An interview hosted by Bailey and Maggie with Joe Robinson, founder of Designers + Geeks which is a mashup of his personal interests--design, art, and technology. We talked with Joe about the nuts and bolts of creating an ongoing event series, making divisions like paid vs. free events, formatting, and cadence.
“I'm fairly introverted which I find a lot of people are surprised by given the number of events that I've run over the years. I don't actually like attending events where I don't have a fairly structured role to play. I think to some extent being the organizer of the event gave me a role and job responsibilities. It helped me as an introvert feel more comfortable.” - Joe Robinson
By day, Joe Robinson is the Co-Founder of Hummingbird, a new service focused on fighting financial crime. But today we’re talking to him about his side project, a community he sparked called Designers + Geeks.
Joe started Designers + Geeks for people who, like him, love design, art, and technology. For the past decade, they’ve been featuring monthly speakers on niche topics—designing for all human senses, designing for dyslexia, designing for accessibility, designing for stigma—bringing people together in cities like San Francisco and New York.
This was not Joe’s first time around the block with community building. He founded Live Music SF and led Silicon Valley NewTech, a sister event to New York Tech and the first ever series on Meetup. Joe calls himself an introvert, which is surprising given he has hosted hundreds of meetups in his life. But Joe shares how being a leader in this situation has given him a structured role to play has made him more comfortable in this setting.
We dive in with Joe about how his introversion has helped him create meetups that are a comfortable experience for all.
Highlights, inspiration, & key learnings:
👋🏻Say hi to Joe and learn more about Designers + Geeks
📄See the full transcript
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Note: This transcript is automatically generated, and there may be some errors. Timestamps may vary based on episode announcement & commercial placement.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Get Together! It's our show about ordinary people building extraordinary communities.
Speaker 1 (00:09):
I'm your host, Bailey Richardson. I'm a partner at people and company and co author of get together how to build a community with your people. And I magazine podcast correspondence. What's up Maggie. In each episode, we interview everyday people who have built extraordinary communities about just how they did it. How did they get the first people to show up? How did they grow to hundreds, maybe thousands, more members to
Speaker 2 (00:34):
Today we're talking to Joe Robinson by day. Joe is the co founder of hummingbird, a new service focused on fighting financial crime. But today we're talking to him about his side project, a community sparked called designers and geeks. Joe started designers and geeks for people who love design art and technology, those rarefied combinations of all of the wonderful, powerful things for the past decade, they've been featuring monthly speakers on topics like designing across the census, designing for dyslexia. Shout out to my brother and dad, designing for accessibility, designing for stigma, bringing people together in cities like San Francisco and New York. Maggie. What's one thing you learned from our conversation with Joe. I know you you went to a designers and geeks back in the day and maybe a few times. What do you love about our conversation today? Yeah. Yeah. I love the tending designers and geeks events.
Speaker 2 (01:28):
They were really great to just learn about what design looks like in different companies, what other people are thinking about. So I loved getting inspiration from them. But with Joe, so in this episode, you'll listen to a lot of the nitty gritty operational details about how he thought about the event spaces, how he thought about paid versus free events. Just how he organized the content. But actually what stood out to me the most was how he mentioned that he's an introvert. And whenever he tells people that they're always surprised. And I think that's because a lot of people imagine community organizers to be the most social ones in the room, like the social butterflies. So they might feel like if you're quieter or more reserved, you can't play that role. But Joe emphasize that introverts can be great at organizing communities because you really have to think through a lot of details, like setting content, connecting all the dots and you get to play a really structured role in whatever room you're in, which is really cool and helps people feel more comfortable.
Speaker 2 (02:30):
So I think this conversation just reinforced the fact that there's not one personality type that suits a community organizer, as long as you're passionate about the topic. That's what ultimately can keep you going and help you do a great job. I know it's like Maggie, both of us. I'm a massive extrovert here and you confess, right? So both of us are on the, on duty for this community organizing work. Alright, you ready? Should we jump in? Let's do it, Joe. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. I'm a huge fan of designers and geeks. It really shaped my experience in San Francisco and taught me so much about the world of design and tech beyond my own company. So I'm really excited to talk about designers and geeks, but first I want to get to know you as a community builder. So before designers and geeks, you've also started a few other communities on meetup and each of those have grown to over 12,000 members. So I'm just curious, why did you do this and what draws you to community building?
