The other week, I went out drinking in a pub two nights in a row. Not an unusual occurrence for some, but very unusual for me.
The first evening, my drinking companion was Rob Jones, a digital marketer who started up Oxford Internet Professionals Meetup Group and grew it to 400+ members. Whether it was the effects of the alcohol or Rob's subtle soft-sell approach - or a combination of both - the evening ended with me agreeing to take over the running of the Group.
The following evening happened to be one of the monthly meetings, and so I ended up in the same pub, but this time with 8-10 drinking companions.
I've been a semi-regular attendee at the Oxford Internet Professionals Meetups over the last few years, so I knew the structure and format of the events: get a drink, join or start a conversation, repeat until closing time.
As a new Organizer, there is always a temptation to make an impact with some dramatic changes - and on that first evening as the Organizer, I tried to "step back" and evaluate what was happening at the meeting. And you know what? I quickly came to the conclusion that this was an excellent "informal knowledge exchange" activity (looking at it with my knowledge management consultant's hat on).
The Group attracts quite a variety of members, including people with very specialist skills (website analytics, SEO, programming in all sorts of languages, web designers, marketers) and people in different roles (employed, self-employed, student, established business owners, startup-owner).
For example, on that evening, I heard / was involved in conversations as diverse as a discussion about the best form of project management methodology, the arguments for and limitations of WordPress as a CMS, and ideas for promoting a new start-up from a group a Oxford graduates.
It seemed to me that, whatever changes I DO suggest to the Group, it's essential to keep the core formula of informality, serendipitous conversations and easy access to alcohol. Rob has done an excellent job building the group based on that simple formula - so it doesn't need fixing!
If you live in or around Oxford - do join the Oxford Internet Professionals Meetup and come along to our next meeting: I'd love to meet you.