Episode 14: Meetups

Being a local guide is all about contributing to Google Maps, but at times it can be interesting to exchange information and experiences with other local guides. One of the best ways to do this is attending or even hosting so-called Meetups. In this episode you find out what these Meetups are all about and what typically goes on when local guides meet in real life.




Jan Van Haver 0:05
Hello, and welcome to yet another episode of the LetsGuide Podcast the ultimate podcast for Google Local Guides. This is already episode number 14. Today we talk about what happens when local guides meet in real life. Being a local guide is all about contributing to Google Maps, as you know, but at times it can be interesting to exchange information and experiences with other local guides. One of the best ways to do this is attending, or even hosting so called Meet-ups. In this episode, you’ll find out what these Meet-ups are all about, and what typically goes on when local guides meet in real life.

Jan Van Haver 0:49
Before we start, I want to point out once again that I am not an official representative of Google. I’m just a local guide myself. Everything I say is there for my personal interpretation of the things that you need to know about being a local guide. I want to emphasize this even more than usual today as there is some very exciting news about me myself as local guide. Stay tuned until the end of the episode to find out what this is all about. Today’s episode is recorded the middle of October 2019, and therefore describing the situation as it is today. If you’re listening at a later date, things might have changed dramatically.

Vanessa P. 1:37
Let’s get started.

Jan Van Haver 1:39
So, Meet-ups, what are they all about? The official description as you can find it on Local Guides Connect, the official platform provided by Google for local guides, is that they are “events, hosted by local guides just like you to explore your city, try new places, make friends”. So basically it’s just a number local guides getting together, taking a walk together to explore a neighborhood, visit some restaurants, bars, have a drink, something to eat, talk about local guide stuff or any other topic you want to talk about. Make friends – that’s definitely also part of Meet-ups.

Jan Van Haver 2:20
You can really just attend any Meet-up you want, and an overview of them can be found on Connect, of course, because there’s a special Meet-ups section there. That’s not really a part of Connect, but a part of Maps itself. You can see that by checking the URL, which is basically maps.google.com/localguides/meetup (I’ll make sure to put that in the show notes, of course). It’s also not the most intuitive or user-friendly part of the local guides program, as to search for which Meet-ups can be found, you can only select one city at a time and one specific date. So you can’t, for example, search or ask the interface to give you a list of, say, all Meet-ups in northern France in the next two months, which is a bit of a pity – not so easy always to find Meet-ups near you.

Jan Van Haver 3:24
There are basically four types of Meet-ups as described there. The first one is the geo walk: there you discover a new part of town with your fellow local guides while taking pictures, updating business listings and writing reviews as you go. The second type is a photo walk where you pick a scenic area of town and invite others to join you for a walk, taking photos along the way, and obviously uploading them to Google Maps. Third type is the food crawl, very popular with some – with a lot of local guides, I should say – where you can visit a couple of new local restaurants or cafes and enjoy the specialties at each one of them. Afterwards, of course, share your reviews and photos on Google Maps. And finally, the fourth type is map editing. There local guides get together and update local business listings by using the ‘Add a place’ and ‘Suggest an edit’ feature. Now usually, it’s really hard to say that one of the Meet-ups you attend, or you host, is one of those only, because a lot of them are a combination of the types that I mentioned before. Luckily, there’s also the option to say ‘other’ and this is used quite often, also for Meet-ups that have a special topic, like accessibility, where really the idea of that kind of Meet-up is that you add accessibility info to the map, for example pictures of dedicated parking spaces or reviews that specifically described this kind of information.

Jan Van Haver 5:16
The Google team encourages local guides to host Meet-ups and there’s a very interesting post by Google @Arimar on that topic, on Connect, to explain the basics – and there’ll be a link in the shownotes to that post, of course. Hosting a Meet-up, however, might sound a bit intimidating at first. So probably the first thing you can do, is just join an existing one. And that is actually also the first tip in a post I have written on Connect with tips on how to host a successful Meet-up – tips stemming from my own experience with hosting some Meet-ups. Obviously also that post will be linked to in the shownotes. There, by the way, you can reread a lot of the information which is being used in this episode, and a lot of other interesting tips, but you’ll have to discover those by reading the post. So the first tip there is attend other meetups. Learn from others. The best way to get to know the practical circumstances regarding Meet-ups is simply to attend one or a few. This might not be possible everywhere in the world, as your reason to want to host a Meet-up could be the fact that there never seems to be a Meet-up in your area. In that case, you can get some idea of what goes on during Meet-ups by reading recap posts in the Meet-up section of Connect. I’ll explain more about that in a minute.