Speaker 3 (03:29):
Yeah, so my, my journey into community there'll be really began when I was working from home in San Francisco. I had just moved back to San Francisco after a short stint in Boston. I found that that working from home environment didn't lend itself as well as I wanted it to, to meeting other people. And I started to attend different groups and different meetups. This is probably around 2008, 2009. And that had started in 2004 was still really gaining popularity, starting to go to some different groups and events and meet different people. And the first meetup group that I actually started running was live music SF. It is basically exactly what it sounds like. It was a group of people that wanted to get together and go to concerts. I love going to concerts and that basically, like I have found over the years that I want to go to more concerts than most of my friends or family members want to go to with me. So I felt like it would be a great opportunity to just meet people and go to different live shows around the Bay area. You know, I ran most of those meetups myself, but eventually opened up the group, just kind of acknowledging that I couldn't possibly attend all of the concerts in the Bay area myself and opened it up for other people that run as well. And it has since grown organically over time.
Speaker 2 (05:04):
What type of music?
Speaker 3 (05:06):
Oh Indian music alternative you know, jazz, blues, everything, honestly, you know, it gets a pretty wide selection of genres. So yeah.
Speaker 2 (05:20):
Well country music, Joe, how did, how does San Francisco do on country music in that era?
Speaker 3 (05:26):
Totally. What parts of the country?
Speaker 2 (05:30):
So what was your other group? So one was about live music. Any others that you started?
Speaker 3 (05:35):
Yeah, so I was I was in the tech industry at that time. I was working for a company in the online video space called bright Cove which is platforms for managing videos for some of the large media companies. And I wanted to get deeper into the tech scene in San Francisco and kind of build out my personal there. I started to attend what was actually one of the original meetups. It was called Silicon Valley, new tech. And I don't know how much history of meetup.com folks know but basically the founder of meetup, actually his group was called the New York tech meetup and it gave rise to a number of sibling meetups in different cities. So it can Valley new tech was one of them. And at one point I think was in the top 10 meetup groups worldwide, just in terms of size and scale of it.
Speaker 3 (06:33):
And I, I think actually the, the, just a fun meetup.com factoid the New York tech meetup may actually still be the largest meetup group. On that platform. I started to attend this and and it turned out that the founder of that group, a guy named Vinnie Lauria was finding to leave the Bay area and traveled the world for awhile. And he put out an email to the group, looking for organizers. I have been organizing live music SF at that time for a while and wanted to try something a little bit more tech focused and a little bit more structured and ended up meeting with Vinny a few times and started to run the group. So it was me and Neesha Baxi he picked both of us to run the group together. We did so for almost five years, I think before he brought some other organizers in to take over it. So and that was, that was great. That was one of the traditional kind of tech meetups, where we would select for companies to give a demo. You know, each company would have five minutes on five minutes of Q and a from the crowd. And, and then that was kind of the way that meetup work. So
Speaker 4 (07:48):
Why do people in the tech industry for maybe for folks who are not as familiar with San Francisco or tech culture, why do so many people crave that kind of professional connection?
Speaker 3 (07:59):
Yeah, that's a great question. I think there's probably two different reasons. One is a very aspirational and the other is just pure logistics. The aspirational one, I think is that in the tech industry, a lot of people over the last 20, 30 years have come to it for the spirit of innovation and the best way to see that innovation is to see all the different companies that are emerging. So the demo format, you know, for companies giving a demo is actually a great way to kind of showcase the innovation happening at the time that meetup Silicon Valley, new tech actually ran in Palo Alto, just a few blocks from where Stanford university is. And so at a great ecosystem of companies and founders and people to attend. And just generally have a good time, have a good night and explore some new innovative tech.
