wondering how we go about setting up new meetup groups on meetup.com in terms of naming, logos, etc. Here are more details:

User Group Logo

We have a special logo just for Elastic User Groups. We hope you'll use and enjoy it. If you use other images for an Elastic User Group, that's fine but we'll look to make sure that it doesn't conflict with our brand guidelines.

Logo - Elastic User Group

User Group Naming

We call our groups Elastic user groups to encompass Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats or their powers combined as the Elastic Stack, not to mention ES-Hadoop, Elastic Cloud, and all of the great ecosystem projects that folks use with the Elastic Stack, e.g., Puppet.

User Group Participant Name

Meetup.com has a feature where you can give a name to your group participants. Think of it almost like a team name. We call our user group members the Elastic Fantastics. Because it's fun, and the Elastic Stack is fantastic!

Custom URL for the Group

Meetup.com allows you to create a custom URL for your user group.

The group custom URL will be -Elastic-Fantastics, e.g., http://www.meetup.com/Salt-Lake-City-Elastic-Fantastics/

Consistent URLs across regions make it easy for folks near you to find your meetup group.

Group Description

Meetup.com asks for a description for each group. Here's what we've come up with:

This group is for anyone interested in open source search, logging, analytics, and data visualization. We primarily focus on these open source projects — Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats — but we welcome talks on any aspect of data exploration.

If there's something different you'd like to see in the group description, let us know!

New Member Intake Questions

When a new member joins a meetup group, there is the option to ask them a set of intake questions. The answers to these questions will be displayed on their Meetup User Profile for the group.

Members are not required to answer these questions, but we certainly hope that they do because it will help us plan better meetups in the future.

Here are the intake questions, and why we ask each of them:

Q1: How did you hear about this meetup?
Why: This information helps us understand how to best recruit new participants to the meetup.

Q2: What do you hope to gain by participating in this meetup? (e.g., enjoying your peers' company, fixing a hard bug, finding a job, etc.)
Why: This information helps us understand how to best serve the needs of the user group members. If folks are mostly looking for a chance to get to know other users, that tells us that we should schedule a casual meetup over snacks every few months, not just talks. If many people say that they're hoping to learn how to deploy the Elastic Stack, that helps us choose future speakers.

Q3: Are you currently using or planning to use Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash and/or Beats? Tell us all about it. We will use your response to help us better understand what talks would be most beneficial to the group.
Why: Responses to this question help to determine the best kinds of talks for the group members. If we discover that a majority of participants are interested in e-commerce or log analytics, then the talks at the meetup can be tailored to reflect those interests.

Q4: We love the Elastic Stack, but we love lots of other tech too. What other topics would you like to hear about? (e.g., DevOps, Monitoring, APIs, etc.)
Why: As awesome as it is to talk about the Elastic Stack, we know our group participants care about many technical areas. Asking this question helps us understand what related topics would be useful to the group, and this information helps when recruiting speakers.

Q5: Would you be interested in speaking at a future meetup? We welcome 2-minute lightning talks to 1-hour deep dives. Would you be interested in hosting a meetup? If you answer yes to this question, the group organizers will contact you to follow up.
Why: As you'll see later in this document, one of the toughest parts about hosting regular meetups is finding speakers. We hope this question will uncover a number of people who are excited to share their story and expertise with the group, and make the lives of organizers easier.

Welcome Message

When someone joins a particular meetup group, they are shown a welcome message. Here's what we've come up with:

Thank you for joining us! If you're interested in learning more about and contributing to the Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats projects, visit https://www.elastic.co/community

If there's something different you'd like to see in the welcome message, let us know!

Sponsors

If Elastic is covering the costs for refreshments or meetup.com dues for a group, we ask to be named as the meetup's sponsor on meetup.com.

Casual Meetups Caveats

If you're scheduling a casual meetup over refreshments, make sure the venue has a wide variety of soft drinks in addition to alcoholic beverages - not everyone cares to drink alcohol. Please ensure that soft drinks are displayed just as visibly as alcoholic beverages, even if that means putting up a small sign next to the beers that says, "You can find a glass for tap water in the cupboard above the sink."

Depending on what you know about the local community, you might want to avoid meeting at a pub completely. (For example, there's currently quite a bit of push back against over consumption of alcohol at events and meeting in bars/pubs in some cities. Your mileage may vary.)

Bottom line: See what other groups that have a positive, welcoming community are doing and mirror their example.

Local Language and Meetups

We're a global community, and we welcome and encourage folks to present in their native tongue. In cases where the local language is not English, it is worth deciding in advance if presentations in English by visitors will work for your community members.

We hope to eventually have folks from our company visit your meetup and not all of them will speak the local language. Hopefully visiting presenters will be able to speak English and the audience will still benefit from the talks. If not, it is good to know that up front and do something more casual, including Q&A. This format means audience members who do not enjoy speaking English well can interact in a less formal environment, and not spend the night struggling to understand a presentation or feeling bad about speaking up due to concerns about their English proficiency.

