24 Aug Share! Create a Meetup Group!
I first bumped into this app called “meetup” when I lived in Montreal in June 2013. I wanted to learn French and my roommate from Iran suggested I tried it. I have to thank her for opening my eyes for both meetup.com and internations.org around the same time, when I first started working online and learning about all the amazing digital tools for building healthy networks available for us. Thank you Memol Memol!
Meetup offers just about anything you can imagine, from cooking classes with yoga, to programming, and of course, many conversational language exchange groups where I could offer English and get French. Many of them for free because the person who creates the group just wants to network and share something they know in exchange. Later I learned that couch surfing events are very popular, too.
So I tried two different “Learn French” groups and felt miserable because everyone there already knew some French and I knew nothing. There was no level division and no teachers. I stayed for 20 minutes and left because I was basically left out. I immediately decided I was going to start my own group. And, since I have owned English schools and given ESL trainings all my life, I decided my first meet up group would be called “Free English Classes Montreal”. Surely I’d find one of my students interested in exchanging French for English with me on a one-to-one basis?
In less than a month 427 members joined the group! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even have a place to teach, yet. The members in the group suggested I go to the Public Library of Montreal because they offered free classrooms for volunteers. I never expected their Public library to be so fancy and modern. So we ended up with these super cool classrooms, with 20 chairs, so I had to limit the groups to 20 students at a time.
I started offering 2 classes each week, one for intermediate and one for advanced. The classes were so full and they liked it so much that they asked me for more classes a week. I told them I’d continue giving them 2 weekly classes for free but I’d have to charge a bit, if they wanted more than that. They decided they’d pay 5 dollars each for the extra classes and that added up to around 800 dollars month that I was making, totally unexpectedly. It really helped in the beginning because I was just starting my first online business and with that money I could pay my rent and my supermarket :))
But the best part was making so many friends from all over the globe and learning about multicultural backgrounds. I remember one day we had 18 people from 14 different countries in class. Countries I had never even heard of. And I’d ask them to tell me, in English of course, about their countries and teach us the culture while I taught them the English.
We’d go out for drinks sometimes after class and it was just amazing. I now could offer my digital services to all those 427 people who already knew me enough.
So, 3 years later, in Barcelona, I decided to create the “Free English Classes Barcelona” and guess what? In a month, we already have 350 members in the group! Yey! Mind blowing, isn’t it? How many people out there are chasing these opportunities to learn, connect, interact and network. (note: in jan/2017 we hit 700 members and changed the name of the group to “F.E.C.Valencia”)
One of the students last class asked me “Teacher, is it really free? Why?”. I told him that it’s like physics. For each action there is a reaction. I’ve noticed, since I was 21 and started working as a volunteer with disadvantaged kids in the slums in Brazil, that each time I give, I receive so much more. I don’t really know how to explain it, but my mood changes, I start getting more ideas, opportunities, feeling less selfish and more connected, always learning more than I teach.
I do mention my business projects with the students of course. I’m proud of them. Maxi Career Coaching, (updated note: in jan/2017 I created Linked English, to separate it from Maxi Career Coaching) and my Exciting Careers Podcast, but I don’t really care if I get new paying customers from this. It’s more about the adventure of gathering so many cool people around the same interest and seeing their faces there. I miss the face-to-face interaction since 95% my clients are online.
So, start you meet up group! Share something you know FOR FREE! Don’t worry about how you’re going to monetize this. It will come to you naturally once you’re doing what you love. I promise you’ll have lots of fun, meet a bunch of interesting people, learn, practice your public speaking, produce some amazing content and feel great!