Speaker 3 (08:54):
The more logistical reason I think people attend communities, particularly in the tech industry is just that the nature of early stage tech is that the companies are small, right? It's at least back in those days, it was not like going to a company to work where you had hundreds or thousands of colleagues and got enough networking there. A lot of times there would be solo founders. There would be very small teams. And so they would come to the meetups, looking to network with other people, for recruiting purposes, looking for funding you know, just a whole bunch of different reasons that getting together as a group can actually facilitate that company, building process
Speaker 2 (09:39):
Sort of expanding your, your power, your reach, your impact, your opportunities just by increasing the number of people that you know, or like are related to the company itself because they're tiny pieces.
Speaker 3 (09:52):
Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think these things play to why Silicon Valley has been an important place in tech innovation over the years is the network of people. They never network people, resources, funding, the willingness to support early stage innovation and things like that. And of course we see that all over the world now you know, Silicon Valley by no means has a monopoly on tech innovation anymore, but those were the, the ingredients, if you will, for what became, you know, the tech ecosystem.
Speaker 2 (10:27):
It's interesting because it sounds like designers and geeks is kind of like an evolution of the two meta groups. You just mentioned the fact that designers and geeks is about design. Our tech sounds like the art element could have been drawn from like live music and chess. And then the tech element is in design element, obviously evolved from these tech meetups. Would you say that makes sense that it feels like it's a mashup of your interests?
Speaker 3 (10:53):
Absolutely. Yeah, it was very much a mashup of my interests in art design and technology. And it was also a different format. At the time you started it. One of the things for me about why I started designers and peaks is that I was living in San Francisco, but running this large event in Palo Alto, I had no other reason to make that 45 minute commute down there, then to run the event tonight, I just wanted to run something in my own city. And the second thing was that, you know, when I had started to run, so it can Valley new tech. It had a very specific formula that really works well for me to us, but it's only one way or for any of those events, right? The four company for demos five minutes of demo, if I'm insecure and a, that was one very formulaic and successful way to run the events. I wanted to try doing more and more in depth speaker series on different topics. And so designers end geeks was to some extent a, when I started running, it was, was born out of a desire to actually have speakers speaking about topics at the intersection of art design and technology.
Speaker 4 (12:12):
Yeah. And that was a decade ago. Right. So pretty long time. So what did, do you remember, like what did the first gathering look like? Can you help us paint a picture of how you brought it together after you had this idea?
Speaker 3 (12:25):
I did. It was funny. The first gathering, I actually started to build up the membership community and the email lists by hosting just bar mixers, like get everybody together. You know, the name designers and geeks was relatively self describing. And that first one that I ran was attended by two people. Actually now both are are very good friends. We just stayed in touch, but it was very, very small. And it was funny. We went to this bar called John Collins in San Francisco and there was another meetup group there, I think for some sort of like online gaming community. And so we just combined with them and had a, had a good night just kinda chatting with them. I have one very blurry photo of, of that data.
Speaker 4 (13:17):
You feel about two people, if you don't mind me jumping in, we find a lot of people get fixated on like the number of people that attend as a signal of whether or not it's meaningful. How did you feel about having two people show up on that? First one?
Speaker 3 (13:32):
I was okay with it because honestly my expectations were in the right place about it from live music SF. I knew that there are a couple of key ingredients to running these successful in real life communities. One of which that ICO is really important is just the heartbeat of regular events. I think that as you run these events, running them at a regular cadence, whether it's a biweekly or monthly at a quarter of the people start to build an expectation about your event being there. There's a little bit of word of mouth that forms and what you'll you'll find and what I find with designers and geeks. And certainly with all the other events that I've run is that more and more people would attend. People might see an event wines, but not be able to attend, but then they hear about it again later. And they're like, Oh, this is still going. Like, dude, y'all go this time. And so I found that, like that regularity and that regular cadence and running to do that, that's actually an important ingredient to fostering a strong community.