Announcing the Meetup

We announce all of our meetups on meetup.com and can happily create an Elastic group for you. The team at Elastic is ready, willing and able to help you get the word out about the meetup.

The Agenda: Best Practices

1st Meetup Topics & Finding More Speakers

For your first meetup, it's usually great to present an introduction to Elasticsearch or the Elastic Stack, then invite others who would like to present to get in touch for future meetup speaking slots. We reward meetup organizers and speakers with T-shirts, other gifts and our eternal gratitude. If you are able to find more than one speaker for the very first meetup, you have done a great job and we are thrilled!

If you are looking for more speakers, asking in person during meetings is always best practice. However, another great way to find speakers is to ask for help on your meetup discussion board. Here's a sample email to help you get started:

Hello fellow Elastic fans!
Firstly, thank you for joining the group. It's good to see all the interest in Elastic growing.
We are looking for speakers for the meetups. Anyone that has anything to share around Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, or Beats is welcome. Hey, even if it's only remotely related, come and share your experience and knowledge!
Some topics we'd be interested in:
  • How you used an Elastic product to solve a problem in your company
  • What interesting side project you did with a component from the Elastic Stack
  • A deep dive into a specific feature of Elasticsearch
  • A novel use of Logstash to make your life easier
  • Building your own Beat
We welcome anyone willing to speak, newbies and very experienced people alike! Talks can be as long or as short as you would prefer to present, too. :)

Setting the Agenda for Talks

It is best to find a speaker who can talk for 45 minutes or 2-3 speakers who'd like to talk for 15-20 minutes each. In both cases, the speakers should also plan some time for Q&A following the talks. Make sure to set the agenda so that talks start at least 15 minutes after doors open, with 30 minutes being best practice. Gives people time to grab a snack and for late comers to arrive without disturbing the presentations.

If you can only find one speaker for a meetup, that's OK. Even if you can't fill the full hour with talks, it is still nice to get everyone together if it has been 2 months or more since the last meetup. You can fill time with open Q&A from the audience. If you cannot answer every question, that is OK. You can always reach out to the team at Elastic for help with audience member questions.

Other Fun Ways to Set the Agenda

  • Consider an open space style meetup. No agenda, participants are free to propose topics and join up with other interested attendees to discuss those topics.
  • Invite participants to sign up for 2-5 minute lightning talks on any topic, and schedule as many as you can. Coming up with a full talk can be difficult, but most folks are easily able to talk for 2-5 minutes about topics that inspire them, from Elasticsearch to Electric Vehicles. Have fun learning from each other!
  • Ask presenters to prepare their talks Pechakucha style — 20 slides with only 20 seconds per slide. Many people are familiar with this format as Ignite talks, so if you've heard of Ignite, you've heard of Pechakucha.
  • No speakers lined up, but still want to meet up with a focus to the discussion? Choose a short video (10-15 minutes) to show at the start of the meetup, with the rest of the agenda devoted to group discussion and learning about that particular topic. Participants may share useful articles they've read, their own experience with the topic or questions they have as a result of watching the video. More fun than watching alone at your desk!
  • Suggestions welcome and encouraged.

Other Scheduling Considerations: Mornings, Lunch Time, and Weekends

Attending evening meetups can be tough for many people. They may have family commitments, attend after hours trainings or just be quite tired after the work day. If you're interested in going the extra mile, consider hosting meetups every few months at different hours, such as over breakfast or lunch or on a weekend day.

Before proceeding, ask on the meetup group discussion board if any of the group members would be able to participate if the meetup took place during one of these alternate times. If you get enough takers, go for it! You'll likely find that you not only see familiar faces but a bunch of new folks, too.

If after an alternately timed meetup you discover that there's a lot of interest in the alternate time, you may find one of the individuals who can only make breakfast/lunch/weekend meetings is willing to help organize these activities with you.

Venue

For finding a venue, we'll try to help with that process if you do not have contacts locally that would like to host. In general, it is probably easier for you to find a venue than for us to research one for you since you are located where the event will take place, but we will still do our best to help. Startup incubators, co-working spaces, and libraries often provide meeting space for user groups at no or very little cost, so start with these places if you don't already know of an organization sharing their office space with community groups.

Refreshments

For refreshments, we have some budget for food and drinks. You can either order in refreshments or plan to head to a local pub or restaurant after the meetup to enjoy networking time together over food. Usually we order in so food is available when folks arrive for the talks, but you tell us what works best for the local community. For help with catering budget, email meetups@elastic.co and we're on it!