Jan Van Haver 6:43
Having attended a few Meet-ups, you might then finally decide to host one yourself. There’s an excellent post, by the experienced Meet-up host and friend of the podcast @AdrianLunsong, which is an excellent source of info on how to prepare for a Meet-up. I have used the info in the post for every single Meet-up I have submitted so far, and had all of them approved more or less instantly. The only times I had to wait was when I submitted a Meet-up proposal during the weekend, and – because the team approving the submissions is usually not working during the weekend – had those approved on Monday morning quite early. So if you plan to submit a Meet-up proposal, please consult Adrian’s posts. Needless to say that there will be a link to that in the shownotes as well.

Jan Van Haver 7:39
Don’t expect to have an instant hit the first time you host a Meet-up. A lot of first Meet-ups just have a handful of participants, or even just one, being… you. Don’t let this discourage you, even if it’s just you. Hold the Meet-up as planned, take some pictures and write an inspiring recap post on Connect, explaining what went on during the Meet-up. For all you know, this recap might make other people think “Hey, I definitely need to attend the next Meet-up hosted by this local guide, because that looked really interesting”. In the recap post, you could also mention that you plan to set up more Meet-ups and encourage the readers to reach out to you, for example in a private message on Connect, if they would like to be alerted if a new date for a Meet-up is set.

Jan Van Haver 8:34
Okay, when you’ve decided that you want to host a Meet-up, it’s time to work on the specifics and there are some important considerations to look into when planning a meetup. Select a good date, make sure there is enough time for people to plan their participation. The instructions on Connect state that you should submit the Meet-up proposal at least two weeks in advance – but that’s more for giving the team ample time to approve and then put it online – but you can obviously plan more ahead if you want, thereby leaving more time to promote the event – which is also an important factor I’ll get into later on. My super tip, if it comes to dates is check for bank holidays. Even people that have tons of hobbies that usually keep them from attending any Meet-up during the weekend, or on weekday evenings, even those might have some openings in their planning on bank holidays. Why not offer them a nice Meet-up to fill that awkward blank in their agenda? Next to the good date, you also have to find a good meeting point. That’s really important as well, if you ask me. Make sure it’s easily accessible by both public and private means of transportation. Having both a railway station and a car park in the immediate vicinity are a must, if you ask me.

Jan Van Haver 10:07
Okay, so you’ve worked out the details and submitted the proposal on the Meet-up platform. What’s next? When your Meet-up proposal gets accepted, a post is automatically created on Connect – in the Meet-up section, of course. It will use the text and the image you have used for submitting the event and show you as the author of the post. It also includes an RSVP link that leads the local guides who are interested to the page where they can sign up. Sounds really convenient, right? Well, in reality, there is one huge problem: the post on Connect barely has any layout; the text is more or less posted as one single block of text. So when you receive that confirmation email stating that your Meet-up was approved, head over to Connect and edit the post to make it look a bit better. And as this post will not cause any changes on that RSVP page, you can keep editing the post as the Meet-up date approaches, to add for example specific details. You could also change the picture for that post on Connect with a version of the image that has dimensions better fitting the Connect layout.

Jan Van Haver 11:30
Then, unfortunately, comes the most difficult part, in the time between the approval and the Meet-up. Then you need to actively try to convince other people to attend the Meet-up. I’m purposely stating other people and not other local guides, as meetups are actually also a great opportunity for non-local guides to learn about the local guides program. As I mentioned before, the Meet-up website is not really very user-friendly, and that means is It’s also hard for other local guides to find your Meet-up. So to increase the chances of people signing up for your Meet-up, you will have to spread the info as widely as possible. And of course social media are can be a great help there. You can for example join some Facebook groups specific for local guides, globally or from your area, or more general groups collecting info about your city or region, you know those “What’s happening in…” (fill in the blank with your city name). Post about the Meet-up a couple of times, for example when some new details can be added or to announce that x number of participants have already signed up. And make sure to also post in your personal timeline to draw the attention of people that are not yet a local guide, but soon will be, due to your wonderful efforts to make them aware of the local guides program. Do check out my post on connect with tips for hosting a great meetup. There you will find additional tips on how to find other local guides that might live in the area of your Meet-up and could therefore be interested to attend.

