All You Need to Know to Organize a WooCommerce Meetup

Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
All You Need to Know to Organize a WooCommerce Meetup

When you get five meetup co-organizers together for a chat, the insights and experiences shared are going to flood the gates. This happens.

The group consisted of host Ronald Gijsel from the WooCommerce London Meetup and:

No matter if you are running a WooCommerce or WordPress meetup, you will learn a ton here. They talked about:

  • The transition of physical meetings to virtual
  • What the global aspect of attendance has meant to the meetup
  • Monthly vs. weekly meetups
  • How they recruit volunteers and how are they needed
  • What tips and challenges there are for securing speakers
  • Why inclusion is important with the different levels of experiences of attendees
  • How to build and grow your meetup community and does size matter
  • What are the strong points that really differentiate in-person vs virtual
  • How to get creative and build relationships virtually at meetups
  • What is the one big thing each organizer has gotten out of running a meetup

Bob: Hey everyone, we are back with Do the Woo, episode 121. This time around we are listening to a conversation with four WooCommerce meetup organizers and learning all that good inside information that comes with experience.

But before we get into that, I’d like to give a shoutout to our Pod Friends.

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So thanks for our Pod Friends and let’s get right into the show.

Ronald: Welcome everybody. We are here for another meetup, and this week we are talking about experiences with other WooCommerce Meetup organizers. I'm really excited to talk to you all and find out what it takes to organize a meetup, especially now that there are all online ones, lots of experiences to share. So my name is Ronald. I co-organize the London WooCommerce Meetup, and we do it on a weekly basis. I'm going to pass the virtual mic around, so Raquel, please introduce yourself and which meetup you organize.

Raquel: I an Raquel Landefeld, and I co-organize for Woo Phoenix of Arizona. I also organize several other meetups as well as run a Meetup Pro.

Ronald: Brilliant, yeah. I suppose it' really helpful to have the experience of several organizing meetups, so looking to find out more.

Ronald: Yeah. Vachan, welcome. I know it's late for you. You're calling from Mumbai.

Vachan: So my name is Vachan Kudmule. I co-organize the WooCommerce Kudmule meetup. We started this in 2015. We felt that there was a need to gather the company together because we knew that there were a lot of users, but it's just that they were not interacting with each other. And we taught that this platform would've been a good thing to have for the company can come together and interacting and building something. We are sharing experiences here, that's what most of the meetups are. Sharing experiences, having causal talks about WooCommerce itself. Then later we started doing more technical meetups. So, yeah it's a mix of those things.

Ronald: Great. Maja. Going to go with you next. Welcome, thanks for joining.

Maja: Thank you very much.

Ronald: So tell me a bit more about where you are and which meetup you organize.

Maja: It's a pleasure to be surrounded with so many great people, first of all. And I'm very lucky actually to work in such environment. So my name is Maja. I work for GoDaddy Pro. I'm a field marketing manager, and I host GoDaddy Pro meetup. I also support several other Woo meetups in their expansion, and trying to promote the work of other Woo Meetup organizers, so WooCommerce in general is a very close topic to me so any type of Woo knowledge I think it's a knowledge about future of sales, right? I'm very happy to be invited, and to discuss some beautiful opportunities actually and challenges that we all face when we organize any type of meetup, especially when it comes to Woo topics.

Ronald: Thank you. David.

David: Hello there. Thanks for having me here. I am one of the co-organizers for the Portland, Oregon, meetup group. We used to be all live, and now obviously since May of 2021 we are doing all online, hoping on going back to doing a hybrid or at least some live in-person meetups. I'm also the co-organizer of a very specific help desk meetup that is held twice monthly, but in that particular meetup we have all kinds of people, from beginner novices, intermediate-advance people, WooCommerce page builders, whatever you want to bring to it. I'm also an admin of a Clubhouse group that has since decided to do a combination of audio and video and Discord chat and build a community there. So, yeah thanks for having me here.

Ronald: Brilliant. So I think amongst use we potentially co-organize potentially hundreds of meetups all together, so I think we have quite a bit of experience when it comes to the things that work well and the things that don't work well. Hopefully we can share some of these good and bad points with our audience.

Vachan, you've been organizing for some time. How was the transformation from physical meetups? I'm assuming you started with physical meetups, and then to digital.

Vachan: Yes. So we've done more of digital of course, but digital is something that we are still grappling with because earlier also, even if we have a higher number of RSVPs, very few would turn up. But we thought that in digital would be the reverse, but unfortunately what happens is maybe people RSVP, but either they don't get the time right or something else. We are getting less attendance on digital. That is something that I felt was more challenging. As an assumption, we assume that because digital being easier, people can just pop up their phone and just have a conversation in the group. So that's something that we are struggling to get in place, whether it's the content, whether it's technology, whether it's the platform or something else.

It has been a little different experience, and even in today's time, even if there are lock downs, meeting in person is actually not possible because of the legalities. In the comments people keep telling us that they also would like to have meetups physically because they feel that there is more connection. So that's something that I have an experience with physical versus the virtual.

