What it’s Like to do 16 Hours of Meetups in Austin

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The bigger a city gets, the lonelier it becomes. Only, it no longer has to.

Every day roughly 147 people moved to Austin. They come from all parts of the country – notably New York, California, Illinois. Technology helps smooth the transition; those new and old can easily make friends, learn something new, or find others with a common interest. Such is the case with meetup.com – and in Austin there is massive embrace. This is why we found Austin to be a pure representation of what can be: of the possibilities that are right around the corner for the rest of the United States and World.

The NYC based company has been at it nearly twelve years, and the product’s adoption is now reaching a veritable tipping point. For event leaders this means attracting many newcomers to successfully held events and group meetups. For individuals it means rooms full of people to connect with around even the most niched of interests.

As Meetup surpassed 100 million RSPVs in 2013, CEO Scott Heiferman called this but a drop in the bucket. In a Forbes interview Heiferman said, “The company expects to hit 1 billion by 2020.”

Bridging the gap between online and offline relationships, Meetup.com stands alone doing everything that mainstream social media is not: successfully connecting people in the real world – turning strangers into friends.

Editor’s note: To better understand the value of meetup.com, Dave Stanwick set about the challenge of completing 16 hours of continuous meetups. In that time he met 79 people, walked 9 miles and biked 36.

Even after having been to dozens of meetups there is a certain feeling of apprehensiveness before each one I’d attend; the feeling of, ‘I’d rather just stay in bed, I can meet people another day.’ Saturday was no different.

On arriving to my first meetup – one organized for cyclists – with my bike and helmet (as requested) I nervously met with a few of the 19 other riders. They all had shoe clips, riding shorts, skin tight shirts with easy-access-food-pockets, wrist gloves – many had two water bottles. I had my helmet.

36 miles later I’m struggling to bike the last hill with a new friend. I finish, with a smile, and a pocketful of awesome new acquaintances.

It’s 10 a.m. and the other riders had a look like they were going to conquer the world – if not the rest of the day. By the time I had my bike in the car I had missed my scheduled flag football meetup.

Sand Volleyball Pickup and Hangout – Awesome Austin. I’m young, social, in Austin! 20’s and 30’s fun.

Finding a parking spot my mind can’t help but think, ‘I’m late. I should just go home and sleep.’

David. The organizer has a great name. Beer in one hand, he’s adjusting the tunes with the other. Behind him two courts are full of people my age playing ball. Hanging out in front of me are another dozen sitting on the edge of the sand, conversing. After introducing myself I’m quickly swept into a game. 6 on 6 – I haven’t played volleyball in 6 years.

The next three hours was a series of games with new teammates. Camaraderie while playing and conversation while not. In Austin, the question, “What brought you to Austin” is the perfect failsafe conversation starter – seldom do you find a born-and-raised Austonianiter. With clouds in the sky and the weather a balmy sixty-five, I’m told the 40-plus players on sand make for one of the smaller days.

Let’s speak Japanese.

I found Kazki, the organizer and teacher, at the big corner table of the local vegetarian restaurant, and within a few minutes I found myself learning new phrases, having never studied Japanese before this day.

The group discussion would bounce from Japanese to English and back ranging from new words in Japanese to world accents to musical instruments. The raw intellectual conversations that took place was satisfying, socially fun, and at times – with new Japanese phrases thrown in – a challenge.

ATX Foodies

The Porter Ale House Gastropub has only been open three weeks– the building it’s located in is so new, some of the parking garage lot lines have yet to be painted. In my two hours with the foodies, we lived in a new way: talking of wine, new restaurants, new foods new tastes. We discussed how everybody found this group, meetup.com and its uses. One meetup group in particular was singled out as the most avid meetup users: Baby boomers.

Three meetups later and I was physically exhausted, but socially delighted. The ease at which conversations and new introductions happened carried through into non-meetup situations. In just one day I had made strides forward in considering my health, education, life experiences and social opportunities. Who knows, I may pick up some bike clips or jump on a plane to Japan.

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