How to run a successful language meetup

Since 2013, I have been running my French Language Meetup, The Wandering Francophones, and we have met twice a month in person at local cafes and restaurants, speaking French for two hours about any random topic that came to mind. We would discuss current events, how to build your French vocabulary, trips to France and other French-speaking countries, among so many other things!  ​

I have one co-organizer, Joe, who helps run the Meetups that I can’t attend (although they are few and far between). They are fairly easy to organize. The hardest part is getting attendees to respond by a particular date in order to make the reservation at the venue. 
Meetup does have a feature where you can turn off RSVPs after a certain day before the event, so that has proven to be very helpful. Aside from that, finding a venue that is appropriate for our group sometimes can be a little challenging, as we need to be able to seat 10+ individuals, who are learning how to speak another language, and they need to be able to hear each other quite clearly (read: no loud music, or a general quieter hum of the restaurant so we aren’t struggling to have conversation).

We have organized a couple international meetups, too, so our bilingual friends in Windsor could easily join! From an organizer standpoint, all I needed to remind folks of is that they’ll need a valid passport when traveling to the location of the Meetup (in our case, Windsor is very close to Southeast Michigan so it’s not too much of a hike), and that they may need to plan for currency exchange if they did not have an international debit/credit card to use while there. We would share a Google map of where the restaurant is, so drivers have a good idea how the route will go once we crossed the border into Canada. 

I’ve often been asked the question “what do you talk about in your Meetups?” to which I respond: We don’t have much of an agenda at all. I like to let the conversation flow naturally, as if you were meeting up with an old friend. The whole two hours is spoken entirely in French (although we make exceptions for beginners who are encouraged to ask questions and take notes). A few common questions I like to ask attendees include: “What did you do last weekend/what are your plans for the coming weekend?” “What do you think of [current event]?”, and  “What’s new?”. These are great conversation starters, and will help others think of ways to contribute, too. 

Since we’ve been operating for 11+ years, I feel the group will last for as long as people are willing to attend! 
Have you joined a language meetup group? Do you want to? If you haven’t but want to, what is keeping you from participating? Ask your questions/share your thoughts in the comments below!

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