For three years now, I’ve hosted a very popular SEO Meetup in the St Louis area. Each month it’s a different topic, always good information and a great way for me to generate leads and demonstrate my expertise.  For about a year or two prior to me starting mine, my friend Russ had run a meetup, and had similar success.  His meetups, however, were always free.  When I decided to start mine, I interviewed Russ to ask him what his biggest frustrations about running the meetup were.

Besides preparation time, Russ told me that he disliked two things about running the group:

sale labelI’m really glad he told me about these two things, and it ultimately led me to build my meetup model in a slightly different way than his.  Specifically, I did one thing that fixed both of these problems at once.  I charged for attendance.

Each of my meetups cost $10 to attend. My workshops, $57.  This has caused both of the above problems to be mitigated, if not removed them altogether.

The $10 fee causes people to

Recently I had a company offer to sponsor a meetup for me.  They sent me a check to cover the room costs, and therefore I offered the meetup as a FREE event.  As you can imagine, the meetup “sold out” and there was a waiting list.  I did my due diligence and emailed everyone shortly before the event and asked them that if they were unable to make it to change their RSVP so people on the waiting list could attend.  A few did.

When it came to the meetup day, only half the people that RSVPd Yes actually showed up.  That sucks, to put it politely.  It’s not cool to not show up like that, especially when people didn’t come because they thought it was a filled event.

I’ll probably never do another free meetup, I can charge a small fee and get a better, more interested crowd.  In the long run, I think charging is a better plan.

Have you held a successful free meetup? Did you have to bribe people to come with something other than just great information? Pizza? Drinks? How did you do it?

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