If your community is not running its using HTTPS instead of HTTP, you should consider the upgrade, especially if you are hosting your site through STC. The STC web host offers free HTTPS through a free SSL certificate system.
One of the more challenging aspects of running a community can be running events. To successfully pull off an event, you need a venue, food and drink, a presenter, and most importantly, attendees. Keeping track of who is attending and who has paid can be done manually, or through Meetup.com, but there may be better way: Eventbrite. In April of 2016, Viqui Dill and Teresa Nguyen hosted a webinar on Eventbite for STC and the CAC. This article is designed to compliment, but not replace, the content of that webinar.
Why Choose Eventbrite
In the earlier article, the benefits of using Meetup.com were explained. Meetup can expand your audience, organize events, and collect payments. However, Meetup also charges a hefty fee every six month, which scales to the size of your group. This can be costly, especially for groups with tight budgets.
Eventbrite works on a different business model. They skim off a percentage of your ticket sales instead of having a monthly fee. So if you want to organize a meeting with no fees, Eventbrite will organize the registration for free! You can tie in your PayPal account with Eventbrite and process all your payments electronically.
Discounts for Not-for-profits
As noted in an earlier article, both Eventbrite and PayPal provide discounts to not-for-profit organizations. If you contact them and send them proof that your chapter is a not-for-profit, they will reduce their fees.
Customizing Your Event
When you create an event in Eventbrite, you establish the basic information about the event: location, time, date, subject, etc.
Additionally, you must create ticket types. Each type of ticket can have a different name and price, including a free ticket. Why create different ticket tiers? Perhaps you want to offer a discount for students, first time attendees, or society members. If you break out tickets between members and non-members, even if they have the same cost, you can better track your finances for the STC budget form, which always asks for member vs. non-member numbers. Also, when creating tickets, you can establish who pays for Eventbrites fees. In the example below, the fees are absorbed by the chapter. Alternatively you can have the attendees pay the fees.
Other ticketing options include limiting the number of each ticket type sold, and limiting the days each ticket type is sold. Each of those options must be set individually for every tier of tickets that you create.
As part of the registration process, you can ask attendees questions. Sure, there is the basic name, address, employer form fields, but you can create special questions, such as dietary limitations. On the Manage tab, select Order Options > Order Form. There you can specify the standard questions asked, or add a custom question by clicking the Add Another Question button.
When you click the Add Another Question button, you are prompted to enter your question, and given several ways attendees can respond, ranging from free text to drop downs to radio button.
You can even make sub questions that appear based on the initial responses.
After your event registration is live, you can check the results of your questions on the Manage tab, under Analyze > Event Reports. Choose to export to Excel or a CSV, and you can take your results to go. Or expand the table and look at all the responses right in Eventbrite.
Discount codes are coupons you give to your attendees, perhaps to welcome them to your event as a new member, or to thank them for their volunteer work. These codes are tied directly to the event on which you create them, even if they are valid for a longer time frame. This means that if you give someone a code that is good for 6 months, you must create a new version of it in every event that you create for the next 6 months. Fortunately, it is not difficult to create a discount code.
Once you create the code, be sure to tell the intended audience to use it when registering.
Communicating with Your Attendees
Sometimes things don’t always go as planned and you need to reach out to the attendees who registered for your event. Eventbrite has thought of such situations and includes an email tool that will contact any group of attendees you want, such as people who haven’t paid yet, or people who registered after a certain date, or just specific members. Such emails can be scheduled to send immediately, or at a future time. One such use of this feature is to send a email to all attendees after the event is over. In that email, include a link to a survey so you can get feedback on the event. To access this feature, on the Manage tab, use Manage Attendees > Emails to Attendees.
While this is a great method to contact the people who have already registered, I recommend using MailChimp as a free way to push the event registration to your mailing list.
Ready to Go
Once your event is about to take place, Eventbrite has a guest list you can print that displays who has pre-paid and who has not. It also will print name tags on a PDF which can then be printed onto standard sticky name tags. Both of these options are available on the Manage tab under Manage Attendees.
Eventbrite may not be a perfect tool, but it can make your event registration and payment processing easier. It can even handle refunds if an attendee ends up not being an attendee. You are billed monthly on a percentage of your ticket sales, and if you are using PayPal, you can easily pay them from your ticket income. There are many more features in the application which I don’t have time to explain here, but the few that I did highlight hopefully gives you incentive to create an account and explore on your own.
If you are looking to expand the reach of your community’s activities, consider trying Meetup.com. Meetup is a website where members create profiles listing their interests. Based on their listed interests, various meetup groups are suggested. A Meetup Group is an organization that hosts get-together events on a certain topic. Meetup Groups range from backpacking clubs, to knitting circles, to technical communication groups. If your community creates a Meetup Group, you can potentially draw from a wider audience for your events.
Meetup requires that you create a profile. When you define your profile, you can add a photo of yourself, a bio, your location, and list of interests. All of that information is processed so Meetup can recommend groups in your local area, and in your area of interest. It is free to create a Meetup profile, but some groups may have dues if you join them. Consider creating both a personal profile for you and your interests, and a general profile for your community.
Creating a Meetup Group
Once you have a profile for you or your community, you need to create a Meetup Group to host events. The group should match your STC community’s name so members can easily find it.
You have a lot of control over how the group will appear in Meetup, ranging from colors to logos, and photo albums to leader titles. You can even enter a default welcome message that is automatically sent to new group members.
One important aspect of your group is to define the thematic topics for it. These topics match the areas of interest you defined in your profile. If Meetup members have the same topics in their profile, then this group will be a recommended match for them. Topics to consider for an STC Meetup Group are:
Cost of Meetup.com
While having a Meetup profile is free, running a group is not free. The cost of running a group scales with the number of members in the group. In many cases, it is $10 a month for groups of less than 50 members. For more than 50 members, it is $15 a month. Meetup did not offer a nonprofit discount at the time of writing. With the higher rate, your group can have more administrators, however. To offset this cost, many Meetup groups require members to pay dues. That might not be a good model for an STC group, however, so if you create a meetup group, be prepared to pay for it, and budget accordingly. One option to offset the group cost is to get a sponsor that will help pay for it.
Meetup offers meeting planning tools, much like Eventbrite. You can track meeting registrations through Meetup, and you can you charge and collect fees when people register. Alternatively, if you are already using Eventbrite to track your registrations, you can send people to that site to complete the registration process.
So is Meetup for your community? That depends on your community budget and the activities you are planning. If you are an active community with many events, and you are in an area where many STC-outsiders might be attracted to your group, it may be worth your while to create a meetup group, especially if your community has the budget for it. Track and see how many people register for an event because of the exposure on Meetup. If you find you are adding to your community as a result of Meetup, then it will be a good ROI for your group. If you are spending $180 a year on the group and have attracted no new attendees, you may want to reconsider using Meetup, especially if your community budget is small.
However, don’t let this deter you from creating a free Meetup profile and joining non-STC groups. You might just find new friends who share your hobby enthusiasm!
This blog was based on a webinar presented by Timothy Esposito and the STC Community Affairs Committee. You can see the slides for the webinar and a recording of the webinar in the links below.
The recording of the webinar is available now at http://stc.adobeconnect.com/p3wfkl0rfb0/