There are ACX meetup groups all over the world. Lots of people are vaguely interested, but don’t try them out until I make a big deal about it on the blog. Since learning that, I’ve tried to make a big deal about it on the blog twice annually, and it’s that time of year again.

If you’re willing to organize a meetup for your city, please fill out the organizer form.

The form will ask you to pick a location, time, and date, and to provide an email address where people can reach you for questions. It will also ask a few short questions about how excited you are to run the meetup to help pick between multiple organizers in the same city. One meetup per city will be advertised on the blog, and people can get in touch with you about details or just show up.

Organizing an ACX Everywhere meetup can be easy. Pick a time and a place (parks work well if you think there will be a lot of people, cafes or apartments work fine for fewer) and show up with a sign saying “ACX Meetup.” You don’t need to have discussion plans or a group activity. If you want to make the experience better for people, you can bring nice things like nametags/markers, food/drinks, or games. Meetups Czar Skyler can reimburse you for the nametags, markers, food, and drinks.

As well as offering reimbursements, Meetups Czar Skyler will be running an online conference for meetup organizers on March 23rd. If you run meetups, and especially if you’re planning on running your first meetup and think talking to experienced organizers would be helpful, please apply for the conference here.

Here’s a short FAQ for potential meetup organizers:

1. How do I know if I would be a good meetup organizer?

If you can put a name/time/date in a box on Google Forms and show up there, you have the minimum skill necessary to be a meetup organizer for your city, and I recommend you sign up.

Don’t worry, you signing up won’t take the job away from someone more deserving. The form will ask people how excited/qualified they are about being an organizer, and if there are many options, I’ll choose whoever says they’re excited and qualified. But a lot of cities might not have an excited/qualified person, in which case I would rather the unexcited/unqualified people sign up, than have nobody available at all. If you are the leader of your city’s existing meetup group, please fill in the form anyway and say so to let me know you’re still active.

This spreadsheet shows the cities where someone has filled out the form, updated manually after a basic check. If you don’t see your city listed, either nobody has yet signed up or they did it recently after the last check. Beware the Bystander Effect!

2. How will people hear about the meetup?

You give me the information, and on March 29th (or so), I’ll post it on ACX. An event will also be created on LessWrong’s Community page.

3. When should I plan the meetup for?

Since I’ll post the list of meetup times and dates around March 29th, please choose sometime after that. Any day April 5th through May 31st is okay. I recommend a weekend, since it’s when most people are available. You’ll probably get more attendance if you schedule for at least one week out, but not so far out that people will forget - so mid April or early May would be best. If you’re in a college town, it might be worth checking the local graduation dates and avoiding those.

4. How many people should I expect?

Historically these meetups get anywhere from zero to over a hundred. Meetups in big US cities (especially ones with universities or tech hubs) had the most people; meetups in non-English-speaking countries had the fewest. You can see a list of every city and how many attendees most of them had last time here. Plan accordingly. If it looks like your city probably won’t have many attendees, maybe bring a friend or a book so you’ll have a good time even if nobody shows up.

5. Where should I hold the meetup?

A good venue should be easy for people to get to, not too loud, and have basic things like places to sit, access to toilets, and the option of acquiring food and water. City parks and mall common areas work well. If you want to hold the meetup at your house, remember that this will involve me posting your address on the Internet. If you want to hold the meetup at a pub or bar, remember that teenagers or parents with children who want to attend might not be able to get in.

6. What should I do at the meetup?

Mostly people just show up and talk. If you’re worried about this not going well, here are some things that can help:

  • Have people indicate topics they’re interested in by writing something on their nametag.

  • Write some icebreakers / conversation starters on index cards (e.g. “What have you been excited about recently?” or “How did you find the blog?” or “How many feet of giraffe neck do you think there are in the world?”) and leave them lying around to start discussions.

  • Say hello to people as they arrive and introduce yourself.

In general I would warn against trying to impose mandatory activities (e.g. “now we’re all going to sit down and watch a PowerPoint presentation”), but it’s fine to give people the option to do something other than freeform socializing (e.g. “go over to that table if you want to play a game”).

7. Is it okay if I already have an existing meetup group?

Yes. If you run an existing ACX meetup group, just choose one of your meetings which you’d like me to advertise on my blog as the official meetup for your city, and be prepared to have a larger-than-normal attendance who might want to do generic-new-people things that day.

If you’re a LW, EA, or other affiliated community meetup group, consider carefully whether you want to be affiliated with ACX. If you decide yes, that’s fine, but I might still choose an ACX-specific meetup over you, if I find one. I guess this would depend on whether you’re primarily a social group (good for this purpose) vs. a practical group that does rationality/altruism/etc activism (good for you, but not really appropriate for what I’m trying to do here). I’ll ask about this on the form.

8. If this works, am I committing to continuing to organize meetup groups forever for my city?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is no, but it seems like the sort of thing somebody should do. Many cities already have permanent meetup groups. For the others, I’ll prioritize would-be organizers who are interested in starting one. If you end up organizing one meetup but not being interested in starting a longer-term group, see if you can find someone at the meetup who you can hand this responsibility off to.

I know it sounds weird, but due to the way human psychology works, once you’re the meetup organizer people are going to respect you, coordinate around you, and be wary of doing anything on their own initiative lest they step on your toes. If you can just bang something loudly at the meetup, get everyone’s attention, and say “HEY, ANYONE WANT TO BECOME A REGULAR MEETUP ORGANIZER?”, somebody might say yes, even if they would never dream of asking you on their own and wouldn’t have decided to run things without someone offering.

If someone does want to run things regularly, you or they can offer to collect people’s names and emails if they’re interested in future meetups. You could do this with a pen and paper, or if you’re concerned about reading people’s handwriting, you could use a QR code/bitly link to a Google Form.

9. Are you (Scott) going to come to some of the meetups?

I have in the past and had a lot of fun, but this year I’ll probably only be able to make my local one in the Bay. Meetups Czar Skyler plans to be at Boston, Berkeley, plus hopefully a few other USA meetups.

Again, you can find the meetup organizer volunteer form here. If you want to know if anyone has signed up to run a meetup for your city, you can view that here. Everyone else, just wait until around 3/29 and I’ll give you more information on where to go then.

10. What if I have other questions?

Skyler and I will read the comments here.