Making Safety a Prerequisite for Your Meetups

by Anjali Leon, South Florida Women in Agile group

Meetups have awakened new possibilities for people who have similar interests to find each other and meet face to face to learn, share, and expand their common interests.  

Creating one of these special interest groups is as easy as creating an account on meetup.com and sponsoring a new group for $89.00 for 6 months.  Add a compelling description, a geographic location, and sprinkle a few search keywords to attract people with a similar interest, and you have created a special space for connection!   Once you have announced the venue and topic for your first meetup, you can sit back and watch the magic of the internet unfold. People who were once strangers start joining the group and become part of a growing network and community.

Who can join a meetup?  Who can show up to an event?  Well, the beauty in the model is that anybody can join.  And that is also the  scary part!

In 2015, I founded South Florida Women in Agile and have organized monthly events with my co-organizer, Colleen Esposito ever since.  As organizers we have the pleasure of creating a unique space for curiosity, connection, co-creation, and community to emerge—and we also shoulder the responsibility to do what we can to ensure the safety of the people who attend our meetups as well as the security of the organizations that offer their venues to host our events. While always hoping the extra effort is unnecessary, we do our due diligence to create a physically and psychologically safe space for all our members.

Here are some tips that may help you make safety a prerequisite for your own meetup groups.

Vet potential members

Include a verification step before anyone joins the meetup.  Acceptance into our meetup group is a 2-step process where one of the meetup organizers needs to officially approve a new member.

Get a sense of whether the new member is a good fit for your group.  We ask each potential member 3 questions about their Agile experience, their role in the organization, and what they hope to get from the group.

Verify the new member’s identity.  We check that the potential member’s profile includes their full name and valid photo and, if not, we ask them to update their profile.  We then verify the member’s identity on another social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or similar.

Publish and enforce a code of conduct

Add a code of conduct to your meetup description and let any new member know they are expected to abide by that code of conduct.  We use the official Women In Agile code of conduct to address the values and intentions of our group.

Do not tolerate any behavior that violates the code of conduct.  Luckily, we have never had to call out a violation of the code of conduct (so far).

Make the meetup location only visible to people who sign up

When posting a new meetup, select the option of making the meetup location only visible to people who sign up in order to deter unexpected attendees.

Verify and keep a record of attendees

If you are hosting your meetup at a company, send the attendee list to your contact at least 2 days prior to the meetup.  Some hosting organizations require the attendee list to be vetted by their security department—it may be a bit of a pain, but well worth the effort.

Ask your attendees to sign in so that you have a record of everyone who attended.

Facilitate connections

Send a welcome note to new members letting them know what they can expect from the meetup and remind them about the code of conduct.

Personally welcome each member at the meetup—especially those attending for the first time.  And make a conscious effort to remember their names.

Allow time for networking.  Facilitate a simple ice breaker when possible.

Offer snacks and refreshments.   Food is a great connector.

Share information about upcoming events.  We regularly share information about other Agile meetups and events.

Create opportunities for members to contribute and connect.  Facilitate events where everyone gets to participate and solicit topics for a future meetup.  Engage members to facilitate or host a meetup. Enlist them to volunteer for a local event or encourage them to bring a friend to an upcoming meeting.  Ask them to help grow the group.

I hope you find these safety tips useful, reasonable, and practical. Use (for LinkedIn:  the comment section ) our #Slack channel to share your own tips for making psychological and physical safety a built-in prerequisite for all of your fantastic future meetups.

4 Tips for Starting Your Women in Agile Group

by Elaine Brady, Denver Women in Agile group

A full-time job. Family and travel. Extracurriculars.

It’s not always easy to make time for a passion project with just 24 hours in a day, but that’s the funny thing about passion…there’s always a community (and brunch…and mimosas) there to support you.

That’s certainly the case with the small but mighty team behind Women in Agile-Denver, which hosted its kick-off Meetup on Sept. 25 at Galvanize Golden Triangle. We coordinated our first Meetup with Denver Startup Week in order to help drive traffic and start out with a bang! Thanks to some amazing gals at Galvanize Golden Triangle, we were able to pull this off!

For those of you interested in getting involved, or launching your own Women in Agile group, here are a few tips to inspire and engage the passionate community of ours.

1. Make Small Talk…Always

It all started with an elevator ride at Agile 2018 with Dr. Gail Ferreira. I had the chance to chat about the need for a Denver WIA group. We followed that conversation up with breakfast, and off we went. A huge shoutout to Deema Dajani for her continued support as we learn and grow.

2. Assemble a Rockstar Team

Deema was instrumental in helping me gather my thoughts and organize this first Meetup with a grassroots approach. From there I asked my good friend, Vesta Insam to join. Just like that, there are 2 of us.. And Deema calls with another woman who was interested. Patricia Tostado jumped on board. The 3 of us make a really great team! We met up for a nice Saturday brunch and our first guest speaker, Ti Mougne, joined.

3. Nail the Content

The 4 of us had an intellectually stimulating conversation and I could not wait until our first event! We knocked out the details during our planning brunch. We covered talking points, Ti’s presentation objectives, food/drink prep, marketing materials and how we would drive more traffic through LinkedIn, Meetup.com and Denver Startup Week. This was it, this is what we had been waiting for.. In only 5 short weeks we were able to pull this event together as a team!

4. Rinse. Wash. Repeat

  • Find sponsorship. Plans and budgets change, make a list and work with organizations in your area for a running list of sponsors for future events. Huge thanks to Colleen Johnson & ImagineX Consulting for their generous sponsorship.
  • Snacks and beverages are key. Week nights are hard, family, working full-time and committing to another community can be a lot, too. Incentivizing your attendees is an easy way to break down barriers.
  • Secure your space. Make it easy to access and familiar to members so they want to return to the warm, welcoming space each month. DSW was pivotal in posting our Meetup page and information on their marketing materials which helped drive traffic to our first event.
  • Share away! LinkedIn, Meetup, Twitter, social media to the max!

In my mind, the motivation behind starting Women in Agile Denver came from a need for Agile collaboration and inclusiveness in the Denver community. I wanted to feel part of a community that truly believes in an Agile approach, who really wanted to learn and grow from each other, who challenged each other in a positive way. The energy behind Meetups and networking events can feel like forced fun and can frankly be exhausting. I wanted to create a safe space where all ideas are welcome, we’re inclusive and diverse in our thought process and collaboration.

The sense of community we have built so far just feels amazing, in the most genuine way. I have never felt so at ease with a group of women in a professional setting. The amount of support and perspective brought to the table amazes me. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such motivated women who see a similar need in the community. Because of you all, showing up, giving us data, objectives and topics you would like covered–we are off to a very exciting start. When you combine a few passionate women who have a shared vision to tackle a need in a community, the rest just falls into place!

See you all on October 23 at Galvanize Golden Triangle in Denver! #WomeninAgile