For all of us at OpenMRS, community matters. Our customers and contributors have helped to ensure that OpenMRS is more than just code -- it's an open source project that people love to use, and love to talk about!
Whether you're looking to gain public speaking experience, wishing to network with like-minded folks in your area, or hoping to "level up" the local community's knowledge base, organizing or participating in a meetup group can be an incredibly rewarding way to contribute not only to the OpenMRS community, but also to the community in which you live or work.
We realize that people enjoy giving back to the communities they care about, so we've created this guide to help you get started on your path to starting a Meetup group. It's not quite a "cape" -- but rest assured, you'll still be a superhero to many for bringing together the OpenMRS fans in your area!
This guide is a bit long, but we hope the information in it is useful to the novice user group organizer and those who've attended hundreds of meetups. If you're an experienced meetup organizer, you may just want to drop us a note to email@example.com to get things started.
- All OpenMRS Local Communities are governed by our Community Code of Conduct. By signing up to be an OpenMRS Local Community organizer, you are agreeing to abide by the Code of Conduct and to ensure community group participants do so, as well. The Community Code of Conduct is always available online for anyone's review here.
- Start your community organizing by reaching out to other related health or technology groups first to spread the word about the upcoming creation of the new group & to recruit speakers. Related groups are existing groups talking about topics that are also of interest to users of OpenMRS, such as the local HL7 chapter or perhaps a Java User Group.
- We have a small budget for supporting events and can arrange support via requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot help in every situation but we will do our best to assist.
- Make sure the venue has the correct resources - projector, etc. - and is audience appropriate.
- We're here to help make you successful in your meetup quest! You can always reach out to us for help via email@example.com.
Community Code of Conduct
The purpose of our Community Code of Conduct is to ensure that all participants in OpenMRS community events have the best possible experience. We are all here to help each other learn, grow our skillsets and have a good time!
All meetup attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers, including the event organizing team, are required to agree with the following Code of Conduct. Organizers will enforce this code throughout the event. We expect cooperation from all participants to help ensure a safe environment for everyone.
You can find the OpenMRS Community Code of Conduct here.
Kicking Off Meetups - In More Detail
You kicking off a local community is awesome! Thank you very much for taking this on.
Before starting a local community
Before starting a new group, it is important to ask whether or not you can keep the group fed with activity. If it will be hard to regularly get speakers or you think you will be the only speaker available most of the time, it might be better to instead speak at a different group about OpenMRS topics.
For example, if spinning up a meetup group in Bangkok, Thailand, take a look at
Bangkok TechMeetup might be a group that would be interested in OpenMRS related topics.
DIY vs. Affinity Groups
We're not trying to discourage anyone from creating a new meetup group, just pointing out that there are other ways to do outreach to the local audiences that are easier than doing it all yourself. The process of reaching out to other community user groups (a.k.a. affinity groups) also helps to spread the word to many different potential users since your are meeting people where they are used to going instead of inviting them to do a whole new thing. It is also worthwhile to give one or two talks to existing groups before starting a new meetup group because it will give you the chance to let folks know you are planning to start an OpenMRS meetup group. At your talk, you can ask people if they would be interested in attending. This process will help you find potential speakers and group members even before you get the group started formally.
If you find there is great interest - and we know that you will - it's time to start an OpenMRS Local Community. It is always nice to have established relationships with other user groups so that you can invite them to advertise your meetings, and offer to do the same to your group members.
When you are ready to get the group going
One of the most important things to do is establish a regular routine for your meetup group. For example, you may decide you only want to meet quarterly on the 2nd Tuesday of the 3rd month. You don't have to decide an exact schedule now, but it is important to tell group members how often you plan to hold the meetup so they don't think the group has gone dead because you're in between events. Even stating that we're aiming to meet every other month is enough.
It has worked very successfully for us to do casual meetups over refreshments - pub or cafe, take your pick - for months where no formal meetups with talks are planned. You don't have to do this every month you don't have talks scheduled, but it is certainly worthwhile to do so if the group has not met in 2 months. Regular meetings keep people engaged and give you the chance to talk to local folks who might want to volunteer to speak in the future.
Local Community Logo
We have a special logo just for OpenMRS Local Communities. We hope you'll use and enjoy it. If you use other images for a Local Community, that's fine but we'll look to make sure that it doesn't conflict with our brand guidelines.
Local Community Naming
We call our groups OpenMRS Local Communities. You may wish to adopt an alternative title in your local language. Check with us and we'll help.
Casual Meetups Caveats
If you're scheduling a casual meetup over refreshments, make sure the venue has a wide variety of soft drinks in addition to alcoholic beverages - not everyone cares to drink alcohol. Please ensure that soft drinks are displayed just as visibly as alcoholic beverages, even if that means putting up a small sign next to the beers that says "You can find a glass for tap water in the cupboard above the sink."