Speaker 4 (14:39):
So you had built confidence and you were like, don't worry, I'm going to keep hosting. And we're going to multiply the number of people in this room just by devotion.
Speaker 3 (14:48):
Yeah. And why not? Right at end of the day, you're out you know, a friendly place, a bar restaurant cafe. You can just have a, have a drink and catch up with the people who are there. I think it's actually like, you know, very little downside to running an event, even if the turnout's pretty small, I of course, was not charging for these events. And so it was not a lot of overhead or, you know, any costs or anything like that, that I needed to recoup.
Speaker 2 (15:18):
Okay. So in terms of energy, I mean, pushing through knowing that people will be joining, we'll be getting excited, but it might take some time running. These communities has never been your full time job. So I'm curious, how do you keep up your energy? How do you manage your time?
Speaker 3 (15:34):
I found over the years that I really enjoy creating in real life experiences. I like putting together the setting, the content, the people I get energy from meeting new people and catching up with people. I already know one interesting component in this for me is that I'm, I'm fairly introverted. Which I, I find a lot of people are surprised by given the number of events that I've run over the years. I don't actually like attending events where I don't have a fairly structured role to play. And I think to some extent being the organizer of the event gave me a role and job and responsibilities. And so it, it just helped me as an introvert feel more comfortable actually going out and Dean there and, and, and being planned to part of, you know, being about the numbers and things like that. I think the fact that introverts can be great event. Organizers is something that does not actually surprise a lot of event. Organizers tends to be, you know, very kind of structured role. You're working through a long checklist. There's a lot to do at the event other than just socialize. And I, I've worked with organizers over the years that were in many different places on the spectrum of introversion and extroversion. I've seen both work but it's it's interesting that introverts can be large event organizers and it's something that's not necessarily at odds with that personality type.
Speaker 2 (17:19):
So you mentioned you're really into, in real life experiences. So what is it about the in-person aspect that is important to you and given now what's happening with COVID-19? How do you think about like online versus offline and just the value of either of those?
Speaker 3 (17:39):
So I think this is a great question where do in real life events go in the wake of the pandemic, what is valuable about them? And you know, how can we recreate some of what's valuable about them in the post pandemic world? I think in real life events lend themselves to higher bandwidth interactions. You meet people, you can see body language, you're all sort of interacting around this shared experience. There's an environment that you're in that shared all of those things while they may be subconscious influences are important on the way that we perceive and interact with our surroundings. It's very different when we're on a zoom call and we're all in different environments and having different experiences at the moment, even if the conversation is shared, right. And so I think for in real life experiences, there's just a really neat and unique opportunity to create that shared setting and a memorable you know, set of takeaways and topics.
Speaker 3 (18:42):
It's something I've always been interested in from concerts to art installations, to tech talks, to networking events. You can always bring in and create these memorable and sort of fascinating experiences, which is what I'm always trying to do with these communities. So how do we do that post pandemic? And, and the answer is I really don't know. I mean, I think we will see some innovations emerge for how to do things together. I think we're seeing the nature of our online communications and sort of zoom communications and things like that adapts to make them richer. But I think it's still left to be figured out, like, what are the events that are successful with those spend different growth? Do we just go back to the way things were or is it some new and modified setting? I think nobody knows for sure. And it's important for event organizers to be out there just trying stuff and finding what resonates with our community.
Speaker 2 (19:42):
I do feel like the one unresolved thing in my mind is zoom fatigue and getting exhausted, just sitting in front of your computer screen. And it's really hard. I mean, in real life, you don't feel that kind of exhaustion. I do wonder how that's going to get resolved.
Speaker 3 (19:56):
Absolutely. I think in the zoom row, you have this very unnatural interaction where you're sitting face to face, you know, headshot sort of, and, and just talking to someone for, you know, a half hour or an hour or however long the meeting is. And that's actually like, if you think about the spectrum of human interactions, that's about as unnatural as it comes, right. When we're in first and we don't sit squarely together and staring at each other eye to eye and sort of, you know, have, have these conversations. That's just not the way real world interactions work.
