If You Build It, Devs will Come: How to Host an AI Meetup

10 quick steps to hosting a successful AI meetup

Baseten just hosted its first AI meetup. The event was exhilarating. We invited 30 people; 200 showed up. Our team met brilliant creators, helped founders meet investors, showcased our new products, and—most importantly—experienced the joy of connecting with others in-person.

Whether you’re a developer, a VC, a salesperson, or someone generally interested in AI, we recommend hosting a meetup. Here are ten steps to creating your own successful AI event:

    1. Decide what your goals are.

    2. Decide who you want to attend.

    3. Decide where and when to host.

    4. Make an event page. Don’t overthink it.

    5. Share your event everywhere.

    6. Prep thoughtfully.

    7. Make every attendee feel welcome.

    8. Have as much fun as possible.

    9. Hustle to ensure you reach your goals by the end of the event.

    10. Embrace your newfound popularity late into the night.

Photo of Baseten AI meetup participants

Why you should invest in building an AI community through meetups

Let me explain.

AI meetups are everywhere. In March, San Francisco saw at least 30 ML events. Many happened on the same day, with hundreds of techies Ubering across the city to attend. They’re popular because everyone has the ability to run one: companies host in their offices, VC firms reserve event spaces, indie entrepreneurs invite people to their dining rooms.

Some are hackathons, with hundreds of developers competing to make the best app. Others are keynotes, where sages on stages share their insights to a captive crowd, Steve Jobs-style.

But the best meetups are just that: meetups. When people get together—just to chat—without any programming—magic happens. Engineers meet future cofounders. Founders find their first investors. Investors discover great companies. Great companies recruit talented engineers. 

The best part: with an unstructured event, everyone’s included. You can be a developer, or a VC, or a journalist, or someone generally interested in AI—the party’s open to all. That’s why our attendees ballooned to 200 people, and it’s why there wasn’t one moment of silence during the event. Everyone chatted with everyone, energized by the excitement of the AI revolution.

The people who get the most out of the events are those who host. If you want others to know you, your product, or your brand, you should plan one.

Photo of Baseten AI meetup participants

Here’s a detailed guide on how to host your own AI meetup

1. Decide your goals.

You’re creating a space for AI folks to chat, network, and ideate. But nothing’s wrong with an ulterior motive. Create a specific, attainable goal that’ll help your business grow.

Want to hire a new engineer? Plan to speak with 20 engineers and ask 5 to send their resume to you. Are you hoping to bring in more sales calls? Speak to everyone and see if you can get 15 discovery calls on your calendar by the end of the night. Need funding? Prep your VC elevator pitch and approach at least 10 investors in attendance.

In-person conversations are the best path to success. Don’t squander the opportunity.

2. Decide who.

Based on your goals, who do you want to attend? Our recommendation: invite everyone. The more varied the ecosystem, the healthier the ecosystem. Alternatively, you can focus on a specific category, like hosting a “founders dinner” with only CEOs.

Whichever you decide, estimate how many people will attend. SF events will pull a few hundred, events in other cities will bring a few dozen.

3. Decide when and where.

A physical event needs a physical space. Where do you want your meetup to be? If the weather’s beautiful, a park will do. If you want to show off your new office, invite people there. Use Step 2 to estimate attendee count, then find a great space with a great vibe.

4. Make an event page.

Don’t overthink it. A successful event needs a sleek and simple online page. You can create one in five minutes on Partiful or Luma. Be sure to mention who you want to be there: engineers, founders, investors, etc.

A successful meetup spans from the end of a workday to after sunset: around 4pm-7pm.

For inspiration, here’s the page for our first meetup, and here’s the page for our second.

5. Spread the word.

The Iron Law of the AI community: AI creators love talking about AI events. If you find anyone involved in AI and tell them about your meetup, they’ll tell other people about it.

Find a handful of key people in your city who are interested in events. In San Francisco, that’s Michelle Fang and Cerebral Valley. There are people like this in every major metro area. Find them, send them your event, and watch your RSVPs bloom.

6. Prepare the space

Whether it’s your living room or a ballroom, set up your area to encourage conversation. Connect an HDMI cord to your TV or monitor so anyone can demo their software.

Buy drinks. The AI community adores La Croix (not an ad). Order pizzas; nothing works up an appetite like 3+ hours of discussing the next technological paradigm shift.

If you’d like, print out signs on cardstock to help people navigate the venue.

7. Open your doors.

Welcome everyone, ask what they do, and thank them for coming.

8. Have fun.

This is your time to shine! Float into and out of conversations. Keep thanking guests. Accommodate their needs. If someone’s cup is empty, refill it. If everyone’s cold, crank the heat. Make sure they remember your meetup as the best they’ve ever attended.

9. Hustle.

Remember your goals. If you set up this meetup to find a technical co-founder for your new startup, don’t stop chatting until you find a few people you want to meet with again. If you want to generate sales calls, keep pressing on until you’ve booked a bunch.

Remember to stay hydrated. 

10. Stay up late.

If attendees are still engaged in conversations after your event is set to end, let them stay. It’s your job to nurture a flourishing AI community—let it grow naturally. Talk with everyone, dive deep into discussions, and catch up on sleep the weekend afterward.

You’re going to be an incredible host. Just be sure to invite us!

If you need any help, we’re happy to advise. Email julien.reiman@baseten.co to set up a call.