Lately there has been a lot of questions on various lists, groups and gatherings about “how can I start a vampire group in my area?” with the most resounding and often used answer being “go to meetup.com and start a group”… This gets a bit on the pricey side after a while. So, in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would write down how I personally did this.
First. I went to various locations in my particular area and asked questions like “would you be willing to have a group of people meet her on a regular basis?”, “what is the minimum/maximum amount of people you will accept as a ‘group’?” and “if my group does pick your place to meet on a regular basis, is there a discount that can be offered for services (especially in the case of places that had a menu or served food/drinks)?”
The first place I found that was amicable to this was the local Barnes & Nobles. They didn’t mind a group being there and really had no particulars on what the group spoke on, as long as they were respectful of their other customers and did not “curse too much”. This worked fine for the first incarnation of my group… So. Barnes & Nobles became the meeting place. I set a time. Biweekly on Fridays between 7pm and 9pm… This still left time for people to get ready to go out and party if they wanted to and was just after “reasonable dinner times” and located at a place where we could get coffee and desserts. Mostly we met outside at their open tables, which provided a place for those who liked to smoke, as well… (New Orleans weather permits it even in December and January, for the most part)
Second. I altered each profile I had listed (yahoo, myspace, facebook, meetup, etc.) to show that if anyone was interested in a meeting they could contact me via email (I believe my meetup profile STILL has this listed). Each of the emails that came up about a local meeting, I answered with a question… “What kind of vampire are you?”… I said that it was “a way to keep tabs on what feed types we would be dealing with for educational purposes.” When an answer came back as “sanguine”, “psychic” or any of the ‘acceptable terms’, I would write them back and let them know the location and time of the meeting. If I got something like, “I am clan Nosferatu/Ventrue/Brujah/or whatever” or “I am related to Elizabeth Bathory/Count Dracula/Lestat or 675 years old”, I would politely tell them that “I am just gathering information on if there is interest in a meeting at this time and nothing concrete has been laid”… Serious seekers, even amongst the roleplayers would always keep an open dialog, whereas attention seekers would just wander away never to be heard from again…
Third. I ALWAYS arrived at the meetings 15 to 20 minutes early so that I could be there to greet people, at first. This showed the people attending that I was serious about keeping it going and showed Barnes & Nobles that it wasn’t just some fluke group…
The first meeting 4 people showed up including myself… So don’t expect it to be a big venture at first. Within a few months, the meetings had 35 people regularly attending… It was a mix of education and socialization… ALL were welcome. There were few rules. Primary among them were keep the area clean and treat the business and its people with respect at all times or do not return. Only once did I have to tell a person to not return.
Things to keep in mind:
1) If there are rules, do not make them overly oppressing. Have certain ones in place to contain illicit/bad behaviors (these are all subject to the people ‘calling’ the meeting) but other than that, they should be lax and few.
2) Keep in mind that people may walk by, out of the blue, and ask what the meeting is about or who is it for. Have a standard answer that is easy to understand ready. “This meeting is for the members of NOVA and is just a social gathering we host to discuss relative issues. You’re free to join in, but be aware what we discuss may not be what you want to hear”
3) Tip the servers well (if applicable) and they will be less likely to frown when your group comes walking through the doors. Treat the business itself as if it were your home. There are certain things you don’t like going on in your home, don’t do them simply because you are not there… It reflects poorly on the whole community, not just your little group.
4) Greet everyone personally, even those you may not agree with. It goes a long way to keeping things respectable and disruption free.
That’s it. That’s what I did… Simple steps. Now I have two NOVA meetings. One is for the WHOLE community (the biweekly). One is for the Elders of ACTIVE Houses/Clans/Covens/Orders in the area (a monthly).