A few weeks back we decided we would share what we have learned about getting a local learning social going in the hope of giving other people the opportunity for social learning in the most social of senses – chatting learning down the pub. We get sooo much from running these events and we’re pretty sure people get a lot out of attending too.

wee crowd at the Urban Wood, Bristol

Another great talk holds the wee group’s attention. This room is in a great bar in the centre of Bristol and costs us nothing.

In this second post we want to cover how you get started. It’s not complicated, but there are a few useful things we’ve picked up to save you learning the hard way.

Get a partner

Optional, but I’d been kicking this idea around for a year before I met Sam and we put it into action. It just takes the responsibility for getting things done off one person’s shoulders.

How many guests?

Aim small to begin with – from our experience, if you can get a dozen people to your first event you’ll be doing well. We regularly get 10-20 in Bristol (it can fluctuate wildly) but we had as few as five people at the earliest events.

Find a venue

This has proved to be the hardest part. Finding somewhere that is

  • low cost (preferably free)
  • easy to find
  • easy to park near
  • isn’t too busy

can take ages. Our advice is don’t worry – for your first event just run it as a meet-up; a get together for people with a common interest. That means all you need is a table in a pub that doesn’t go in for deafening music (and which won’t be manically crowded when you arrive).

If you can get a room to yourself, all to the good, but don’t be tempted to pay for a venue at this point – we did and ended up out of pocket. We don’t bother now – we found somewhere else that just lets us use their back room for nowt.

Fix a date

Mid-week is a better bet than weekends. We go with the same Wednesday each month, eschewing December when people have other things to do. Monday to Thursday you are more likely to avoid costs as most pubs are simply happy to have a bunch of customers coming in. Closer to the weekend expect to battle with gigs and hen parties. Do watch out for sporting events – an expected Euro qualifier can really disrupt your evening.

Time-wise, we’ve settled on a 7pm start. Any later is too late, it’s not too long if people are coming after work without going home, but long enough for people to get to us if they are out of town. Best bet is ask the first few people you invite what time would best suit them, and take it from there.

Give yourself at least a month to get the word out – maybe longer.

Publicise it

Tell all your friends, colleagues, customers, suppliers. Let ’em know where and when. You don’t need to think too much about branding or creating flyers or posters. At this stage your best friend will be word-of-mouth.

Set up a website if you want, or tell us and you can have a page on here to “leverage” (sorry) our existing network. At the very least, you’ll have a link to post on Twitter (you ARE on Twitter, aren’t you?)

To ticket or not to ticket

We don’t charge for our events, but from my experience of working on Ignite Bristol, using a ticketing system like Eventbrite gives you a clearer idea of how many people are going to show up, and it makes a stronger commitment on the part of your attendees.

We use Eventbrite to manage tickets for all our events. It’s free for free events and gives you various tools for managing your attendee lists and marketing to them in future.


So that’s how to get your event up and running. We’ll do one more post in a few weeks to let you know what to think about on the evening and how to plan more involved sessions once you have a core of attendees. Let us know how you get on and if you want to be part of the wee family, drop us a line.

Post by: Dan Roddy (13 Posts)