Boston, Labor Day Weekend 2023: NA East ACX & Rationality Meetup Organizers Retreat

Application Deadline: June 30 23:59, please apply here.

LessWrong event post, in case that is helpful.

Lessons Learned


No one will come to your event if they don't know it exists! You have to get the word out, publicize. Your strategy for raising awareness about the event differs based on (1) the purpose of your event, (2) with whom you are gathering, and (3) how folks from (2) are most easily or consistently informed.

Here's what I did to get the word out, and why that was the incorrect strategy:

  • I made the assumption that because there is a Rationality Meetups discord server where many ACX & Rationality Meetup Organizers hangout, that I could do a straightforward broadcast communication in relevant channels in that discord server and reach my target audience (fellow meetup organizers). This assumption proved incorrect:
    1. Dropping a short message with link to an application form in a chat channel without formatting your message as an announcement and not asking a mod to ping everyone about it means that your message will likely get lost in the shuffle as only a few people will stop to read a text-only message, or will scan it quickly but not register it. Attention is a scarce resource and people are busy, there's a reason that sites designed to capture your attention (Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc.) look the way they do and function the way they do. Messages that are not formatted as announcements & don't have a compelling image to capture attention just don't get seen as much as more attention-grabbing formatted messages. My message was not designed to capture attention nor did I ask mods to help announce or promote the message.
    2. Many people who use Discord will mute entire servers or only see "mentions" even if they regularly read that server due to the amount of notifications they would otherwise get.
    3. Some people use Discord infrequently or don't use it at all.
  • Discord versus Email communication.
    1. I (or another person on my behalf who runs the mailing list) did not send out a promotional email about the event to other organizers concurrently with posting the Discord messages. If you are raising awareness about an event, you should make sure that you send out your broadcast communications concurrently to increase the chance that your target audience sees it in one of the communication channels they pay attention to. (I am not a marketing person, but the timing of when you send your communications matters too, but for my purposes, sent is better than not sent; ask a marketer or publicist for more information about timing concerns)
    2. Some folks are considerably more likely to see & respond to an email than a Discord message, so it was a mistake to focus mostly on Discord broadcast communications.
  • Broadcast versus Direct communication.
    1. There are not an unlimited amount of organizers in the NA East region. It would have been worthwhile to check the LessWrong Community map and a few other data sources to build a messaging list so that I could reach out directly to existing organizers in the region via platforms I know they prefer. This strategy would not reach organizers who don't add themselves to the LessWrong Community map or aren't in the Discord server, but it would have assisted getting the words out to my target audience especially if done concurrently with the broadcast communications.
    • One counterpoint to this strategy is that it is time consuming and can feel a bit spam-y. I like talking directly with folks, but copy & pasting the same message into 30-50 direct message inboxes feels icky, I don't like doing that. And that's still decently time consuming, if you want to be genuine and have a follow-up conversation, actually check-in, hangout, etc. then the time cost factor compared to broadcast communications increases incredibly. I already directly message or otherwise stay in contact with 20-30 people a week (outside of work total; that number gets higher if you include during work) so not sure I could reasonably handle an influx of 30-50 more people as fun as that would be.

Other Considerations

  • If you create an event on LessWrong via your meetup group's page or via the Community page that event post does not get shown on the front page and thus not very discoverable unless someone happens to be specifically looking there for meetups. If you are running an event and want to publicize it on LessWrong you likely need to create a regular post and link to your event, and even then unless the post is really interesting to folks it likely won't stay on frontpage very long. You probably don't want to rely on publicizing your event exclusively via LessWrong, unfortunately. If you've had good success with exclusively publicizing events on LessWrong, I'd be happy to hear about that & why that was successful. I suspect AI events garner more attention than other types of events here.
  • I am currently working & studying a lot so thus far I've worked on this event in a very piecemeal "snatched a little bit of time here and there" fashion. I think this approach works okay while you are brainstorming, setting some things up, and generally preparing to publicize the event, but not for really getting the word out and doing a timebounded sustained communications campaign.
    1. Next time I would either reserve a full day or two on a weekend or take a day off from work to get everything ready, prepare a coherent strategy, and launch the communications campaign to publicize the event, with some time on my calendar reserved for the next few days for follow-ups.
  • I started publicizing this event later than is ideal. Should have started that no later than the end of April since attendees have to make travel plans, we have to get the venue sorted, etc. I think that regional events don't need as much lead time from announcement to event date as global or very large events, but it helps to have the extra time.
  • Running an event with no external funding is very different than running an event with external funding. If you are funding an event via ticket sales (essentially attendees are pooling money together to make the event happen) you really want to know how many attendees there will be before making any kind of substantive logistics decisions. Finding the specific venue you want to use, among other things, is really hard unless you know how many people will actually be attending & how much they are willing to pay per person to fund the event.

The event in question is inspired by last year's Global AstralCodexTen and Rationality Meetup Organizers Retreat. At that event we discussed running regional retreats & why running retreats is important & fun, and I want one to happen, so see y'all in Boston.


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Frontpaged because of the advice about advertising events that seems of enduring interest (e.g. meeting timelessness criteria) even though the particular event is not timeless and not frontpage-worthy.

Note: I did not comment about publicizing events via Facebook, Twitter, nor, because I do not have much experience using those platforms for doing that. I also don't really use Facebook and my Twitter is basically a read-only feed I check once every few months. Would love to hear from anyone who regularly publicizes, promotes, or otherwise advertises meetups via those platforms.