Speaker 2 (20:36):
Yeah. I mean, I definitely found the in-person element of designers and geeks really special, just, you know, like arriving a few minutes earlier and realizing that you share so many similarities with the crowd, like up a conversation with the person sitting next to you. And I also really loved at the end, the fact that there were shout outs. So after each event where the speaker would finish their talk, there could be people coming up to the mic, anyone from the community to either share a job opportunity or to just introduce themselves and ask if anybody had job opportunities. So I found that a really cool element. And I'm curious for you, what do you think made the designers and geeks community so special? What were some defining elements?
Speaker 3 (21:20):
Yeah. I love the shout outs as well. It's a, it's a really, it's always a really interesting mix of what people are going to say and what they want to network about. You learn a lot about the crowd from that very short segment. I certainly didn't invent that either. I don't know where that originated, but I highly recommend that people add that to their community events and things like that. Just giving people time to talk. What do I find are the parts that make a successful event? One is I think that heartbeat of, you know, regular events showing up on time, running a timely schedule, running this specific agenda that people get used to that kind of expectation building around the event can be a really powerful tool. It means that people will know what to expect from the event. They know how to interact in it.
Speaker 3 (22:16):
It helps provide some structure for people who may be less comfortable coming to an event where they're meeting a lot of strangers for the first time. And so, you know, one of the things I've always tried to do is run the events like clockwork, right? We set the expectations for timing. What, you know, one of the talks going to start one of the doors gonna open when it's the networking portion, when it's the food going to be served. And when I'm running the events myself, or when one of the designers and geeks organizers is running them, we try to make sure that we stick to that schedule. You have to have a minute or as close to that as possible. Now it's of course in real life events, you're going to have some fluctuation and some chaos, but the extent to which you can provide that, that kind of overall shell of a structure to the event, I think helps build people's expectations about what to get out of it.
Speaker 2 (23:13):
It's interesting. We have a lot of conversations about the balance between managing structure very tightly, or just letting something be more organic and free flow. And it sounds like for you, it's the constraints and the clockwork that sets you free almost because people can rely on knowing that event starts on time, rely on things that they've already recognized from past events. And actually then the diversity comes from the speakers from the kind of people who show up. And that's what makes it interesting.
Speaker 3 (23:42):
It is. I have always thought of the events as something that the person, the attendees are choosing to do over other entertainment activities they could be doing, right? The events, at least as I understand, geeks events have been on Thursdays from seven to 9:00 PM for the entire lifecycle of designers and geeks. And, you know, Thursday from seven to 9:00 PM, you're, you're basically right squarely in the opportunities zone for people to go out, to eat, to go to a movie, to go meet up with friends at a bar, to play in, you know, extracurricular sports leagues, whatever it is. And so I think to be a good substitute for that stuff, the events have to be entertaining. You have to set some expectations around what's going to happen at the event. And for me, providing some structure to the event has always been the way that I can kind of communicate that.
Speaker 3 (24:43):
I mean, you think about the event experience for someone attending for the first time they're going to this group, they're going to be in a room with 300 people they don't know, or maybe they know one or two, they're going to see a speaker that they may have never heard of before. And they're probably, they're trying to build their network or recruit or do something, but aren't sure exactly how they're going to do that or how successful it's going to be for them. So it's a pretty, it's a pretty chaotic experience in general, if you think about it and some of the ways that you can mitigate that are just to say, look, we show up, the doors are gonna open at six 30 there's food drinks. You'll have an hour to network with folks. Then we're going to sit down and hear a talk. Then we're going to take Q and a. Then you'll have a chance to give a shout out and say what you're interested in. And then there'll be some more networking after that. That's, you know, it's not a lot of structure, but it's often enough structure to help people feel a little bit more comfortable with what they're going to get out of the experience and how to interact with it.
Speaker 2 (25:48):
Just living in San Francisco. I feel like you can't help, but always think about like the opportunity costs of choosing one event over the other, just because there's so many good events, because you say Thursday evenings are kind of where you're competing with other entertainment options. Why did you choose Thursdays?
