Meetups are a moment in time and space where people from very different worlds can get together and exchange on a specific topic. The crowd can be much more diverse than what one sees in a traditional academic meeting.
In the course of organizing the Paris Machine Learning Meetup series, here are some of things Franck Bardol, Frederic Dembak and I have noted and which ought to be considered for whoever wants to organize similar venues.
- high speed internet and wifi.
- a projector that connects to any laptops
- a microphone that connects to louspeakers
- people who support your technical community
- streaming the event
- setting up an archive of previous meetups with the presentations
- making available the presentations on the archive before the event
- sending constant reminders to attendees to change their RSVP to NO, a week, a day, an hour before the meetup.
- allowing people to RSVP yes even an hour before the start of the meetup
- We generally have sodas, champagne and pizza before the presentations allowing for about 30 to 45 minutes of meet and greet / networking between attendees.
- We generally try to have a word or two at the beginning of the meetup to give some context about what the speakers will talk about. We also mention local initiatives.
- We generally ask the presentation slides be in English (a good thing for the archives) but we leave the option of the spoken language open. It goes without saying that listening and understanding what is said in a foreign language (English) is not the same as really understanding what is said. Most of our speakers have given their presentations in French. We are absolutely open to both languages even for those speakers who's mother tongue is French.
- We started a series of remote presentations by having remote speakers give us a pitch or a presentation through Skype. Those are very convenient on two accounts: they require 20 minutes' time of somebody that is sometimes 8000 miles away, no travel required. A local crowd is exposed to some of the most innovative stuff on Earth, who would say no to that?
- In the case of a pitch, we had two speakers give us pitches for their crowdfunding projects. It required that we played locally the video on the projector of the crowdfunding campaign followed by a 5 to 10 minutes Q&A of the presenters directly on Skype. The Skype call was made directly from the laptop connected to the projector so that the face of the presenters would be big enough for the attendees to feel like they were talking to a real person. This happened in Meetup 7 and it went flawlessly. As an organizer, it is important you prepare the crowd to ask relevant questions.
- In the case of a remote presentation, we used an iPad for the video Skype call and put the microphone next the loudspeakers of the iPad (we could also have connected the local loudspeakers to the iPad). The full screen of the iPad was located at about the location where a local presenter would stand giving the impression to most that the remote presenter was not that remote. We had the presentation locally on the laptop connected to the projector. The speaker would ask the local organizers to go through each slide. A good thing was for those slides to be numbered. This happened at Meetup 8 and it went pretty much flawlessly. Again as an organizer, it is important you prepare the crowd to ask relevant questions.
- At the last meetup, we had five presentations. This was a bit much, three or four might be more optimal.
- We ask presenters for their presentations ahead of time and we also ask them to keep in mind the general topic of the meetup, for us it is Machine Learning. We also generally ask the speaker to provide ways for people to get in touch with them after the meetup: email, webpages, twitter....
- Finally, we have also created a mirror group on LinkedIn in order to provide a means for advertizing jobs etc which is not the main purpose of platform like meetup.com. Currently the meetup group has more 597 members while the Paris Machine Learning Linkedin group has 294 members and about 10 job offers since the group started about five months ago.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
W00086955.jpg was taken on February 19, 2014 and received on Earth February 20, 2014. The camera was pointing toward SATURN at approximately 1,762,178 miles (2,835,951 kilometers) away, and the image was taken using the CB2 and CL2 filters.
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