Keyboard Meetups: Should I go to them and how do I make one happen?

Mechanical keyboard meetups are something that have gained a monumental amount of momentum over the last two years. If you’re not aware of them yet, you should be. It seems almost every major city around the world these days plays host to a meetup at some point. At the core, they are a gathering of keyboard enthusiasts, where you can show off your keyboards, talk to other passionate people about them, and even win some cool gear.

By /u/jchan94 at the SoCal meetup on 4/2/16

When these meetups first came to be, they were very simple–just showing off keyboards to your fellow peers, in person. However, the meetups have evolved a bit over time, and now the average meetup has a bit more going on with it. For starters, raffles for giveaway items have become a very popular addition. Vendors, artisans, and group buy runners often donate products to be given away at these meetups, in some fashion.

In addition to having sponsors, there are often games to be played. Typing test competitions are fairly common, as well as some newer additions, like the blind switch guessing competition we had at the most recent Seattle meetup. There are lots of things that can be done to bring people together and have a good time.

Arguably the best thing about a meetup is the ability to try so many things you normally wouldn’t be able to. There are so many boards at a meetup, and you typically get access to all of them. Being able to try many keyboards, switch types, and keycaps that you’ve never tried before will give you so much perspective on what you like and dislike. When you’re used to owning only a keyboard or two, or you’re very new to the community, it can be very overwhelming when you enter a room with potentially hundreds of keyboards that are new to you, but being able to try them all is a very big step into this hobby. There is only so much a small switch-tester can tell you. Being able to feel so many combinations of keyboards will give you a vast amount of knowledge.

While there is a chance there is or will be a meetup in your area, you can always opt to organize one yourself, as well. Here, we will go over how to start up and organize a meetup in your area!

If you’re interested in making a meetup happen, here’s a good detailed guide on how to make one happen:

  1. Run an Interest Check: The absolute first thing you want to do is run an interest check. Using the [IC] tag on r/mechanicalkeyboards, put out a detailed “feeler” to see if there is enough interest in your area to even warrant a meetup. If nobody replies, it might be a lost cause, but if you have even a couple people reply, that’s a good start. Definitely don’t worry about the total amount of people you’ll have, though. Even if it’s just you and a handful of others, you’ll probably have a good time and gain knowledge.
  2. Find a location & date: Once there is a satisfactory amount of interest for you, you can move on to finding a location. This is important to do after the IC, because you’ll have a more accurate headcount, which will allow you to choose a suitable location. Depending on your headcount, simple places like coffee shops can be an option, but if you’re expecting a nice turnout, you should look around a bit more. Libraries often have conference rooms that can be rented out for free or a low price. Some colleges do the same. Ideally, you can find something in your area that is related in some way to keyboards or even just PC/electronics. There is a good chance they would be more than happy to host the meetup, as it brings in related business to their location. Regardless of where you end up, don’t fret too much about finding the “perfect” location. What matters is you all are together, sharing keyboards and experiences.
  3. (Optional) Find Sponsors/Stuff to Giveaway: Once you nail down a location, date, and time, that’s really all you need–the rest is fairly optional. If you’d like to do more, the next step would be contacting potential sponsors. Often times, vendors and the like will reach out to a meetup organizer with plans to send things for giveaways. This has become somewhat common, these days. However, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to some of the awesome vendors in this community to see if they’d want to lend you a hand. Don’t get too carried away, though. Be respectful, don’t just bug every vendor and artisan, asking for free stuff. That’s not how this works. Also, keep in mind that the meetup is designed for people to hang out, try new things, and form friendships. It’s NOT just a medium for giveaways. Don’t lose sight of why you’re there.
  4. Organize: Before the meetup, devise a way to fairly distribute the giveaway items. This could be as simple as handing out raffle tickets at the door and drawing them out of a hat later on when more people show up, or as complex as using a Google form to sign up and then assigning a number to each person, followed up by good ol’ Regardless of that route, keep it fair.
  5. (Optional) Games!: Another optional idea for your meetup would be some form of games or contests. It’s not uncommon to see typing competitions of some sort, with or without prizes. You also might consider something akin to a switch guessing competition, which was very popular at the last Seattle meetup. Though there are several ways to accomplish this, ours was a long piece of wood with switches embedded in it, low enough to not see any of the switch itself. Blank caps were then placed on the switches, and a Google form was used to collect the data. It came out surprisingly well. Don’t forget to have name-tags available when people walk in, as well as index cards or placards for people to write down the specs of their keyboards, this makes it much easier to gather any desired information.

Anyways, whether you attend a meetup or organize one in your area, please keep in mind the meetup is for meeting people and trying new things. Don’t let anything alter that. If you need any help, feel free to reach out to me, /u/Quakemz on Reddit, or /u/manofinterests, or any other person that has organized a meetup. They will often have a lot of advice to offer!