Ronald: Yeah. Raquel, how has it been for you. I mean, you've organized a wide range of different types of meetups, and how did you find transitioning

Raquel: Yeah. It was all over the place. There was quite a spectrum from heartbreak to innovation. And I would say for one end, I work for Elegant Themes, maker of Divi, and we made our entire network go virtual. So there was a lot of processes, official documentation, and "here's how we're doing it. Let's do this". And it actually blew our mind. The community grew and did really really well last year. Very shocked. And then from the heartbreak side, I love in-person. That is exactly where community happens. The vibe, the feels you get from the warmth of the community, so I was not expecting it to do so well, but it did.

So then on a local level with Woo or even WordPress in our meetups and locally, we went through a little shock period of time of no meetups, and then maybe a couple of virtual check ins. So there was definitely an ease into it, to where then we started to regularly coming up with a transition of, "Okay, we're going to do this virtually for now". But because we had such a strong, vibrant in-person event, it's definitely been on the light side of things. We're just checking it off. Let's just do this. But what we have found is that people have come out of the woodwork who are not one to come to in-person events, and they actually loved the virtual side of things.

So definitely in the future it's going to be a hybrid sort of thing. And I've heard some people say, "Oh my gosh, all these new virtual lovers. I don't know if we're going to even go back to in-person". And we'll say no. A lot of in-person lovers have been in their own trauma in dealing with that, and so we for sure are going to. And I would encourage every one to do both because the people who love in-person have been hiding, dealing with their own shock, and also not wanting to do anything with virtual.

And so we're going to for sure have it be in-person again, but then still provide that virtual element whether it's through Zoom or some kind of live streaming. All the tools we've been talking about. We feel that that's the best of all the worlds to meet people where they are, to provide that virtual component to those who love it, and then also the ones who have been dying to get back to seeing each other. So when the timing's right.

Ronald: One positive I find from organizing the London meetup is meeting people from all over the world, no matter what time it is.

But how has it been for you David? You're joining meetups from all over the world, but also as an organizer.

David: It's interesting you bring that up, as a matter of fact. We have two different types. We always had the help desk be online, the twice monthly help desks. Now we not have that much of an issue bringing the speaker, the once a month speaker, the first Monday of every month. Getting speakers is a different thing, but bringing that to online wasn't that hard, except for one notable thing that we have a lot of international attendees. So we've had to be very explicit and say, "Hey, our meetup is being held the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00p.m. Pacific time, really spelling that out. We've also had issues where we're trying to adjust our times to allow other people to join from around the world. But now, to a certain extent, maybe not want to get into it, but how do we transition back eventually into having the live meetings and making sure that the presenters, which currently from all over the world, making sure that they are people who are local to Portland, Oregon, United States is something that we're now thinking of.

Ronald: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we're going through the cycle and now start planning again for the physical meetups. I must say, that probably is an issue for us as well, because I know at last meetup, I think there were only two out of 15, 16 that joined in, which were local enough to get to a central London location. So it is probably something that we have to start planning and thinking about as well.

Maja, you organize a weekly meetup, and I'm assuming that the GoDaddy ones have always been online, because I find it really hard to imaging organizing the EMEA meetups to be in a physical location.

Maja: Yeah, I mean I remember last year when the whole thing changed, when we had to think of a different way first of all to approach the potential interest of people who'd like to come and listen. So first of all we had to locate them because we wouldn't find them anymore in those locations. And then we had to motivate them at the same time psychologically to join us because all of a sudden everybody understood that there is a need to communicate and to spread the knowledge and the information in different way. And now that we were able to find our own audience, people who would actually be there to present the knowledge, get the courage. So I think that the whole thing was actually first of all to motivate to come to online events, and now it can be a challenge again for some people for how to get them to join physical events.

So I think there is a road in front of us called motivation and understanding because I think we've become a bit lazy these days, like "Okay, I'm not going to be part of this meetup online because I'm going to watch the recording later". I think that hybrid is very important because it gives people this additional type of freedom that you can actually go through the lecture or whatever you would be interested in, and then get updated on any topics. So physical only again, I don't think it's going to be the best solution. I think hybrid would work better in this case.

Ronald: Yeah, interesting. Maja, you organize a weekly meetup. Is anybody else doing a weekly?

David: So for my in-person, for the Portland, Oregon WordPress meetup, the twice monthly, the first Tuesday and the fourth Tuesday of each month, 6:00p.m. Pacific time. And then for Clubhouse, the administrative group like I mentioned previously, the WordPress Q and A group on Clubhouse, that can be really ad hoc. People just bring up things, and generally speaking it's twice per week for that Clubhouse group. But I don't have to administrate that. I don't have to moderate that, those two sessions that come up.

Ronald: Okay, so we in London do a weekly meetup. And the reason behind it was to just have a regular but fairly low-key meetup, and it's more of a place and a time to be available to help people out. But as we started organizing speakers and specialist topics around the meetups and it became a bit more organizational, but also people have started to come forward, like "We would like to do a talk", for example. So it has become a lot easier again.

