So you want to start a Selenium Meetup Group. Now what?

Posted Oct 24th, 2011

Update 10/17/13: If you are the organizer of a Selenium Meetup, join the Google Group for Se Meetup organizers!

Organizing Selenium meetups has become my thing. On my first day at Sauce back in April 2010, I was tasked with helping to organize a meetup that was happening two days later. I hadn’t done much event planning nor did I even know what Selenium was (a little embarrassed to admit that now), but I jumped in, proved I (sort of) knew what I was doing and was handed the reigns to Sauce’s monthly Selenium Meetups. 18 San Francisco Selenium meetups later, plus three in New York City, one in Boston, and the inaugural Selenium Conference, I’ve learned a thing or two about organizing events for the Selenium community and would like to share some of that with you.

I’m writing this post because my Selenium meetup history tells me there are Selenium users all over the world who want to meet other testers and developers, geek out about testing, and find out how others are utilizing this awesome tool – they just need an avenue to do so. We saw this in action at the Selenium Conference back in April. Everyone who showed up was committed to open source, wanted to make this project the best it can be and loved getting together to talk about Selenium. But while a big Selenium conference is great, realistically it can only happen once or twice a year. Meetups, on the other hand, can happen much more frequently, in just about any city in the world, with the help of one or two committed organizers.

Which is where you, future Selenium Meetup organizer, come in :-) If you don’t live in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Seattle, London, Toronto, Melbourne, Phoenix, and soon DC (cities that have an existing meetup group), I hope to arm you with the knowledge and confidence to start one yourself and see it flourish. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the nitty gritty of starting your first Selenium meetup!

1. Ask yourself: How active do you want this meetup group to be?
It’s important to set this expectation early on so you know what you’re signing up for. Will you meet every two weeks? Once a month? Once a quarter? I’ve found once a month to be solid, but I’m also fortunate that organizing these meetups is part of my duties at Sauce.

2. Decide what your first meetup topic will be
For a first event, I’d suggest opening the meetup with “getting to know you” time and then follow that up with either a speaker or a workshop that you (or someone else qualified) will lead. Organizing it in this way gives you time as the organizer to meet attendees, get a feel for their technical level and perhaps ask about future meetup topics. An agenda for the evening might look like this:

7:00pm: Registration, Welcome, pizza (or local favorite) and drinks
7:15pm: Welcome, Announcements
7:30pm: Mingling, networking, etc
8:00pm: Workshop / Presentation
8:30pm: Q&A / Wrap up workshop
9:15pm: Lights Out

If you’re experience is anything like mine, you’ll find you have to shoo people out so the cleaning people can come in to do their job.

3. Find a Speaker
This one can be difficult when you’re first starting out. Assuming you work at a company that uses Selenium, I’d ask your coworkers if anyone would like to present. If you strike out there, I’d go to Linkedin and filter by location and whether they have Selenium in their profile. You can also send a note to the LinkedIn Selenium Group or the Selenium user list on Google groups. If all those options fail, get in touch with me and I’ll do what I can to help you secure a speaker.

4. Pick a date for your first meetup
It’s a good idea to not only pick a date for your first event, but also establish the day of the week to have regular meetups. This will make it easier for attendees to remember and also (hopefully) keep you motivated to continue organizing. In San Francisco, we generally have our meetups on the third or fourth Tuesday of the month. In New York, we do meetups on the third Thursday of the month. I’d avoid doing events on Mondays and Fridays.

5. Look for a (free) venue
Check first with your own company. Meetups are a great recruiting tool and you can use that angle when convincing your boss to host a bunch of geeks. If your own company won’t do, put a note out to the Selenium user list saying that you’re starting this meetup and need a venue. Do a google search for other tech companies in your area and see if you can track down the developer advocate or QA director. Once again, if all these options fall short, send me an email. We’ve got a database of companies doing Selenium testing and I know plenty of them would be thrilled to offer up their space.

Some things to remember about a venue: Open space is better than a conference room. You’ll need to confirm that there is a projector and screen set up for the presenters (with adapters for Mac and PC users!). Also be sure there are plenty of chairs set up. Theatre style tends to work best but if you’re doing a workshop, obviously round table seating is more preferable.

6. Find a sponsor for food and beer
Free food and drinks are essential to meetups so I wouldn’t skimp on this. I usually order pizza from a place close to the venue and have beer delivered from a liquor store. Every once in a while I find a company that provides a venue, food and drinks. When that happens, I get really happy and feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. You will too. (Remember to ask the company that is providing the venue if they’ll also pony up food and drinks. The worst they can say is no). For a group of 50 attendees, plan on it costing about $400 for food, drinks, and tip.

7. Set the group up on and announce your first meetup
It’s time to announce your meetup! When setting up your meetup page, be sure to use Selenium and your city in the headline (e.g. San Francisco Selenium Meetup Group) so it’s easily searchable. Go ahead and announce your first meetup, knowing that at first, it will be a meetup for one. Then tweet and/or blog about it. If you don’t tweet or blog, tell Sauce about it so we can do the tweet to our followers.

8. Have your meetup!
After weeks of organizing, it’s time to have your first meetup! Here are some parting tips:

      • Plan to arrive to your meetup 1 hour in advance to make sure everything is set up to your liking.
      • Come armed with nametags and sharpies.
      • Create a sign in sheet so you know how many people came vs. how many people RSVP’d.
      • Keep everything on time according to the agenda.
      • Smile, mingle, and, most importantly, have fun :-)

Written by

Ashley Wilson