Jan Van Haver 13:17
There’s a sparkle of hope, however, that it might get easier in the future to find an or contact other local guides from areas around you for your Meet-up. And that has to do with something I talked about already in the previous episode with news and updates, because one of the things I talked about there was a new initiative called supported Meet-ups (link, again, to the announcements of it is in the shownotes). At the moment this is still a pilot program, but it means that for some Meet-ups Google will provide financial and promotional support to handful of local guides to host such Meet-ups in their cities. And one of the nicest things about it, if you ask me, is that it was also announced that selected active local guides, from the area where a supported Meet-up is held, will be emailed. So that’s for the first time, to my knowledge, Google actively reaching out also to other local guides to inform them about Meet-ups that could be interesting for them. As I said: it’s still a pilot program, don’t count on this coming near you, in a city near you any time soon – there will be some, but it’s going to be at a slow pace, I think, like most things when they are being rolled out. The first one was held just a couple of days ago in Australia, hosted by Paul Pavlinovich, and I’m pretty sure that by the time you’re listening to this recording, that will be a very nice recap post on Connect. And that, of course, then smoothly brings me to the next topic.

Jan Van Haver 15:02
If you’ve hosted a meetup, then you’re also supposed to write a recap post. That’s just an article describing what went on more or less in the Meet-up. There’s another post by Google @Arimar that can help you write such a post (I’ll put a link in the shownotes, of course). And that post should be published on Connects, obviously in the Meet-up section. It can be as elaborate or as short as you want yourself. But make sure to include some nice pictures. And remember, as I said before, the recap post for one Meet-up could be the advertising for the next one.

Jan Van Haver 15:42
Most of what I’ve mentioned so far is related to Meet-ups that take place on a physical location – people actually traveling to come together. But there’s also virtual Meet-ups. I’ve hosted one of those a while ago about lists, the topic of that virtual Meet-up was lists. And for such a virtual meetup to take place, the only thing needed is really a web conferencing tool. A number of local guides just join an online session there, and so you have a meetup with local guides from all around the world. Really nice experience. The recording of that lists-virtual Meetup is still available – it can be seen from the recap post, I’ve added it on YouTube, and it’s still there. So I will include a link to the recap for the virtual Meet-up also in the shownotes.

Jan Van Haver 16:43
And finally, if after all this you still feel uncertain about hosting a Meet-up or not, here’s my most valuable tip if you’ve never hosted a Meet-up: don’t worry too much, just do it. Pick a date that suits you and just do it. The first step is always the hardest, but without taking it, all the rest is impossible. I hope that answers the questions you might have had about Meet-ups. if not: reach out to me. And with that it’s time for a special section we have in every episode.

Vanessa P. 17:26
What a great idea.

Jan Van Haver 17:29
In ‘What a great idea’ I dedicate some time to Idea Exchange, a section of Local Guides Connect where you can submit suggestions to improve Google Maps or Connect. This time I’m not going to deal with one specific idea from the Idea Exchange, because there’s some pretty big news about Idea Exchange itself. In the past few weeks, there has been a massive, massive let’s say ‘cleanup’ going on, which is probably due to the fact that finally some rules were defined on how to proceed with older submissions. In the shownotes, I’ll include a link to the Helpdesk post that specifies all of this -and I’m not sure when exactly these rules were edited, but I’m pretty sure that they were not there when Idea Exchange was launched in the summer of 2018. So the specifics say that an idea will be marked as closed if it’s not an idea, if it’s off topic or not related to Google Maps or local guides. Make sense, of course. It will also be closed after one month if no additional information was shared as requested. So, sometimes, the original posting is not very clear, then one of the moderators will ask extra info; if you don’t provide this info within a month, the idea is also closed. Ideas which are clearly explained, but do not get more than 10 votes in three months are also closed. And then, even if the idea gets a lot of votes, more than 10, but nothing can be done with the idea in six months, then it’s also closed. So whatever happens or however positive or good the idea is: after six months and nothing can be done by the local guides team, the idea will be closed. The result of applying these rules has been that hundreds of ideas and possibly more than 1000 were closed, even some with massive numbers of likes. At the moment about 1200 ideas from more than 4000 in total are still open, so there’s plenty left to work with. It’s a pity, of course, that popular ideas get closed this way, but I also agree that, if after six months there’s nothing the local guides team can do with a particular idea to make specific progress, it makes no real sense to keep it open.

Jan Van Haver 20:17
And that’s all I have for this episode’s. Do get in touch with me by email, for example, mailing to letsguidepodcast@gmail.com. Reach out to me on Twitter, LocalGuidesGuru, or find me on Local Guides Connect under my real name @JanVanHaver. Shownotes for the podcast as always can be found on letsguidepodcast.com.

Jan Van Haver 20:46
Yes, I promised to give some news about me, some exciting news, I can say. I was invited to become Connected Moderator, which is a great honor and so, of course, I have accepted that offer. And that proves immediately what they always say about becoming a Connect Moderator, which is by invitation only: just keep making high quality contributions on Maps and on Connect and one day you too might have received such a wonderful mail. The next episodes of the LetsGuide Podcast will be out in two weeks, so I hope to find you in the audience for that one. Bye bye for now.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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