Raquel, I'm assuming it's on a monthly basis. How difficult is it? Do you find yourself organizing lots of people, sending lots of reminders? Also what Vachan pointed out was that, Vachan, you might have a lot of RSVPs, but not actually so many people turn up. How do you manage that?

Raquel: Well, for starters, we do a lot of marketing for sure. All of it. I just really feel like you need to do that, you need be communicative. You need to be sharing. You need to be reminding everybody because people need reminders. We, on the RSVP side of things, we take attendance, so more for data. Nobody gets into trouble. Nobody gets their name on the board or anything, but when we take attendance we want to make sure that we're seeing what our conversion of RSVP to actual show up are. So that helps us from the organizer point of view. But meetups tend to be, especially more traditional in-person, monthly because we were doing that, having a speaker every single time. Like a mini, tiny, micro WordCamp.

Our community is local, but we've done virtual speakers for years before this, and we were always okay with the speakers. They are basically a guest in our house, our local area. Bring them in, we'll stram them, and then we'll all be here as a community to watch them. So it became pretty easy to get speakers. And especially for those of us who are well connected to the entire community globally, we were bringing in speakers in from all over the world just because of us traveling and knowing people and things like that.

So it's more of once you get the system down. It is work, but having a team I would say helped a ton. It's not just on my shoulders, even on the WooCommerce team for Woo Phoenix there's three of us, and we have our own areas that we take care of and help each other, so now the burden is carried by multiple shoulders instead of just mine. So that helps a ton. I have seen where some might do a once a month in-person and then they would do the help desk another- So one month might be bimonthly I guess, Q and A, and then also an in-person, or right now virtual. So one could be a formal presentation style, and the other is just show up and let's help each other out and see what we can do. But I've noticed that once the community is going and people know that I am welcomed and I really love it, it kind of doesn't matter what the content is. The content really helps bring noobs and brings people for that specific topic, but once the community is going, people show up regardless. That's what we achieve for.

David: If I can add in here. I think Vachan in Mumbai may be similar to me in that I'm all focused on volunteers, and there's a sustainability issue with volunteers. Not only the volunteers for speakers that you're going to hope they're going to show up, but more importantly from a sustainability there's a really strong wisdom into doing the monthly, just to make sure that you can get into the pace, you can have volunteers that can step in, you can have co-organizers. So I just want to offer that up. Not all of us here are paid to do these meetups. Volunteerism turns it into a different situation, and that's why I think for people that are thinking about starting, there's a safety in monthly or even every other month.

Ronald: David, while we're on topic on getting support from volunteers, how do you recruit volunteers? How do you get people involved? Are these people that turn up regularly and you say, "Would you like to do something"? Or how do you manage that?

David: I specifically wait for volunteers to approach me, or others in the group there. If there's somebody who's regularly participating, for example the in-person meetups that we've had in the past. When somebody keeps showing up early, they keep asking questions, they want to help out, it's obviously, they want to just really be engaged with the WooCommerce community. Then in those cases then I would approach them, but in most cases you hope you get good volunteers. You really hope that you can keep them happy. I see Vachan is laughing in my direction. I understand that that's how it works.

Ronald: Yeah, well I was going to pass it on to him. Vachan, share your experience with recruiting volunteers.

Vachan: Yeah, what David said actually makes a lot of sense and Raquel also. We have regular meetup, and when it was a good turnout we started realizing is we had a standard frequency regular meetup fixed by location. We got a sponsored location. We test the location. We test the date of the month, and we test the time that this event will happen. So what started happening is because the word of mouth spread, everyone knew that they didn't have to look at the calendar.

They knew next month or so at the same given time, at the same given location, this meetup is going to happen, and those were the meetups that we kept, like a Q and A or you would would just come with a question for the meetups. And with that we tried to do combinations of biweekly speaker sessions without technical. And also one strategy we did which we felt worked in both directions, whenever there was to be a local WordCamp, we used to do three months in advance weekly sessions which would be broken down. One would be a training session. One would be a Q and A session. One would be a speaker session. And one would be a just come together and gather and have a good time kind of a meetup.

So those were the most effective because one thing is the Woo community grew as well as the WordCamp had with better attendance because people started knowing that there's a local WordCamp happening. People wouldn't even know that there was this WordPress community, but because of the Woo popularity, they came to a Woo meetup and the WordPress community grew in that way. That was one of the strategies which were the best for us. But all this has a separate mode of physical. But virtual we still have to figure out a formula what works maybe. But this is something that helped up a lot.

Coming to the question of the volunteers. My business partner is someone who volunteered for a meetup, and we got so close together because our ideologies were the same, our working strategy was same, so we actually started our own business as business partners. So volunteers have been a very good avenue for us. We've not had to struggle much because people are very enthusiastic, and as David said, the volunteers they automatically turn up. You see the excitement in them. You see the curiosity in them. You see the eagerness to learn. And that's what make them the volunteer.

And speakers is something that we have had some struggle with. Many people feel that they can't talk, but then what happens is we need to curate because in there's so many people who just want to start it as an eCommerce platform. Instead of starting an eCommerce website they just think that they are an eCommerce agency. So you have to be very careful. We setup some guidelines internally for our committee for how we curate the speakers, who should be the right one. And being an open source concept we try to involve more and more volunteers in the curating process itself.