Depending on what you know about the local community, you might want to avoid meeting at a pub completely. (For example, there's currently quite a bit of push back against over consumption of alcohol at events and meeting in bars/pubs in some cities. Your mileage may vary.)
Bottom line: See what other groups that have a positive, welcoming community are doing and mirror their example.
Local Language and Meetups
We're a global community, and we welcome and encourage folks to present in their native tongue. In cases where the local language is not English, it is worth deciding in advance if presentations in English by visitors will work for your community members.
We hope to eventually support other folks from OpenMRS to visit your meetup, and not all of them will speak the local language. Hopefully visiting presenters will be able to speak English and the audience will still benefit from the talks. If not, it is good to know that up front and do something more casual, including Q&A. This format means audience members who do not enjoy speaking English well can interact in a less formal environment, and not spend the night struggling to understand a presentation or feeling bad about speaking up due to concerns about their English proficiency.
Announcing the Meetup
We announce all of our meetups on OpenMRS Talk can happily create a category for you. The team at OpenMRS is ready, willing and able to help you get the word out about the meetup.
The Agenda: Best Practices
1st Meetup Topics & Finding More Speakers
For your first meetup, it's usually great to present an introduction to OpenMRS, then invite others who would like to present to get in touch for future meetup speaking slots. We reward meetup organizers and speakers with t-shirts, other gifts and our eternal gratitude. If you are able to find more than one speaker for the very first meetup, you have done a great job and we are thrilled!
If you are looking for more speakers, asking in person during meetings is always best practice. However, another great way to find speakers is to ask for help on your meetup discussion board. Here's a sample email to help you get started:
Hello fellow OpenMRS fans!
Firstly, thank you for joining the group. It's good to see all the interest in OpenMRS growing in ____.
We are looking for speakers for the meetups. Anyone that has anything to share around OpenMRS is welcome. Hey, even if it's only remotely related, come and share your experience and knowledge!
Some topics we'd be interested in:
- How you used an OpenMRS in your project
- What interesting side project you did that integrates with OpenMRS
- A deep dive into a specific feature of OpenMRS
- A novel use of OpenMRS to make your life easier
We welcome anyone willing to speak, newbies and very experienced people alike! Talks can be as long or as short as you would prefer to present, too. :)
Setting the Agenda for Talks
It is best to find a speaker who can talk for 45 minutes or 2-3 speakers who'd like to talk for 15-20 minutes each. In both cases, the speakers should also plan some time for Q&A following the talks. Make sure to set the agenda so that talks start at least 15 minutes after doors open, with 30 minutes being best practice. Gives people time to grab a snack and for late comers to arrive without disturbing the presentations.
If you can only find one speaker for a meetup, that's OK. Even if you can't fill the full hour with talks, it is still nice to get everyone together if it has been 2 months or more since the last meetup. You can fill time with open Q&A from the audience. If you cannot answer every question, that is OK. You can always reach out to the community management team at OpenMRS for help with audience member questions. We're hanging out in #openmrs on Freenode.
Other Fun Ways to Set the Agenda
- Consider an open space style meetup. No agenda, participants are free to propose topics and join up with other interested attendees to discuss those topics.
- Invite participants to sign up for 2-5 minute lightning talks on any topic, and schedule as many as you can. Coming up with a full talk can be difficult, but most folks are easily able to talk for 2-5 minutes about topics that inspire them, from OpenMRS to Electric Vehicles. Have fun learning from each other!
- Ask presenters to prepare their talks Pechakucha style - 20 slides with only 20 seconds per slide. Many people are familiar with this format as Ignite talks, so if you've heard of Ignite, you've heard of Pechakucha.
- No speakers lined up, but still want to meet up with a focus to the discussion? Choose a short video (10-15 minutes) to show at the start of the meetup, with the rest of the agenda devoted to group discussion and learning about that particular topic. Participants may share useful articles they've read, their own experience with the topic or questions they have as a result of watching the video. More fun than watching alone at your desk!
- Suggestions welcome and encouraged.
Other Scheduling Considerations: Mornings, Lunch Time and Weekends
Attending evening meetups can be tough for many people. They may have family commitments, attend after hours trainings or just be quite tired after the work day. If you're interested in going the extra mile, consider hosting meetups every few months at different hours, such as over breakfast or lunch or on a weekend day.
Before proceeding, ask on the meetup group discussion board if any of the group members would be able to participate if the meetup took place during one of these alternate times. If you get enough takers, go for it! You'll likely find that you not only see familiar faces but a bunch of new folks, too.
If after an alternately timed meetup you discover that there's a lot of interest in the alternate time, you may find one of the individuals who can only make breakfast/lunch/weekend meetings is willing to help organize these activities with you.
