mnmlist: TeachMeet Take-aways

I arranged my first TeachMeet last week and I learned a lot. If you are considering organising one yourself, here’s some advice:

1. Do it.

TeachMeets don’t start themselves. I wanted to go to a TeachMeet and there weren’t

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any in my part of the world, so I designed a poster and put it on teachmeet.pbworks.com. It had started.

2. Get a Twitter profile going.

3. Choose a hashtag.

4. Build it around staff in your own school.

There are educational superstars in your school just like there are in mine. They might not have 7000 followers on Twitter (or even be on Twitter), but they are still doing amazing work. Make them the foundation of your event.

5. Build it, and it turns out they do come.

Keep faith that people will want to come, even if in the early days it looks like nobody will. The signups grew exponentially in the two weeks building up to our event. In the end, we added more tickets.

6. Don’t go too big.

If the event is so big that it will hard to meet everyone on the night, then I think it’s too big. For me, cosy is better.

7. Don’t specialise until TeachMeets in your area are established.

I think the topics at a TeachMeet are much less important than getting some really positive and enthusiastic people in a room. That’s really why people attend, in my opinion.

8. Use Eventbrite

You’re not going to believe this, but not everyone is on Twitter. So sometimes, email is the best way to communicate with lots of people. Eventbrite lets you easily see who has signed up for what and allows you to email them all easily. Easy. And free for free events.

9. It’s about the teachers not the sponsors.

We had one sponsor, and they didn’t present on the night. They had one of those big signs and some pens and they paid for some sandwiches and cake. Everyone was happy. There were no prizes or “goody-bags” (which are basically bags full of paper spam). Nobody complained that there were no prizes. They were there to be enthused by colleagues from up the corridor or up the road, not win prizes or be sold to.

10. The organiser is a curator, whether they like it or not.

I had to say “sorry but no thanks” to what sounded like some lovely people who didn’t quite fit into the criteria for TeachMeet Leeds 13. My little rule was simple, to present you had to be working directly with children and young people. The TeachMeet in Leeds a couple of years ago was mostly people selling stuff and that’s no good.

People may also ask you to play videos. We didn’t as we gave priority to those that were there in person; makes sense I think.

11. Ask people to help.

Someone checking in, someone on the Twitter feed and someone on the timer.

12. Leave enough time.

We had 10 x 7 minute presentations plus a 2 minuter. We had a 10 minute welcome and hello, a 10 minute break (should have been longer), I planned for 2 minutes (!) between presentations and we finished 10 minutes over the planned 2 hours. People will run over and tech problems are quite likely but everyone understands that things aren’t written in stone.

13. Give presenters and the audience a running order.

I’ve been to TeachMeets were they use the Random Person Picker and whomever comes up is on. Exciting? Yes, but this can be quite stressful for presenters (who might be all psyched up but not present). To let everyone enjoy the night much more and let everyone know what’s happening.

13. Enjoy!

Not everything was relevant to everyone, the technology went wrong now and again, someone didn’t turn up, we over-ran a little but, boy did we have fun. Everyone knows it’s a little event put on by teachers for teachers and we’re all reminded why we came into the job in the first place.

I received an email following our TeachMeet, which sums things up perfectly:

I just wanted to thank you for organising the teach meet tonight and also inviting me along. It was a great evening and I came away feeling energised by the ideas, solutions, explorations and discussions.

When I was working (or not) as an actor groups of actors got together to discuss jobs they didn’t get, bitch about the successful ones or the state of the arts. I called it the mire of sh*te as so many were bogged down in a self pitying coffee shop depression. Tonight was a great antidote to the current difficulties of the teaching profession and it really is so valuable that we get together for positive reasons and share the excellent work we all do.

I hope there’ll be another.

Me too.