Organising an InstaMeet

Last weekend was #Glencoe15—an InstaMeet held in Glencoe. We went for a walk up into the Lost Valley. An Instameet is a community organised photography event based around Instagram. A bunch of people with similar interests meet up and create something. Here’s how we organised it, and an excuse to post some photos.

#Glencoe15 in the Lost Valley

Planning a Location

It seemed logical to pick a general location before anything else. Having a location from the off would allow people to imagine themselves taking part before committing to anything. For me, Glencoe is a special place. It’s full of stunning scenery and seemed like an easy decision to make.

Planning the Date

This was a bit harder to put together than the location. I started off by asking a bunch of people—around fifteen I often talked to on Instagram—what rough dates would suit them. Feedback was scattered. I ended up setting up a Google Spreadsheet and got people to fill in Y/N against some weekend dates over June, July and August. I picked the 25th July since that worked for the most people. In hindsight, I should have asked less people or just set a date myself. There’s just no way you’ll find a date that fits a large group of people.

Glencoe Lochan

Picking a Hashtag

A hashtag allows you to discover related images in Instagram. It’s the same as using hashtags in Facebook and Twitter. It’s important to get a hashtag that no one else has already used. If we settled for #Glencoe for example, we’d get our posts polluted by other people who visited that area. It’s 2015 so I added 15 to the end to form a unique hashtag in #Glencoe15. Genius. This also formed the name of the event.

Creating a Website

Being a web designer it seemed a pretty obvious and easy way of getting the word out there. I put together a quick landing page in an hour with some basic details about the event. I put a MailChimp newsletter signup form on there for people to register their interest. I put a deadline of two weeks before the event for people to signup. When the deadline was up, I removed the form. A week before the event I updated the website with all the finer details so anyone who missed the signup could still come if they wanted. I gathered about 40 mailing list signups this way in the end, forming the base of who would attend on the day.

Advertising on Instagram

It makes sense to advertise it on Instagram right? I created a little image with some photos of Glencoe and slapped the date and website over it. On the website I put the image up for people to download it so others could share it. A few Scottish Instagram hubs and members were helpful in picking this up and posting it themselves. When advertising the event on Instagram I tried to make it clear that “signup was open”. This was to encourage people to visit the website and put in their details. Without locking it down to only people who signed up, I wanted to capture as many details as I could to help organising the event.

At the meeting point in Glencoe

The Mailing List

The final way of communicating the event was through this MailChimp mailing list. I sent out an initial email asking for some ideas on what people would like to do on the day. After some feedback from this, I finalised the details and sent out a further email a week or so later. I used the same mailing list to send last minute reminders of the event, and a post event round up. I think the mailing list alone was hands down the best tool in helping organise the event. With a few clicks I could send out an email to the vast majority of people that were attending. They could get back to me directly by just hitting reply.

Car Sharing

Using the mailing list I asked people where they were coming from and if they were up for car sharing. After a few responses I hooked up various people coming from the same locations. The goal was to try and reduce the amount of cars we took into the valley. Car parking gets tough there on a nice day.

On the Day

Around 35 people turned up and the weather was perfect. I’m not going to go a whole bunch into the day here, read this by @ruanaich if you’re interested, but I think we did pretty well for ourselves. The photos and feedback were great.

Glencoe

Hindsight

After I set a time, a nice and early 8am, there was some feedback that this might be too early. I almost created a two parted day where the early birds would head off at 8am and come back to meet another group at lunchtime. It seemed reasonable. I then began to write up the email communicating that a week before the event. As I tried to work out how long some walks would take so we could guarantee we’d be back in time, it seemed pretty risky. I decided to compromise a little and started the meet at 8:30am with the walk itself starting at 10am. Giving people a bit longer to arrive whilst those that were early could chat, get something to eat, and explore around the meeting point.

It also took a couple of weeks to pick a date for the event. Looking back, I probably should have just planned it three or four months before hand and just set a date and time. This would have cut out a bunch of organisation time. It’s a special event, if people wanted to come along they’d make it work.

On the day, some sort of not-lame name badges might have been helpful.With all the people that showed up, I had no chance of remembering who’s who.

Takeaways

I’m a fan of takeaways. Here’s a rapid fire list of stuff I learned.

  • Reduce choice and just give people notice.
  • Use a mailing list to communicate directly with those who signed up.
  • Be very clear with details. I gave out street view and coordinates for the meeting point, as well as describing what my car looked like.
  • Take stock. I got nearly everyone to write their name and Instagram username in my phone.
  • Be flexible. Once we got into the valley we split the group. Some munro baggers went up. Loch hunters went down.
  • Don’t cheap out on smoke bombs. I brought some cheap ones to try and make some interesting photos. They were rubbish.
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