Speaker 3 (26:06):
I chose it because they're competing a little bit, but not a whole lot. So I think when I think about event nights, I would go for Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. My preference is kind of Thursday. It's a little bit later in the week we serve drinks, things like that. And so I just find, you know, Thursday nights, people are maybe a little bit more casual, a little bit more relaxed.
Speaker 2 (26:34):
One thing that I really like about designers and geeks is I always know the speakers and the topics are going to be interesting. So there's such a wide range of topics. For example, like designing for stigma, designing for accessibility, designing with words, there's just so much you can learn in this world. And I'm curious, how do you curate the content? How do you select the speakers? What does that look like for you?
Speaker 3 (27:00):
We've been so fortunate to have so many great speakers over the years, and they've been very supportive of the community as well. And so I've often helped with referrals and introductions to other speakers. So it can kind of build on itself. The unifying threads, at least for designers and geeks have been, you know, a topic at the intersection of art design and technology and something that we find interesting and a substitute for entertainment, right? We never wanted the designers and geeks series to be overly professional oriented, meaning, you know, training or design techniques or things like that. We do stray into that a little bit sometimes, and that's fine, but we have often looked for more eclectic talks and things that people would want to come out and see on a Thursday night. I think the speaker selection for designers and Gates is just a mix of, of good fortune and really following our insurance.
Speaker 3 (28:05):
So over the years we just have looked at topics that we wanted to have talks on reached out to our network for, you know, different speakers on those topics. I'm a little bit of a researchy, a lot of cold calling, cold emailing and just have been very fortunate to find great speakers on these topics for other event organizers that are listening to the podcast, you know, don't be afraid to reach out to people to cold call. Ultimately, you know, you're not selling them something. You're giving an opportunity to speak to a community and not, not everybody will like that or want to do that. But a lot of people do. It's a, it's a very flattering requests. And so we haven't had much trouble cold calling people and getting them to, to join the events.
Speaker 2 (28:56):
So when you say that you reach out to your network, do you also reach out to the audience members who attend the events? Do you ever get ideas from them for speakers?
Speaker 3 (29:06):
Absolutely. In fact, late last year, we did our first ever event where, you know, a few months before the event, we put up a talk proposal page, just a quick Google form and asked the audience for their talks. And then we picked the best ideas that came in. I think there were something like 50 or 60 submissions for that. So, you know, and it was an amazing event. We just had incredible speakers come out of the audience that we never would have found on our own. I think you could definitely pull your audience and pull people from it to find great speakers,
Speaker 2 (29:43):
Designers and geeks now is in five cities. I believe. San Francisco, New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. And sounds like you have roots and San Francisco and Boston, but I'm curious. How about like New York, Chicago, LA, how did you expand into these cities? How did you find the organizers? How did you know interesting speakers who would be there? Just, what did that look like?
Speaker 3 (30:06):
Yeah. And I'm happy to be transparent here for other community builders. They haven't all been super successful. They seem the main cities that we've been in historically are New York and San Francisco, both our communities that I was able to start because I was in those cities a lot. So one of my jobs took me to New York about once a month while I was there, I started the community. I very quickly was able to find some awesome organizers and and they were able to kind of build the community there over the years that followed. Now one of those New York organizers actually moved to Chicago. That's Emily. She's been building the community in Chicago, but generally designers and geeks has moved to cities that one of the existing organizers is in. And that has usually been me. I travel a lot for work, but sometimes it's been other people as well.
Speaker 2 (31:09):
And what do you think for the communities that weren't so successful, what do you think would have made them successful? Or what do you think you could've done differently?
