On Thursday I held my monthly Brisbane Internet Business Meetup Group which I organise through meetup.com.  I've unbelievably now got 129 members.  After holding the first few meetups at a Coffee Club, I sent a survey out to all members asking if they wanted to continue with the current informal format, change to a more formal setting where people can give presentations, or do a combination of the both.  The feedback was clearly on the side of a combination of both. Luckily, one of the members runs a government-sponsored company that supports startups and offered me the use of his conference room to hold the meetups.  It's roughly a 30-seat room with internet connection and projector so perfect for our needs, and he also arranges free drinks and nibbles for us all.

It's working out pretty well.  When I schedule each event I issue a call-out for volunteers to give presentations.  Due to the size of the room, and with us having 129 members, I set an attendance limit of 30, however meetup.com has a great system which, once the R.S.V.P limit has been reached, allows members to be added to a waiting list which automatically adds them if anyone drops out.  Shortly before the meetup, once I've got an idea of who's presenting I send out a rough agenda to all those that have R.S.V.P'd.  The agenda usually begins with introductions for new faces, followed by each presentation with a period of Q and A.  I also book a restaurant for after the meetup for those of us that can stay back to continue networking in a social setting.

Thursday's meetup was great, with presentations on:

  • Dissecting an advertisement, which led to some great discussions on marketing, including the AIDA principle (Attention, Interest, Desire, and call to Attention); the power of testimonials, in particular audio/visual testimonials; and the positives and negatives of the long sales letters / landing pages that we're used to seeing from internet marketers;
  • Web Site Communicator - one of the members gave a live demonstration of Web Site Communicator - basically the next generation of 'click to chat' support but live webcam chat instead of just instant messaging.  At first this looked a bit creepy to some of us but after discussion I could see the advantages.  This is a fairly new product though so there's not much data on the actual effectiveness of this vs traditional live support website modules;
  • How Obama used web 2.0 technology to help win the election.  This was a great presentation.  As I have an interest in both politics and internet technology I found it really interesting, particularly as Indhra, who was giving the presentation, clearly had a good academic grasp of US political history.

The beauty of these events is getting to pick the brains of the people that attend.  Amongst the group we had some real internet business success stories and it was great to hear real-life data on what works and what doesn't.  Of particular interest to me was the experience people have had using elance.com, getafreelancer.com, guru.com and similar such sites to outsource work, the quality of that work, and how much was paid.

I also got some good tips from David Toomey who owns supergreenme.com - a new site which I'm definitely going to keep an eye on.