Meetup Sponsorship

Elastic is happy to provide some budget to user groups for refreshments, but that shouldn't stop you from accepting help from other sponsors. If you have a volunteer who'd like to cover the costs of snacks and drinks, go for it! Please make sure to thank the sponsors at the start and conclusion of the meetup. It's also totally appropriate to ask the sponsor to spend 1-2 minutes delivering the message of their choice, such as "We're hiring!" Note that sales pitches do not go over well at meetups, so if your would-be sponsor would like to announce "Buy my spectacular widget!" then it's best to suggest an alternate approach. We're always ready to help with this conversation if you need it.

Spreading the Word about the Meetup

It's best to announce the meetup on Twitter as soon as it is scheduled, and other social media like Facebook or LinkedIn where you have lots of techie friends watching. We will help get the word out by adding it to our online events calendar, emailing local folks in our contacts database, and via social media. Our Developer Relations Team tries to Tweet about every meetup since lots of Elastic community folks follow us, but a gentle reminder is always welcome via email to meetups@elastic.co.

Recording

If you are able to record the meetup, that is wonderful. We like to share videos from as many meetups as possible in our meetups playlist on YouTube. We have a small budget to support taping where its available locally — email us for help at meetups@elastic.co to see if we can cover recording costs and to arrange for us to get the video to host on our website. If you already have a local contact for recording, great! If not, we'll see if we know someone near you. Best effort service in this case, but we'll help where we can.

Sharing Content After the Meetup

At the very least, please ask speakers to upload their presentations to Slideshare or Speaker Deck or Prezi or another service that will allow us to embed their content for later resharing. Please ask them to post the slide URL in the meetup comments section and to send the URL to meetups@elastic.co so we can share them on our Speaker Deck page.

Nurturing the Community Long-Term: Best Practices

On advertising and marketing to meetup groups

Meetup Discussion Boards

Meetup.com provides discussion boards for each group. In general, we prefer that folks not post marketing messages to these discussion groups unless there is a clear benefit for the meetup's participants, e.g., a special discount code for a training or conference. If you are wondering if something is appropriate for the discussion board, use your best judgement. If it feels inappropriate, it probably is. You are the expert about what works best amongst the technical community in your area.

We also ask that folks not use our meetup discussion board for recruiting purposes. If you're hiring, you're better off going to the meetup in person to meet your would-be candidates.

Sponsor Announcements

Any company or organization who wishes to provide support to meetup groups should be thanked, by the meetup organizers, for their sponsorship. It is worthwhile to make these thanks during both the starting and closing remarks for the event. Best practice is to be specific in your thanks, e.g., "Thanks to Elastic for covering the food and drinks for tonight's meetup." or "Thanks to Xing for hosting us today!"

Should a meetup sponsor wish to make quick announcements at the start of the meetup, it is best practice to allocate 1-2 minutes for them to do so. It is important to make these announcements in a way that is appropriate for the audience. Technical meetups are not right venue for product pitches or other solicitations for business.

So, how can one do these announcements the right way?

Make the announcements very short. The presenter should have enough time to introduce herself, state the name of their organization, why they are a proud sponsor of the meetup and to get in touch with her to follow up about $TOPIC.

Here is an example of a recruiting announcement done the right way:

"Hello, everyone. My name is Bob Sampleperson and I'm with Awesome Company. We're heavy users of the Elastic Stack and we're proud to sponsor refreshments tonight as our way to give back to the community. We're also hiring, so if you're interested in hearing about our open positions for JavaScript developers, let's talk after tonight's presentations!"

Here's another example announcement script done the right way, this time from a company who would love for the participants to purchase a particular product.

"Hello, everyone! I'm Jeanette Examplehuman and I'm with Elastic, the company behind Elasticsearch, Kibana, Logstash, and Beats. We're honored to sponsor tonight's meetup and help bring the community together for knowledge sharing. If you'd like to hear more about our products, including support, or our training courses, just let me know after tonight's talks!"

Recruiting and Sales Pitches During Events

While we obviously want job seekers to find employment and for our attendees to find success in their business endeavors, there is a right way to communicate about these matters.

For recruiters who wish to source candidates from meetups, it is entirely appropriate for the recruiting firm to sponsor refreshments at the meetup and do a quick pitch to the audience that candidates are sought for specific positions. The announcement should be short and direct would-be candidates to speak to the recruitment agency after the talks conclude.

Sales pitches are not welcome at community oriented events. Speakers who use their time to sell a particular product will also find that their talk is not well received, so its not strategically useful to go with the "hard sell" approach. It's fine to mention your company sells products, but talks should focus on the technical aspects of the product and encouraging folks to try it out, not solution selling.

It is completely OK to mention where people can go online — or in person after the talks — to learn more about purchasing. If the discussion of how and where to make purchases is more than 1-2 minutes of your talk, you're giving a sales pitch. Rewrite those slides!

Any Other Questions?

Wonderful, we are here to help. Please email meetups@elastic.co and we are happy to assist you.


The Elastic User Group Organizer's Guide is licensed Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International.