Cheryl Hung

Cloud Native London goes virtual, and how to run large meetups

Due to COVID-19, Cloud Native London is becoming a virtual meetup for a few months. These are my reflections on building and running a large (5300 person) meetup.

I started Cloud Native London when I looking for meetups to speak at myself as a developer advocate in 2017. I found Cloud Native Berlin, Paris and Barcelona, but no equivalent in London, so I created it speculatively. Despite having no venue, speakers or sponsors, I listed an event seven weeks out and figured that I’d work it out somehow.

Incredibly, 150 people RSVP’d to that first event, it’s continued to grow ever since and now gets 400-500 RSVPs consistently every month. I’m beyond grateful to our sponsors who have generously supported us throughout, and to the dozens of speakers who have shared their expertise and guidance.

If you’re considering starting a meetup, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Consistency matters. Choose a regular cadence (for us, the first Wednesday of each month), use the same venue in a central location and find sponsors who will support every month. It allows speakers to plan ahead, which means our speaking slots are booked out for the next 12 events.
  • Be generous in accepting speakers, particularly first time speakers and diverse speakers, but give them hard rules on what is acceptable (relevant content only, no sales pitches.)
  • Publish a blog post after each event. It helps people who missed the event, and lets newcomers know what to expect.
  • A large, frequent, high quality meetup takes a lot of time. If you have the funds, hire an event organiser! By a happy coincidence, my sister is a freelance event organiser, so she handles logistics while I focus on speakers and sponsors.

Cloud Native London was my entry point into the open source community as a CNCF Ambassador, and now my current role with CNCF. I’ve made friends all across the globe, and I still feel immense joy that people feel it’s worth spending their evenings at my meetup. Thank you all for making this community a pleasure to run!

Alas these are not normal times, and my priority now is for everyone to stay healthy. Therefore Cloud Native London will be going online for at least April and May via Zoom and YouTube. Over the past 33 events I’ve tweaked many aspects to make the best meetup I can, and I’m confident we’ll adjust. Perhaps going online will enable even more people to join!

Until we meet again - I will see you all online!