Ronald: Yeah, that's a couple of really interesting points you've made.

Maja, how is it for you to recruit speakers, and do you have some sort of format for your meetups? How do you find that process?

It's not always what we want, but it's how the life actually takes place. It's sometimes we organize everything in advance and everybody's happy, but then something turns up and the speaker is not able to come. And you know how it goes.

Ronald: I know. It happened yesterday.

Maja: Yeah, so it's a bit stressful to say because I think we all give ourselves very high level goals because we do feel some responsibility by bringing some certain speakers, what they will speak about, how people will feel about it, what will there be some value that both parties actually got there. Some speakers get the additional branding and understanding and perception in the community, and then the community also takes the knowledge. But then it's again, I think we are giving ourselves too high goals. I think if we look at the meetups from the point of you or sharing knowledge, I think all of us are doing a very good job.

Because first of all, the industry that we work in, it changes in a millisecond. I mean, now everything can change. And whatever we spoke about yesterday, that could be, "Sorry, that was past. Now we have something new to talk about". And luckily, WordPress is an endless garden of topics. Because whatever you talk about, even if you have let's say all five of us. We have the same speaker. He can still speak on a different topic or from a different perspective or curated for certain type of audience.

So it is hard to find people who first of all are extroverts. It's very rare to find introverts. Usually professionals, or people you want to have on stage, they don't want to speak. There is this model of actually persuading them and explaining then that it's nothing hard. So I think in WordPress there are so many very good speakers that we can share, especially in the Woo community. What I've noticed is that Woo community is the most active among the rest of the communities in WordPress, especially when it comes to development. You can rarely find a talk on development, or it's very focused on a certain topic.

We just need to understand that if we give our best and if we try our best, then I think everything should turn best. So even if, let's say, I sometimes I have more than 100 people signed up for the event, and then very less show up. And then you're asking yourself, "Okay, did I do a good job? Did I market it properly? Was there anything else I could have done?" Nothing sounds so reaching a goal, but actually, in attracting those people and giving them those values.

So I think with all here feel somehow responsible how many people we'll be able actually to help with the work that we do. So it is challenging, but it is emotionally rewarding because I get to meet all these people, lovely just like you are. So it's a very rewarding and hard job at the same time.

Ronald: David, your experience with finding speakers. I know you quite happily talk and share your knowledge. How is it for you?

David: Well, for our once a month meetings, it's been difficult. As a briefly, briefly mentioned, the thing that we're trying to make sure happens is that we bring in local speakers, ones that are Portland, Oregon specific, and as long as we're bringing those folks there we're internally safer than anything else. But getting speakers and making sure that they show up and making sure they're prepared is something that you take a risk on if you know they're inexperienced speakers. Over the past few months we've had nothing but good results with it.

Ronald: Vachan, they have some quality control in place that you are comfortable with that your audience will like. Raquel, when it comes to audience, do you worry that you attract the right type of attendees, whether they're local or talk about representation or inclusion?

Raquel: Yeah, number one is definitely inclusion. And I come at it from two different angles. I've been a volunteer of meetups and word camps for almost a decade, and then there's the other side where I work for another company, that manages a team. But I would say that our biggest number one when it comes to audience is 100 percent inclusivity, and that we're first of all warm, trusting, and welcoming of everybody no matter what. But then from there you do want a good community. And I think any time you have a sort of open source community other types of community that since where it's built on social capital, you're going to tend to attract a lot of different types of persons that maybe aren't the best fit. So then it comes to are we still holding the standards for the groups values, and are we still being gracious and kind to everybody even when they're difficult?

And with that, definitely when it comes to the audience itself, local has been number one. But in the virtual worlds, we talked about earlier, we're getting people literally from all over the world joining our groups. So then in one sense it has helped in making us feel like, this sounds so funny, we're all one world experiencing this together. And it's like in the universe we're a local earth. But getting back to in-person, I would say that making sure that we are all accepting of each other that we truly are diverse, accepting others' differences, but at the same time, that we culturally share that value that we all should have, that we trust each other, that we welcome each other, that we accept each other. And even in ways that are hard to accept, that we still are accepting.

Ronald: Yeah, if you look at it just from a knowledge beginner and experienced user, we have the marketeer and the coder. Do you want to cater for everybody, or you try to include everybody in your group, or how do you maybe stay that by tackling certain topics or giving time for all levels.

Raquel: Well topics like Woo or Divi meetups, I would say the audience tends to be more on the beginner level. When it comes to technical, I feel like meetups off the bat attract a very noob audience. And so then then challenge then becomes how do we want to still attract those who are really still advanced more with all of it. So then we would tend to have specific advanced topic meetups for those. But our WordPress meetup, what we've actually done is we've created five different topical WordPress groups under our WordPress Arizona umbrella.

