MetaMeetup - An Experimental Virtual Meetup During COVID-19

Alan VanToai
March 21, 2020

With the recent spread of COVID-19, companies and organizations are increasingly turning to remote work and virtual collaboration to maintain operations without risking the health of their teams.

Conference and event organizers have also been forced to cancel or postpone their larger, in-person gatherings. The list of notable event casualties has grown to include SXSW, Mobile World Congress, Facebook’s F8, Google I/O, and more.

These unique circumstances have prompted many in the technology and events communities to begin asking the question of how conferences, meetups, and other community events might adapt or evolve given the new paradigm.

Earlier this week, against this backdrop, I participated in an experimental virtual community meetup hosted by MetaCartel - a self-described "ecosystem of creators and operators building decentralized applications” (who recently approved Telefuel's community grant proposal to support the development of our upcoming Telefuel Teams product).

Berlin Summer 2019, MetaCartel Demo Day 1

MetaCartel counts 80 community members distributed across the globe - from Kyoto to California and dozens of countries in between.

With such a globally distributed membership, the vast majority of MetaCartel’s coordination and communication is remote and virtual by default.

Being truly native to this virtual/remote paradigm - MetaCartel was a natural host for this first experimental virtual meetup.

The Agenda

For the meeting, MetaCartel founder Pet3rpan took the initiative of putting together a fun agenda for the virtual meetup, with the dual goals of a) bringing the community together, and b) experimenting and learning with a novel approach to virtual meetups.

The agenda for the meeting:

  • 5 mins - Waiting for people to join
  • 5 mins - Orientation & Questions
  • 10 mins - Breakout: Meme Making Competition
  • 15 mins - 1:1 Speed Dating
  • 15 mins - Retrospective

Pet3rpan chose a simple collaborative markdown note-sharing app called hackmd.io to publish and share the agenda in advance of the meetup. You can see the full agenda here.

The meetup itself bounced between a few different video and collaboration platforms for different sections - from Zoom to MetaGame to Jit.si - which we’ll expand on in each section below.

Orientation + Questions - 5 minutes

We kicked off the call in Zoom - giving a 5 minute grace period for stragglers to  join before jumping into the agenda.

During the grace period, Pet3rpan lead the group through brief introductions, giving a handful of attendees (there were about 20 total) a chance to share who they are, what they were working on, and what brought them to MetaCartel.

After the intros and grace period, Pet3rpan walked the group through the agenda and explained how the meeting was going to work, and how we’d all be participating.

Meme Making Competition - 10 Minutes

The first activity was a quick 10-minute meme competition, during which we broke out into groups of four, and worked together to create a bunch of memes relating to the Coronavirus and MetaCartel.

For this portion of the meetup, each team was assigned their own video room via metagame.wtf, and their own workspace on Figma - a collaborative design tool.

After about 10 minutes, we exported our hastily thrown-together memes, and jumped back into the main meetup room on Zoom to review all the finished memes.

1:1 Speed Dating - 15 Minutes

After reviewing the memes, we broke from the main room again, this time for 1:1 “Speed Dating”.

For this section, Pet3rpan created 9 different video rooms, split the community up into pairs, and assigned each pair to a meeting room (with one person per room designated as the “anchor human”):

Each pair was given around 5 minutes total to introduce themselves to one another and get acquainted, before rotating to the next room (the “anchor human” staying in the room, the other bouncing into the next room).

For my partners, I had the pleasure of connecting with Manu Alzuru - an early MetaCartel member with a background in engineering and marketing, and Rika Sukenik - a fellow first-time MetaCartel member who works in product management for Skale - a layer-2 Ethereum solution.

Retrospective - 15 Minutes

Finally, after two “speed dates”, everyone reconvened back in the main Zoom room to reflect on the meetup and share feedback.

Because part of the purpose of the meetup was to experiment and learn with a new format for a virtual meetup, this reflection was a valuable time for the group to get feedback on what went well, what could be improved, and other ideas or takeaways from the event.

For me, I thought the experience was overwhelmingly positive and well done, especially considering how quickly and scrappily it was thrown together by Pet3rpan.

I made some legitimate new connections and friends through the meme competition and the 1:1s, which was one of the key goals of the meetup in the first place.

In terms of areas for improvement, there were suggestions that the bouncing around across different conferencing rooms was a little disjointed and at times a bit complicated to follow.

Luckily in this case, the community was by definition more technically savvy, so we were able to navigate the different tools quickly enough. Less technical audiences might have more trouble with such changes. A more simple approach with less transitions might be ideal for such audiences.

Conclusion

We hope this post was helpful for any teams or events who are considering transitioning to- or experimenting with online meetup alternatives.

Though virtual meetings and events will never truly replace the experience and connections of in person meetings - this experiment in online community organizing served well as a proxy, and the convenience (and safety) of this event made it a very nice compromise given current events (and also the globally distributed nature of everyone involved).

If you have any questions or ideas around virtual/remote work or events, please don’t hesitate to join our community and reach out. We’re always happy to share and discuss: https://t.me/telefuel

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Alan VanToai
Co-Founder of Telefuel
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