A few months ago, we started hosting tech meetups in our Tempe, AZ offices and it's been AWESOME! And it's so awesome, we think your company should be doing it too. Read on to find out exactly why.
Recruitment is expensive and we're in a hot market where the best talent is in high demand. By the time you get around to reviewing a great résumé for one of your open positions, the applicant might have already gotten an offer for another position. Working with a recruiter isn't always helpful, either, since many recruiters are usually more interested in getting paid than getting you the best candidate on the market.
Guess what! Meetups are full of people driven by passion to spend their free time networking and learning. My guess is anyone reading this post is likely to be interested in those kinds of applicants. In the meetups we've hosted, we've had the opportunity to tell everyone in the room about our open positions. Several people have stayed after meetups to ask me more specifically about the open reqs.
There is no more personal (or affordable) way to talk to great potential candidates than to have a 1-1 no-pressure conversation with them on their free time. They're already in your office, they see what you're doing to plug into the larger community, and if they're not interested in your open positions, they probably know talented people who are beginning to search or are already looking for a great position.
I have been asked at every meetup, "What do you guys do?" "How long have you been in business?" "Who are some of your clients?" "Are you guys hiring?" This is totally.free.marketing! You can't pay Google (or any other ad provider) enough money to get you directly in front of people who are legitimately interested in knowing more about your company.
Meetup organizers are happy to promote their sponsors on the meetup page. Each organizer has asked me what I want to put on their meetup page: a blurb about the company, our logo, etc. This comes at no cost to me and I can usually copy and paste from existing marketing materials. This strengthens SEO and gets your company in front of dozens (or even hundreds) of people when meetup sends out their automated emails to group members.
And... it's free.
Meetups are usually run by motivated individuals looking to grow both a community and their own personal brand. The organizers almost always experts in their field. By hosting their meetups, you're literally bringing subject matter experts to your office so they can share and talk about what they do. For example, we have a lot invested in Docker, so when we have Jeff Nickoloff, author of the upcoming book Docker in Action, coming to the office to talk to other Docker enthusiasts, I can send an email to all my developers saying, "Hey, you should stay late Wednesday night and talk to other people about Docker."
We hire people who are hungry to learn and motivated to grow. There simply is no more convenient way for them to learn than to stay a couple extra hours in the office alongside pizza, beer, soda, and exposure to meaningful conversation between passionate people.
If it isn't obvious to you already, tons of networking opportunities are immediately available to you when you host a meetup. Employees from several companies will come to your office and offer opportunities to make connections, talk shop, and perhaps even lead to increased sales. Think of meetups as recurring networking events on your terms on your turf. It really couldn't be easier.
But what about the cost?
Considering all the benefits above, the costs for hosting meetups are trivial. We've purchased the following:
- A nice podium
- Portable projection screen
- Projector and tripod stand
- Wireless HDMI transmitter/receiver
- Battery pack (keep the laptop and HDMI transmitter running at the podium without a zillion wires on the floor)
- PA system
- Whiteboards on wheels
- Signage to make it easy for people to find the office
- High quality video camera and microphone (to record and share the meetups)
- Decent lights
All told, probably a couple thousand dollars, but this is equipment we'll be using when we present at conferences and hosting other company events. (You learn to be self-sufficient when you end up relying on hotel-employed A/V crews.) Overall, this is far less than the cost of hiring a single developer, project manager, or designer via a recruiter.
You should also consider modular/portable seating if you're using a space like we do (kitchen by day, meetup spot by night).
Did I already tell you that hosting meetups has been an AWESOME experience for us? So far, we've hired two high-quality people we met through meetups, have gotten the word out about meltmedia to dozens of people, and several employees have told me that they're excited to see melt getting plugged into the local tech community. It's also been a ton of fun to make this a new part of our organizational culture.
As for me personally, I've learned a ton about hosting these kinds of things (there's a lot of prep and documentation to make sure anyone can facilitate a meetup), have met several technologists who are also musicians (like me), and have learned tons of new stuff about how other Phoenix-based companies are using Docker, Drupal, New Relic, intercom.io and more.
If you're a Phoenix-based company and don't know much about meetups, or if you have questions about specifics of hosting, reach out via email or in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!