So we would have a marketing WordPress group, we have a general WordPress group, we have an advanced developer WordPress group. Oh yeah, I guess in there we included the same umbrella community of Divi and Woo. So that's what we've done in the grand scheme to appease all of the audiences. So the general WordPress tends to attract the more noobs, and then the advanced developer, which actually still will attract some noobs because they just see there's a WordPress meetup and they're come. But that's one solution that we have done, and so that does end up being multiple times a month, up to five times a month, but because every single one of these has their own individual organizer or organizers, then it does work out.

But I feel like definitely the trick is to still always attract the intermediate or advanced developers when it comes to the technical aspect of these meetups. And so that is what we're constantly thinking of because we know we're going to attract noobs off the bat. So what can we do to still include the more advanced developer types.

Ronald: Great. How is that for you with bringing in enough inclusion for your meetups? And also as a follow up question, when it comes to different levels of knowledge, what is your experience and how do you manage that?

Vachan: Inclusion. So even on the meetup website, we follow all the WordPress code of conducts and WordPress rules and we make everyone comfortable. Whenever they come we have- We don't collect any data as such. We don't ask for- Privacy wise we say you are open to share all datas you want to. We actually said no to venues, venues who had equipment ready for us to do anything. Just because they wanted to collect email IDs we said no to that. At that level we see to it that we follow all the WordPress rules that are being put down by the WordPress community, and that's something that we try our best to do even for the meetup level also. We've experimented a lot. We've been doing this since past of five, six years. This is the seventh year starting now. So we've experimented a lot because it's about the local community. So we were trying to figure out what is the local community? Whether its developer community or a user community. But we realized Mumbai is highly densely populated so we actually were able to fulfill every segment.

We make it very clear in our description, and we pointed our this is an advanced or this is a developer thing or this is a just get the basics. So the expectation was set before even they went starting. So the description is try to make it as such that you are defining this. And of course what happens and because we have a fixed meetup that is happening regularly, which is open-ended, anyone comes into an open track, they can continue or we inform them that this is a very open track or if it's related to the current topic of a meetup. So that way, and as also Raquel said, noobs will end up in everywhere, where it will be exclusively mentioned this is advanced, you have to have some basic knowledge, they will end up there.

So what David said. There are volunteers who are very eager to help when the current presentation is happening. Our venue allows that flexibility. You cannot have a one on one with someone, we tell them it's not a waste of your time. You can sit down, understand it, or if you want someone can help you understand the basics, and then join us for the standard basic ones. So it's always been a mix, and largely as I said our community is extremely divided. We take a basic one, still we get a good crowd. We take an advanced one, still we get a good crowd. And even if we take a developer track we get a good crowd. The agencies, the developers, as well as users.

Ronald: You have a luxury problem. Highly densely populated city of course. Whatever you put up, you'll get lots of attendees. David, what's your tip when it comes to filling up a vibrant and dynamic community?

David: For the community side itself, you have to really try to promote yourself. And that's a big, big thing, and keeping- can only go so far in trying to make sure that you reach the people over and over and over again. It's not unlike Zoom fatigue. People get message fatigue. And there's this enough is enough. So building a community, we find that as long as we keep the meetings on a regular frequency. I

have that luxury of having a co-host of the twice monthly help desk sessions, and the same people keep on coming back. Once we get into larger numbers, that starts becoming an issues. Something similar to what we were talking about before where what kind of experience levels are welcome and not welcome. From a community standpoint, you don't want people to show up to some advanced topic and feel like they're excluded, especially if that advanced topic just goes right over their head very quickly.

So with the help desk specifically, we open with some news items, and then we go immediately to say who has questions with the hope of trying to get the people who are new, novices or beginners, to have them address really, really early on. Inevitably, even with the most complex topics towards the end, you're still have people that are hanging on tight, they're learning a lot, and at the very, very end of these complex even sometimes code sessions, they're be like, "So should I choose or" And I'm like "Yay, you made it". Everybody had been here before is what you have to keep on saying. It doesn't make a difference what level people are at. So a good portion of that is making those people feel comfortable, even when you start getting into complex topics, that they can come back.

We also find that the announcements and this is specifically with It has a promote feature, and you want to try to stagger your promotions, meaning you don't want to necessarily create six different events and promote all at the same time and publish all at the same time, because then all of a sudden people are only going to see one particular notice.

Another way to build the community is try to push people towards our Slack channel that we have in Portland, Oregon, or on the WordPress Q and A on Clubhouse is pushing them to the Discord group. And that has a continuity of sort also. People at first, they're hesitant. They don't know if they should go into it, but once they sign up and they can scroll back and see some of the comments, next thing you know you start seeing people participating in that side of the community, which is equally as important.

Ronald: Yeah, so question to all of you. Do you think it's important that your community grows and you try to please everybody or is there a point where you say, "Actually, we now have a nice community. People can dip in and out, but it's a good size where we can be supportive, where we can get to know each other regularly." Does it matter how big a community is, Raquel?

Raquel: I would say off the bat no it doesn't matter. Quality over quantity. But I think it just sort of happens, organic. If a community is strong and there's quality, it's going to grow because it's attractive. And as humans, we're attracted to that. We want to be a part of that, especially if it's around a topic that we all love or that we're interested in. The size I would say not so much matters because that will take care of itself. It's really our values, where we're taking the community. How welcoming and warm it is. Was that all the question?

