I like Twitter, and I embrace it for both personal and private use. Until recently, though, I’ve been hesitant to take the next logical step and attend a tweetup, despite their popularity here in Toronto. (A tweetup is a gathering of Twitter users, and is something our own Aliza Sherman has much more experience with.) But I did finally bite the bullet and give it a try. Actually, two tries, to be more precise, which resulted in two very different experiences.
For the sake of all those involved, and to avoid scaring people in my area away from specific groups or events, the identities of all those involved will be kept a secret. The specific names of people doesn’t matter so much as the setting and organization of the event, anyway.
Tweetup the First — Small + Casual = Quality
Like a debutante at her first ball, I was nervous but excited about attending my very first tweetup. Two things drew me out of my shell: The organizer was someone with whom I’d had very positive dialogues on Twitter leading up to the event, and the guest list was small and handpicked by said organizer, whose judgment I trusted. It didn’t hurt the the venue was mere blocks from my house, in a neighborhood I was familiar with.
The format was very informal, without a guest speaker, and with socializing at the top of the agenda. Drinks (primarily sangria) and conversation flowed freely, and not once did I encounter a sales pitch or aggressive self-promotion, though I did walk away with a few business cards and a strong impression of who people were and what they did. That was key for me, since the hard sell inevitably sends me screaming for the hills.
End result: I had some laughs, made some worthwhile connections, and generally had a good time. I can be shy meeting people for the first time, but the small group size (10 to 12 people) made it impossible to stay in my shell for long.
Tweetup the Second — Large + Cliquey = Nothing Worth Tweeting Home About
I was so impressed with my first tweetup experience that when another hashtagged event came up a month or so later, involving some of the people from the first and a whole lot more, I was all for attending. This one was different in a few key ways: It was an ongoing monthly event with a larger, devoted following, and the setting was bigger and flashier, lending it a definite party vibe. At first, that was what appealed to me about the event, but I think it ultimately bears most of the responsibility for my eventual disappointment.
Maybe I should’ve looked more closely at the attendees list, but what I found out too late was that most of the people attending this particular event were already deeply entrenched in their own cliques, so that they basically pared off into tightly knit clusters of four or five at the beginning of the evening and talked (as groups of friends often do) about insider things that I wasn’t privy to. A few new attendees who were in the same boat as myself managed to group together and chat amongst ourselves, but it felt a little too much like being relegated to the kids’ table at a family reunion for my tastes.
This by no means covers all the bases when it comes to tweetups. I’ve yet to attend the kind that takes place in a convention hall and features a guest speaker(s), for instance. But it did teach me some valuable lessons about what to expect when your Twitter usage intersects with the real world. My advice to other novices: Try out more intimate events first, even if your natural inclination is to go to bigger happenings in order to blend in more easily with the crowd. For event organizers, I’d advise you to try to avoid clique formation as best as possible. I’d rather not spend my night feeling like I’m back in high school, whether or not I bring a built-in group of friends along for the ride.
Do you attend tweetups? If so, what do you/don’t you like about them? If not, what are your reasons for staying away, and what might convince you to go?