For finding a venue, we'll try to help with that process if you do not have contacts locally that would like to host. In general, it is probably easier for you to find a venue than for us to research one for you since you are located where the event will take place, but we will still do our best to help. Start up incubators, co-working spaces and libraries often provide meeting space for user groups at no or very little cost, so start with these places if you don't already know of an organization sharing their office space with community groups.
For refreshments, we have some budget for food and drinks. You can either order in refreshments or plan to head to a local pub or restaurant after the meetup to enjoy networking time together over food. Usually we order in so food is available when folks arrive for the talks, but you tell us what works best for the local community. For help with budgets, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we're on it!
OpenMRS can try to provide some budget to local communities for refreshments, but that shouldn't stop you from accepting help from other sponsors. If you have a volunteer who'd like to cover the costs of snacks and drinks, go for it! Please make sure to thank the sponsors at the start and conclusion of the meetup. It's also totally appropriate to ask the sponsor to spend 1-2 minutes delivering the message of their choice, such as "We're hiring!" Note that sales pitches do not go over well at meetups, so if your would-be sponsor would like to announce "Buy my spectacular widget!" then its best to suggest an alternate approach. We're always ready to help with this conversation if you need it.
Spreading the Word about the Meetup
It's best to announce the meetup on Twitter as soon as it is scheduled, and other social media like Facebook or LinkedIn where you have lots of techie friends watching. We will help get the word out for you via our blog, emailing local folks in our contacts database, and via social media. Our community management team tries to Tweet about every meetup since lots of OpenMRS community folks follow us, but a gentle reminder is always welcome via email to email@example.com.
If you are able to record the meetup, that is wonderful. We like to share videos from as many meetups as possible online. We have a small budget to support taping where its available locally - email us for help at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if we can cover recording costs and to arrange for us to get the video to host on our website. If you already have a local contact for recording, great! If not, we'll see if we know someone near you. Best effort service in this case, but we'll help where we can.
Sharing Content After the Meetup
At the very least, please ask speakers to upload their presentations to Slideshare or Speakerdeck or Prezi or another service that will allow us to embed their content for later resharing. Please ask them to post the slide URL in the meetup comments section and to send the URL to email@example.com online and in social media.
Nurturing the Community Long-Term: Best Practices
On advertising and marketing to meetup groups
We provide categories on OpenMRS Talk for each group. In general, we prefer that folks not post marketing messages to these discussion groups unless there is a clear benefit for the group's participants, e.g. a special discount code for a training or conference. If you are wondering if something is appropriate for OpenMRS Talk, use your best judgement. If it feels inappropriate, it probably is. You are the expert about what works best amongst the technical community in your area.
Any company or organization who wishes to provide support to local communities should be thanked, by the organizers, for their sponsorship. It is worthwhile to make these thanks during both the starting and closing remarks for the event. Best practice is to be specific in your thanks, e.g. "Thanks to OpenMRS for covering the food and drinks for tonight's meetup." or "Thanks to Xing for hosting us today!"
Should a local community sponsor wish to make quick announcements at the start of the meetup, it is best practice to allocate 1-2 minutes for them to do so. It is important to make these announcements in a way that is appropriate for the audience. Technical meetups are not right venue for product pitches or other solicitations for business.
So, how can one do these announcements the right way?
Make the announcements very short. The presenter should have enough time to introduce herself, state the name of their organization, why they are a proud sponsor of the meetup and to get in touch with her to follow up about $TOPIC.
Here is an example of a recruiting announcement done the right way:
Here's another example announcement script done the right way, this time from a company who would love for the participants to purchase a particular product.
"Hello, everyone! I'm Jeanette Examplehuman and I'm with Elastic Co, the company behind Elasticsearch, Logstash and Kibana. We're honored to sponsor tonight's meetup and help bring the community together for knowledge sharing. If you'd like to hear more about our products, including support, or our training courses, just let me know after tonight's talks!"
Recruiting and Sales Pitches During Events
While we obviously want job seekers to find employment and for our attendees to find success in their business endeavors, there is a right way to communicate about these matters.
For recruiters who wish to source candidates from meetups, it is entirely appropriate for the recruiting firm to sponsor refreshments at the meetup and do a quick pitch to the audience that candidates are sought for specific positions. The announcement should be short and direct would-be candidates to speak to the recruitment agency after the talks conclude.
Sales pitches are not welcome at community oriented events. Speakers who use their time to sell a particular product will also find that their talk is not well received, so its not strategically useful to go with the "hard sell" approach. It's fine to mention your company sells products, but talks should focus on the technical aspects of the product and encouraging folks to try it out, not solution selling.
It is completely OK to mention where people can go online - or in person after the talks - to learn more about purchasing. If the discussion of how and where to make purchases is more than 1-2 minutes of your talk, you're giving a sales pitch. Rewrite those slides!
Any Other Questions?
Wonderful, we are here to help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we are happy to assist you.
Adapted from the original, Elastic Community Organizer's Guide, licensed CC-BY: https://www.elastic.co/community/usergroupguide