Ronald: Follow up actually on what David said as well, is the different topics, and even if you're not an expert on it, I personally have been there as well. Something that I have no idea about, and then maybe six months, maybe one even two years later I get back to it. I'm like, "Hang on a second. I remember this. I've heard about it. I've learned about it." So I think having allowing or giving people the opportunities, even if it goes right over their heads, can be a good thing for them later down the line for sure. And also seeing that there are volunteers helping in your community, and it might take a back seat, it might take a back seat for the next ten, twenty sessions. But at some point they might say, "I know this stuff. I can help. I can volunteer." And so they come forward. Having a small, vibrant, inclusive community is okay, but there's always the core isn't it, in the middle? But working on that is not easy. That's my own personal experience. Whether it's for physical meetups or for even a digital one as well.

Raquel: Yeah. I think too, anything too big, it could be a problem I guess. At some point a community would get to that point where it no longer has that vibe and feel you want, a good quality community. And if that is that is the case, if that even is the case, then it's usually, "Okay now we need to break it you. We need to have a silo, in a good sense, a silo, marketing, beginner, advanced, things like that." And we know the WordPress Arizona has almost 3000 members, but each individual group, whether it was five or three meeting that month might have 15 to 30 people show up. And that really is where that core group is, that core community is. So at some point, yeah too big would be a problem, but most- I have no idea when we add too many to the point where we're like, "What are we doing? We're doing something too good here."

David: We've started pandering the other side of things. How do you grow the community towards a younger population? People that are approaching WordPress because that's their career move, and that's where they want to go. And a lot of times at meetups people just have that one question they've been sitting on for the past two days, and they see, "Well there's a meetup. Let me go in there and ask that one question." And the moment I see somebody coming on there and I hear them asking about how to get Twitch or TikTok embedded into a WordPress thing, I'm like "All right, the next generation is here". But we want to encourage more of that right now, but I have not experienced this overwhelming explosive growth. You can dream. You can hope. And then segment things off like Raquel is saying, but right now let's get diversity in there. Let's get people who actually know about accessibility, people who are actually deaf or actually blind to participate in the community is how we're currently thinking about it.

Ronald: Yeah. Maja, what's your experience on building a community? Hearing what others have said.

Maja: We need to make a slight differentiation between the community that we build in a physical events, and communities that we build online. And I'll just give you a pure example, and I hope Dave will not mind that I will mention him. So I've seen David so far in more than 20 meetups, I'm sure. But David and I, we never talked directly to each other. We never got introduced. So if I'm in a physical event, I will probably say, "Hi, my name is whatever." We will probably become friends, talk, expand our relationships, understand each other in a much better way.

Although it's so accessible, but at the same time, it really takes time to meet somebody, to understand somebody, what they are. When you go to a physical meetup you usually after you go to a bar and we have a drink, and we discuss stuff and we have fun, so we get to know this other inner personal side of us. And so then somehow we get closer to each other.

But with virtual events, you actually don't know anyone, and with just one click of a button you're out of the group and know one even knows that you were there, and no one will even notice what happened to you. So building online and regular communities are, I think, two totally separated processes where online I think it's much harder to maintain the presence and to keep up with the, I wouldn't say competitors, but to keep up with all the possibilities that are perhaps in a local language.

We do it in English, but perhaps somebody wants to do it in their own language, so there could be a language barrier. There is also a geographical barrier. I cannot say it's hard to build a community. If you do something from your own heart, people will recognize it. This genuine intention in delivering goods and working to help other people to do better, people see that. But still, you are away from your community, I would say, one click of a button. I don't know what other people think, but that's at least- And also, you could be away for good from them with one click of a button.

David: But you and I will meet one day Maja. We'll meet. WordCamp Europe, June 22 in Portugal. I'm going to see you there. I'm going to see you in Portugal, all right?

Maja: This is going to be the third time that I'm going to go, the first time to Portugal.

Ronald: Well, here's the thing with Maja. We do it on a weekly base, and I do do my best to get everybody to come on. I have a couple of questions, and one of the things is introduce yourself. Do you have a question about WooCommerce, is there something you can help or contribute? And there's always this bonus question of, yesterday we asked what's your favorite cakes. But it would be what's the film you need to watch, or if there's another lockdown, which country would you rather be in? Those sort of things. And these questions asking to regular attendees, you get to know them quite well.

And Maja, I'm not sure if we've actually ever met, but I have a feeling. We've been friends for quite a few years, so totally WordCamp Europe, big hugs. Like, "Oh, it's been a long time." Well, we might have never have met. So there's a really good way of bringing that online, sort of the physical online, and then continuing the physical way as well.

