Meetings or Meetups?

April 8th, 2012

After September 11 in 2001 in New York strangers started saying hello to each other. There was a yearning for community, says Matt Meeker, co-founder of Meetup. Today facilitates off-line group meetings on any imaginable topic, now in 101 countries.

I’m new to Meetups. I participate in two Meetup Groups in Melbourne: The Creative Performance Exchange and The Collaboratory Melbourne. I have met the most amazing, talented and inspirational people, and learnt so much from them. It’s fair to say I’m a huge fan of Meetups.

Generally, I’m not a joiner of groups, especially if there’s even a sniff of agendas, minutes, and traditional meeting procedure. Nor am I a fan of meetings per se. They tend to be a way for people in organisations to legitimately gather together, and looking in from the outside, seem to be out of control. I know people whose days are just full of meetings, and their email full of meeting notifications. They complain about these meetings. A lot.

Compare that with a Meetup. There’s an invitation, a host, and one or more featured presenters of a particular topic that is described in quite a bit of detail. The ones I attend start and finish on time. I can see how many other people are attending and who they are. There’s often a follow-up post with pictures and further information. There might also be an accompanying Yammer discussion leading up to and after the Meetup.

Imagine if organisations created internal Meetups instead of meetings.

2 Comments so far

  1. Adrian Segar on April 9, 2012 2:35 am

    What “meeting” means came up for me recently during a conversation over at Dwight Towers’ blog Merriam-Webster defines it as “an act or process of coming together”. How did we forget that?

    Just like “conference” which originally was about people coming together to confer, but morphed over several hundred years into the expert-talk-at-you occasions that get served up to us most of the time, the word “meeting” has stretched into meaning so many disparate things, with a good dosage of industrial age command and control (usually) prominent. I think this vagueness makes it easy for us to project our individual responses to control, structure, time commitment, and process onto poor, plastic “meeting”.

    In my experience, agendas and minutes can be useful tools for certain meetings. Sure, they are normally lousy instruments for the kinds of meetings in the Merriam-Webster sense that you, Viv, and I love to do, but let’s not throw them out completely; let’s use them when they make sense.

    Meetups are attractive because they are open, focussed, and time-bound—you show up if they fit for you, you know what’s going to happen, and your time commitment is known. There’s no reason organizational meetings can’t be that way too, though hierarchy can raise its often ugly head and complicate matters.

    So, in the same way that a piece of my mission is to move conferences back to their conferring roots, I invite all of us to do the same for meetings. Let’s not disparage the term. Instead let’s work to returning them to what I believe most of us want: “a way to come together” that’s as functional and uplifting as we can make it.

  2. Viv McWaters on April 10, 2012 10:13 pm

    Hi Adrian, Yes, I think we need meetings – I also think we’ve forgotten why. And like you, I’m working towards making meetings more meaningful. The first step seems to be to acknowledge that the works has changed and we have so many more meeting tools at our disposal now. When traditional meeting procedure was developed – minutes, agendas, motions, voting etc – that was for a particular purpose and in a time when there was little option than to bring people together face to face for a meeting. Today information can be shared in many different ways and meetings have evolved to have a different role. In my view, this is to take advantage of having people together in the same space, hence my reluctance to sanction chalk and talk or sage on the stage approaches. Face to face meetings are, I think, needed more than ever, yet they are abused more than ever. We still have lots of work to do, you and me!

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