Speaker 3 (31:18):
More regularity and local organizers, for sure. In some cases it was just, you know, I was going to a play, started the community and then stopped going there. And, and didn't, you know, didn't have the network there, didn't have the connections with venues and sponsors and things like that to make it work. It's, it's interesting because over the years I've gotten to know a lot of the large community builders that run other meetup groups and things like that. And I've seen different strategies employed for spreading, you know, both nationally around the U S and globally, you know, many will allow local organizers to form a chapter of their group and just run it the way they see fit that is very viable and find strategy. It's one I've never taken. I always wanted to have some say in the curation of the designers and X talks, just to have that be part of our brand, but, you know, as you can see from our history, not every city we've gone to has been successful, just because, you know, we've not been able to continue running the events there as you might with the local organizers.
Speaker 3 (32:28):
So there's pros and cons, I think.
Speaker 2 (32:30):
Can you tell us a bit about the decision making between making the events free versus paid and how do you fund designers
Speaker 3 (32:40):
And geeks in general? Absolutely. I think the question of whether to charge for an event or not particularly at the community level, that kind of recurring monthly event level is a really interesting one for organizers to think about. I started with the groups widen music, SF and Silicon Valley, new tech. Those are all free events. So I've literally run hundreds of free events. And with designers and geeks, we pretty much from day one charge for our speaker series events. We would also run some social networking events at bars and things like that, that we did for free, but the speaker series events, we're actually bringing content, placing the speaker. We've always charged for it. There are pros and cons to both. One is when people pay for a ticket, they seem to be more motivated to show up and participate and bring value or get value from being part of that event.
Speaker 3 (33:43):
So I just I've noticed that the events that I've charged for over the years tend to have better turnout and better engagement. And I, I think you know, the price say, need not set somebody back a lot. It just needs to be a little bit that motivates them to really kind of participate and take the event more seriously. One of the issues, you know, you, you mentioned earlier in our conversation, the number of high quality events in San Francisco and in other cities can be huge, right? Depending on where you are. And I found that running free events, our turnout rates were often something like 20 to 30%, whereas for the events where we charged for tickets, it's closer to 80 or 90%. So it's a huge difference in turnout. Word of mouth is absolutely key for these things. And you know, I think there's a few things you can do to make the ticketing process more friendly for the entirety of the designers and geeks history.
Speaker 3 (34:43):
For example, we've had a sort of a satisfaction guarantee or a no questions asked refund policy. So we have refunded, literally hundreds, or probably thousands of tickets where people just couldn't make it, or weren't, weren't able to come out or forgot about it, or whatever the reason was, we just refund those tickets with no questions. So our goal is always just to help build a high quality event. And it's not so much about the revenue maximization, I think to, for event organizers, it's okay to charge for your work right there. There's a value exchange that's happening there. You're putting work into curating the great event. You're trying to find speakers, you're lining up a venue. You're arranging this experience to be as good as possible. I, I think it's a very natural thing that there should be some sort of value exchange for that.
Speaker 3 (35:41):
Meaning, you know, that people are willing to kind of vote with their money for how you're doing. And so I, I've always encouraged other event organizers to charge for their events as well, just because if they're creating value, if they're creating a great experience, people will be okay with paying for that experience. I think a lot of times too free events are sponsored by companies or they're run by the marketing groups from companies. And that's fine too. Some companies do an awesome job and create great content, but it's good to be aware that it's sort of the old internet outage, right? If, if you're not paying for the product, you are the product, that kind of thing. And so somebody somewhere is paying for the event. You just have to, you know, I find that the more direct model of actually selling tickets to it, it's a little bit more easy to understand
Speaker 2 (36:31):
Your events have also been supported by companies, right? They're hosted at sometimes LinkedIn or Yelp and Spotify Thumbtack. Can you tell me more about what it's like to work with companies and partner with them and why you chose to bring them in?
Speaker 3 (36:47):
Absolutely. as an event organizer, one of the first things I look for is a great venue partner. It's very difficult obviously to run a in real life event without space to do it. And it's hard to find a public space like a restaurant or cafe or things like that to really run a larger event, a great event that designers and geeks events tend to be anywhere from 150 to 300 people depending on the city. So that's just a hard space to come by unless you have somebody that, that has a dedicated space for that. And so I've always looked for a great venue partners. I always try to set up a multi months or even yearly arrangement with those soaps. So you're not, you know, trying to find a new venue partner, every single event you run that can really streamline the production process. You know, for a lot of the venue partner set designers I gigs has had the community is great for helping them build brand awareness and then recruiting. And so a lot of our relationships with companies have been about helping them find creative professionals to to recruit and to have career discussions with that's one of the main things that we work on with those partners.