Maja: Yeah, my point was that maintaining online relationships with community, there are platforms that enable us to do that, but the actual, how to say, maintaining the relationship personally with each of them personally, it's very hard. First of all because you might have a community of 3000 people. No only if you have a meetup, you wouldn't be able to handle this, right? So you do have the tools, but somehow it takes really a lot of time to do that and to bring everyone closer because, as I said, I met David more than 20 times, but we never spoke directly. We're both not shy, but somehow the circumstances of virtual meetups do not give you this pleasure of, let's say, privacy to really chat with someone. I wouldn't be able to just send the note to David and say, "Hi David, I really like your sweater. Could we talk later after we finish with this meetup?"

So online presence and online communities have their own pros and cons just like maintaining a community in a physical way, in physical events. There are arguments on both sides, but likely the most important argument is that if we share knowledge and if we share something that people can actually benefit from, I'm sure we would be able to gather more people who would be interested to succeed.

Ronald: Alicia made a good comment about, maybe in the middle of the meetup we would have a 15 minute break and then folks could go into breakout room. It is something we have experimented with at the start of the meetup, and I know some meetups use Zoom before the meetup and then there's a stream yard presentation. And at the end of the meetup there's another zoom session where people can dip in and out an speak to each other, maybe with breakout rooms. Does any of you have experience using a combination of online tools to engage with the attendees a bit more?

David: Yeah, I have actually been to that group that Alicia was talking about. The South Coast WordPress Adventure Group, and when you get 25 people in a Zoom session, it starts becoming a little difficult to make any kind of personal connections. So in her case, you break people out into these rooms. You have a beginners room, you have another room about forms and emails, and people tend to introduce themselves in these smaller formats. It's a good thing. It does take a moderator to do a lot of clicking around as they're watching the screen, as they're paying attention. You have to have that skillset, but I think most of the people who have done this here and the people who are watching it probably already built that skill to do those kinds of meetups.

Ronald: I must admit, I couldn't do it, at least to click away on Zoom to create all these breakout rooms, but it is possible. My last question for all of you is the future, the future of online meetups. And I think Raquel touched on it at the beginning. But the future of online meetups and will it have a place on, hopefully soon, back to physical meetups? Will you carry on? What is a few? Vachan, if I can start with you.

Vachan: Yes, so as I have been saying, for us physical have worked the best. But in this conversation I've realized that the virtual also has a lot of potential. It's just that we need to figure out the right way to do it, or maybe reach out in the right way because the hybrid model can work better because it will answer questions from many more people, and the physical presence would enhance that relation or enhance that process of knowing and knowledge sharing. Because frankly said, maybe a typing of a question versus actually asking the question in presence of someone gives you a more elaborate answer. But maybe it could be fatigue of typing of laziness of typing, but then giving that actual verbal answer. The same thing over video is different and the same thing in presence is very different. Of course the community will be more through the experience, as I said, so the other co-organizers will actually figure better ways of doing things maybe.

Ronald: Brilliant. Raquel, you're using speakers from a locations. Have you already done that using that form of digital while being in a physical meetup?

Raquel: Yes. Yeah, we've brought in several people to speak virtually before all this several times. We want to continue to create good content. I know I say all the time, community's most important, which I think it is, but that doesn't mean we completely neglect content. So, yeah we've brought in several well-known speakers around the WordPress world or Woo world and bring them in all the time. I look at it, it's like a supplement. It's a blessing. We're glad we get to have it. Wouldn't we all agree it was better to have the pandemic now than maybe, I don't know, in the 80s or 90s because of technology and how connected we're able to be? But it's just little, I think, on the anemic side, so to Maja's point, you can create these relationships. You, Maja and David, have seen each other 20 times, or Ronald, you've been seeing Maja too. And so you start to see each other, and so when you do see each other physically, you're like, "Oh my gosh. We see each other a lot."

In person though, I think it happens faster and the opportunity for that vibe to happen and that connection can be a lot sooner. Does not take away that virtual won't go there. So being able to have the tools of virtual, I think I just the idea of how can we leverage it? How can we continue to use it? So going forward, yeah, definitely into the future. I mean, to Vachan's point, in person I think we all agree is better. We love it, but there are definitely some who, for there reasons, do not prefer in person. So having to be able to- Now we're all going to have to figure this out. I think I see the biggest problem is not just how do we have the in person include a virtual component, it's how do we not neglect the virtual component when we're doing the in person? Because that vibe's going, and I know at the beginning we're going to be crying and hugging each other, and maybe not even talking or having the presentation because we're just going to be talking the whole time.

But how do still include that with the virtual side. Who is watching virtually, and how do we make sure that they're getting their questions in. And even to what David was saying about that person in the background, like Bob is for us right now doing all the clicking and all that. It's going to probably take more volunteers, or a volunteer of someone who is there just to take care of that virtual side of things, to make sure we're including them, because that's what we don't want to do. We don't want them to miss out. We still want to see their faces, even if it is virtual, and them see us.

Ronald: That's going to be challenge. Yeah.

Raquel: Yes.

Ronald: David.

David: Well, I have nothing to add to that. That was amazing.

Ronald: But do you think these online help desks maybe, even if they're run in the background when there's something happening, do you think that that could work? People manning the help desk.

