Offroad Blogging - Classic Play

offroad blogging best 1.jpg

Last year I heard Ben Silberman (founder of Pinterest) say "surround yourself with those who inspire". As creatives and makers, we need this. 

For those of us who blog, we probably have that online or at least it's our intent to develop it. But we may not necessarily have that same community in real life.

I'm on a mission here, people. First, to showcase those who are already building offline communities - that's what this series Offroad Blogging is all about. You'll meet the person and hear all about the behind-the-scenes details. Some are big events in a variety of cities. Some are one-off meet-ups. Some are a series of casual get-togethers. Whatever they are, it's all about building community.

And second, to inspire me and you to do the same - to build our own communities of people who inspire.

This week it's Jen Cooper of Classic Play. You may know her already as my partner in crime in the series Talking About Creativity. We also co-led a roundtable at AltSummit 2013 a couple of weeks ago.

Last fall Jen started getting together with fellow creatives in Baltimore. Let's hear what she has to say about it.

Describe your event 

Right now, a group of bloggers and other creatives meet once every other month on a Friday evening from 6 pm until 8 or 9. I had a tough time deciding on how to pitch it. In fact, it’s not even branded or named. I’m still very much in the evolutionary phase trying to feel my way through it. As far as who it got pitched to? I turned to my group of local friends that didn’t seem to know each other, but I knew would all get along. I love playing creative match maker.

baltimore 3.jpg

Why do you think it's important to go offline and into real life?

There’s just something about connecting face-to-face that you can’t get online -the tone of voice, the stories that aren’t shared publicly, the ability to really put a face and personality to a name. There’s just an energy. 

baltimore 4.jpg

What was your biggest worry before starting your event?

That no one would show up. 

What are you proud of having thought of ahead of time?

Oh my. I am not nearly organized enough to think of things ahead of time. It’s a true weakness of mine. Although if I did have to pat myself for one thing, it’s that I had an activity for people to do when they first arrived. Not only do most creatives like to make things with their hands, many of them are introverts. An activity gives them a chance to warm up.

I didn’t want the events to feel like a hardcore networking thing. I wanted people to make deeper connections—ultimately see if people could walk away with colleagues not just “contacts”. 

Oh and also knowing to start small. I’m still figuring it all out and there’s less pressure when it’s a small group of highly engaged folks. They give me all sorts of advice and where they’d like to see this go. Their insight and ideas are so deeply appreciated. 

baltimore1.jpg

Why should people/bloggers come to your event?

Why? Why not! ;) 

How do you know if it's been a success?

That’s a good question. This is true side project for me, and an experiment. So at this phase, I haven’t really thought about any measurable outcomes. But, I suppose success for me would be when people email asking when the next one is, or I see two people who didn’t know each other before, working on a project together later. That would make my heart happy. 

cp_spurmeetup_18.jpg

From idea to execution, how long did it take?

Well, I put the first one together in about a month and a half. The biggest part for me was finding a space. I wanted something that was visually strong (we live in the age of instagram so I wanted to make sure people had a good looking environment to photograph in), so not just 'any place' would do. We ended up at the gorgeous Trohv (http://trohvshop.com/), which was my first choice! The store is stunning and everything there just oozes this gorgeous creative energy. Owner Carmen Brock can pretty much do no wrong in my book.  After I had the space, everything else fell into place pretty easily. 

The second one was hosted by one of the premiere graphic and illustration studios around — Spur Design. Joyce Hesselberth, who runs Spur with her husband David Plunkert, was gracious enough to lend us her studio for the evening. It was fantastic! I really love Joyce and her work (have you seen the super cool app she designed?). We even got a behind the scenes tour. 

cp_spurmeetup_10.jpg

What is the most challenging part about putting on these events?

Everything. Ha! Seriously though, I've learned that my style is this: I tend to focus all of my energy on one thing at a time. This allows me to be fully present and engaged in what I'm doing, which is awesome. However, it sucks when you need to develop a plan ahead of time. So for me, this is an exercise in scheduling. I have to schedule little things ahead of time and that is something I'm not great at…yet. 

Great insights - playing creative matchmaker, wanting people to make deeper connections, having an icebreaker activity, starting small. All things we can apply to our own events, no matter how large or small.

How about you? Have you attended creative meet-ups in your hometown? What was it and what did you like about it? Would you consider organizing one? What is YOUR dream get-together for creatives?

This post was sponsored by MailChimp. All opinions are my own.