Speaker 2 (38:03):
Yeah. Win, win situation, both ends. Absolutely. Are there any challenges on your mind today that listeners can help with?
Speaker 3 (38:12):
Yeah, I think in doing this podcast, you know, I want to recognize the fact that we're doing it in the middle of the pandemic designers and geeks has not actually run. We had to cancel all of our events from April, may and June. And so it's been a while since we've actually run our events, we are planning to come back with some virtual events starting August, and I'm excited to try that out, but I also want to acknowledge the fact that it's just a weird time for community builders to figure out what they're doing and how to do it. So in terms of challenges to designers and geeks, we are predominantly an in realized community, and it's just not safe to be doing that right now. So we are trying to find other ways to sustain the community. We're open to different ideas and, you know, we're, we're kind of wondering why the rest of your listeners probably are about how we're going to get back and what the future's going to look like for events and community series, if anyone hasn't placed on that.
Speaker 4 (39:18):
Well, Joe, I'm actually curious to ask you if you don't mind. I mean, I know you're, you're a deep thinker on these things. What do you have to offer to anyone that kind of making these decisions about, you know, we're in an unsafe time and I prefer in person what, what would you say to someone who kind of has those constraints?
Speaker 3 (39:37):
It's a great question. I think for community builders who are wanting to replicate some of that in person experience, but online, and then this pandemic, I think there are probably ways we can use some of the digital channels more effectively than to just sort of take our old style of presentation and talk and just move it to an online forum. One that I've seen, it's just running with smaller groups and when you're on that zoom or Google hangout or whatever it is being sure to actively solicit participation from community, you know, and that means, I think, you know, conversations are not supernatural in those formats cause really only one person can speak at a time. So going around and prompting people, calling on people with a question I know at my company, we are doing that. We're experimenting with that where we'll have social mixers and things like that.
Speaker 3 (40:40):
For employees, we'll ask an icebreaker question or a topical question, and then we'll go round Robin and call on people to get their thoughts or get an answer. It's, you know, we've created a culture where it's fine if you don't have an answer, a thought on it to just pass. But it does a better job of engaging people and allowing number one to talk and, and sort of building up that community. I've seen some other community organizers students effectively by leveraging technology for zoom rooms and things like that, where you might have kind of a large group together, but then split them off into anywhere from five to 10 person breakout rooms and giving each of those rooms a moderator to do that, that sort of, you know, questioning and, and, you know, get people engaged in the conversation. So I think it's, it's a matter of adapting to the new formats and the new styles where we have to take, you know, these different mediums into account for how they can be utilized more effectively hard question. I know, [inaudible]
Speaker 1 (41:55):
You so much for making time for us joining us on this podcast, it was really nice spending the morning talking to you.
Speaker 3 (42:02):
No, thanks for having me. This has been a lot of fun and and it's great to see that you're, you're building a podcast for community organizers. I think it's a topic that's underserved. So thank you for your time. Talk to you later.
Speaker 1 (42:19):
If you want to learn more about designers and geeks, head to their firstname.lastname@example.org. Joe also said, they're going to try out virtual events soon. So watch out for those to find out more about the work Kevin, Kai, my business partners. And I do as people in company, helping organizations get clearer on who their most important communities are and how to build with those people, head to our website, people and talk to company. Also, if you want to start your own community or supercharge one you're already have part of our handbook is here for you. Visit get together book.com to grab a copy. It's full of stories and learnings from conversations with community leaders like Joe file thing. If you don't mind, give us a review or click subscribe on your podcast store. It helps more people bump into this podcast when they're out looking for community inspiration. Awesome. Thank you guys.