David: Yeah, we've been talking about that. The equivalent at word camps are this little birds of a feather where we separate into little sections and start having discussions there. So for us, and I think for a lot of other meetups, we're going to keep that help desk virtually 100 percent. We're going to encourage Q and A sessions at the in person meetups, but the help desks are going to be staying 100 percent online.

Ronald: Yeah. Maja.

Maja: I really like what you guys said and I totally agree. I just think that we as the meetup organizers, I still didn't quite understand what a hybrid means. For the same event we're going to have online and physical because for people who are afraid to come. I mean, it's all about inclusivity, right? So there are some people who don't want to share the room or are afraid for their health or something, so I think that our job as event organizers is going to be more increasing because then you would have to have both online and physical event, to cater to the right audience. To provide the best and to utilize the speaker and the topic and the time and the frame and everything. But I also know that at the same time, at some point, the crowd itself, the attendees itself will distinguish whether they want to go more for the physical or more for the online events.

So I think it will not be our call, but it will be the call of the beneficiaries, who will tell us what they prefer more. Surely even if it's physical meetup, I know I'm going to have it recorded because I see the value of sharing the material and content to people who didn't have time to make it, or to respect their time as well.

Ronald: That's really nice. Really quick, in a couple of words if you can. So we're all volunteers, and we might get paid to run some of the meetups. I'm pretty sure the thinking about out community doesn't stop when your work time stops, so I think we all carry a great deal. So what did, in a few words, what did you get out of it? Maybe it's one big thing, whether it's the job or just great satisfaction. Maybe some friendship. What are the nice things you've gotten out of organizing a meetup? Vachan if I can start with you.

Vachan: So as I earlier also mentioned, one of the biggest returns I got was I got a business partner. So I met that business partner in one of the meetups. So I have been running a web agency since 18 years. It has always been remote working, but recently, 7, 8 years back we started a physical office, and then we wanted to recruit people and start an in office thing, and that is the very first time when we were having these WordPress and WooCommerce meetups. So as I said, you are making amazing friends who have a common interest. So it's like you don't have to find friends. It's like they have come to the event because you have common interest,. Second thing, I am a person who does not go out much, even before the pandemic, but these meetups were something that made me step out and go out and meet people. And regularly meeting these people actually became close friends. So I made a lot of my current friends through meetups itself, especially WooCommerce meetups.

And that's one thing. And of course sharing of knowledge. Not only telling people, but even learning from people. Even at times I've had such questions from noobs that made me curious, is it even possible to develop something based on that. So a few of my in-house products have come through discussions within meetups. I've built products which people needed and didn't have then, and were possible with Woo or WordPress, but no one made them because probably didn't think of it. I have learned and benefited immensely from these.

Ronald: That's lovely to hear. David.

David: For me by far, knowing that somebody comes in and does a little screen sharing in Zoom during our help desk sessions and walks away with problems being resolved at the end and just knowing that- I feel like another happy customer kind of thing. And then a couple of moments later you hear from somebody else saying, "I didn't know that that was the way you do things. Thank you for all these different people solving things." So that gratification, just seeing people being satisfied.

But also friendships. Even with the virtual friendships, I have a group of friends now that have come out of it, and we're literally having a Saturday evening chocolate tasting. We all arranged to have ship us individual chocolates, and we're going to break into chocolates and we're going to compare and sample and taste it, just as friends. And that's something that I never would have imagined having virtually. In person, yes. Never virtually. New friendships, not Facebook friends either, but real friends.

Ronald: Yeah. Raquel.

Raquel: 100 percent trusted relationships and human connection to help change this world. That's 100 percent everything. I'm on a mission to change this world, and all these connections are just helping with that.

Ronald: Very nice. Maja.

Maja: What this experience actually showed my is that first of all everything is possible. So I learned a lot, and through talks of other people I understood the pains of other and actually what I should consider when thinking about certain things. And second of all, I think I created a network of people all over the world now, friends that I can count on a that I can ask questions who are, for instance, in Brazil. Where do I get a translator to Portuguese. So I'm really happy. I think it's that the human, that it's behind the value of all of the values that we get. And that's really something that I really like to know.

Ronald: Nice. Lovely, lovely. If I could add my own personal story. So I went to the local Birmingham meetup, and I met a few friends actually. We came regularly, and then started sharing an office, and from the office started various projects. It all started with going to the first meetup is how I ended up working for YITH and having this fantastic job as well. So you can all trace it back to that one meetup, just rocking up, not sure what to expect, probably most likely a subject that went right over my head, and then years later speaking about it. So it's so nice to see what meetups, and actually WordPress and what value it has added to all of our lives, whether we volunteer or give back to the community, friendships, just the satisfaction of helping somebody. It's just fantastic.

I think that's it for this week's Do the Woo event. Thank you everybody for contributing, sharing your experiences. I really could to for many more hours to all of you, and hopefully we'll get to meet each other very soon as well at the word camp. Maybe you, hopefully anywhere. So thank you from me. Have a great day or evening or night, wherever you are. Hope to see you all soon again. Take care everyone.

Bob: Well, that was cool hearing for Woo meetup organizers from around the world.

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