Kevin English is the Executive Director of Da Vinci’s Lab, a non-profit start-up that provides unique education opportunities in math and science for high school students through public-private partnerships. Kevin is currently facilitating a seven-week Physics 100 Meetup called PubLearn. He is also organizing a New Frontiers in Online Learning symposium, to be held in early August for educators and key community leaders. He can be reached at KevinBEnglish at gmail dot com.

September 15 is Udacity’s first Global Meetup Day! Before your event there are three key things to do to make sure your Meetup is an amazing success.

Step 1: Purpose

First and most importantly, determine the purpose of your meetup. This may seem obvious (an maybe a little boring), but once you have  clear statement of what you are trying to accomplish, the probability that you accomplish it will be much, much higher.

There are two types of meetups:

  1. A one-time gathering of Udacians
  2. A recurring gathering of Udacians who are working through a course together. Each has a different purpose.

For Global Meetup Day, I would suggest keeping a couple of goals in mind:

  • encourage and facilitate introductions between Udacians
  • encourage the creation of follow-up study groups around specific courses/topics
  • perhaps, more simply, encourage each Udacian to meet at least two other Udacians that they can share long-term learning experiences with

Step 2: Location

Next, pick a venue — a great venue! The venue should be easy to get to and centrally located. But more importantly, it should be a place that people want to go to, like that cool new pub in town. Make sure the venue has a meeting room; not some stuffy conference room off in the back, but a room where the vibe is alive and upbeat, and also where you can hold conversations as a group. Be sure that the venue has Wi-Fi and offeres food and beverage service to the meeting room. If the venue does not provide food, see about coordinating some refreshments with your Meetup groups members.

Step 3: The Action Plan

Make an action plan for the evening. What will people do when they arrive? How will you ensure that they mingle? How will you facilitate discussion throughout the evening? You should feel free to encourage other volunteers to act as greeters when people arrive. Name tags should be easily available. Suggest that folks put down both their name and the course(s) they are taking/interested in for easy introductions.
If timing works out, tune in to Udacity’s broadcastOn Saturday September 15, around 2pm PDT, you will be able to tune in to a live stream of Udacity’s founders instructors and assistant instructors via USTREAM. Udacity’s Meetup Everywhere Channel is where group members will be able to either watch the live stream or re-watch the broadcast later.

Additionally, Udacity will be following our Twitter stream for tweets that use the hashtag #MeetUdacity. By using the hashtag you can ask questions and comment on the conversation happening on the broadcast. Similarly, on USTREAM, viewers will be able to comment in the social stream on the right-hand side of the broadcast viewer.

If you are interested in coming up with questions and submitting them in advance, simply use the hashtag #MeetUdacity and submit them via Twitter.

Closure and Summary

  • Udacity’s broadcast promises to give Meetup group members something to talk about
  • You may want to encourage future meetup around spcific topics that come up
  • Wrap up. “This concludes our evening, but I would recommend that you stay a bit longer and socialize more. I will be here for another  30 minutes or so if you have any questions.”

What I have outlined here is just a suggested format for a Meetup based on my experience. By no means is this the only way to do a Meetup. I would encourage you to be creative and find your own personal format. The goal is to have fund and play a bi tin the “educational sandbox.”
Thoughts or comments, please let us know in the comment box below.