Your first online meet-up

You’ve set the date for your first local group meet-up, the invitation has gone out and members are starting to register. It’s time to start thinking about a format for the session. The first meet-up is for members to connect and get to know their local SoA community. You can also ask members what they’d like from the group and gather ideas for future sessions.

As always, get in touch if you would like to talk through running your online sessions.

Suggested format for your first online meeting (60 minutes)

Introductions – 30 minutes

Short 5 minutes introduction from the local group organiser about themselves and why they wanted to set up the group. Cover housekeeping bits and pieces including making sure people know how to use the chat function – you could ask people to post where they’re from in the chat.

If the group is small (fewer than 10 people) stay in the main Zoom room and ask people to introduce themselves – name, type of author, and where they are from. Keep to 2 minutes each and as host, move around the Zoom room and ask people to introduce themselves to avoid confusion or silences.


If the group is larger than 10 people, it’s a good idea to use breakout rooms. Break into groups of 2-3 for 10 minutes and ask attendees to interview each other. Return to the main room and ask each attendee to report back 3 facts about the person they interviewed.

Aspirations for the group – 25 minutes

Run a second round of breakout rooms for 15 minutes, randomly allocating people to breakout rooms so there are different groups than the first session to mix up attendees, and ask people to discuss:

  • what they’d like to get out of the group
  • what types of sessions they’d like to see
  • whether they could offer a short talk or lead a themed discussion
  • frequency and timing of meetings

Ask one person from each breakout room to volunteer to report back to the group. You can ask attendees to post additional comments in the chat so everyone can see them. It’s a good idea to note down comments and ideas from the group to take away for future planning. You can also save a copy of the chat by clicking on the chat, then the three dots icon and ‘save chat’.

Polls and closing – 5 minutes

You can set up polls before the session in the Zoom meeting settings. Instructions on how to set up polls and run the polls during the meeting are here.

You can set up three polls to ask:

  • how often do the group want to meet? (fortnightly, monthly, every two months, quarterly)
  • weekday or weekend?
  • what time of day works best? (morning, afternoon, evening, no preference)

Make a note of responses or download a report after the meeting from the Zoom account. Details on how to download reports are here.