Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup, opened the floor to discuss the future of community, and how we build offline community and interactive sessions.
Society is in a weird place right now where the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and opportunities for people who are not in the internet industry are on the decline. From heightened race issues to climate change, all of the societal struggles we’re facing will ultimately result in the establishment of more resilient community.
Community isn’t just a marketing strategy, it leaves the question: “What is the future?”
Scott’s definition of community is simply “people talking.”
“It sounds a little dumb and obvious, but it’s what I’ve learned after these 150 million Meetup RSVPs that have happened over the years. Do people have permission and license to talk to one another? Are you actually going to connect with people who’ll make your life and their lives better in some way?”
The question here is: What’s going to jolt people to connect?
Scott gave us an anecdote about how he met Meetup co-founder Brendan McGovern during the orientation on his first day working at Sony. “That’s the magical thing,” he said, “Had we not met, my life would be worse.”
He then posited an interesting exercise for our audience:
“Take a quiet moment to think of one friend that you feel so lucky to have met in your life. Just, really, think of one person. And think to yourself, ‘what was the weird circumstance of how you met them?'”
In the end, Scott explained, had you not met, your life wouldn’t be as good. He continued to explain what he considers to be the three things at the heart and soul of community.
The 3 Amazing Effects of Community Building
1. How Community Creates Support
A mom who belongs to a Jersey City Moms Meetup had a baby who needed to be in the NICU. In addition to the family’s personal support system, the Meetup community swarmed them with support.
This is what community can do for people: give them a space to be accepted and support each other in times of need.
2. How Community Creates Collaboration
Salesforce Developer Meetup started in San Francisco, CA, and has grown to exist in 130 cities. The groups strengthen the network of people who are making software around Salesforce.
The collaboration has provided unbelievable amounts of value for Salesforce and for other businesses that have used the platform and others like it.
3. How Community Creates Opportunity
CodeCrew Meetup began in New York when two non-coders decided that they wanted to learn to code. Instead of taking a class or seeking information online, they decided they wanted to start a study group. The Meetup they thought would cap out at about seven people grew into a 7,000-person organization that has led to countless people getting jobs left and right.
At the end of the day, though, Scott says: it’s all about your audience. Whatever you build has to be about them. The results of your work will change their lives in countless, magical ways.
“The things you’re working on—how do you connect people? How do you spawn community? The community future we need is that spike in connections—people finding each other.”