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An Open Letter to All Meetup Community Members

Peter Müller

Posted on January 21, 2020

This article arose by the FrankenJS community organizers but is addressed to all community-driven members and attendees, no matter which content or technologies are covered.

The motivation of this article is to make it a bit more transparent about how we organize and to give an overview of the costs and how no-show attendees have an impact on that.

We started organizing meetups for the JavaScript community in 2014 and are still organizing. FrankenJS is based in the northern part of Bavaria and takes mostly place in the cities of Nuremberg and Würzburg.

Here are a few facts about the FrankenJS community:

  • started in 2014
  • hosted by companies and organizations
  • events take place in a period of 2-4 months
  • we usually have 2-4 speakers
  • we cover any JS related topic, but also CSS and meta talks from time to time
  • events are always free for everybody
  • we offer free food & drinks
  • the majority part of the costs are covered by sponsors
  • we have had two events with 200 attendees
  •  the longest-running meetup was a full-day event with hands-on workshops and six talks

 Let's have a look at our annual costs which are paid by us

30.00 € - Domain ( - paid by us

60.00 € - (Nürnberg) - paid by us

60.00 € - (Würzburg) - paid by us


150.00 €

 Now we gonna demystify costs of an average meetup

Let's assume we organize a meetup and we are in the lucky position to have a host who opens the door and covers food and drinks for 100 people.

A good benchmark for food is pizza. A third of a family pizza per attendee fits in most cases. ceil(100 people / 3 pizzas) = 34 pizzas. The average price of a family pizza is about 15€.

Now we gonna start with our calculation:

510.00 € - Pizzas - paid by sponsor / host

People are thirsty, too! At FrankenJS we offer water, soft-drinks and mostly beer - but no hard alcohol. Sometimes we have a coffee machine. At local beverage stores, you'll get a bottle of 0.5l beer or a 0.33l Coca Cola for ~.80 € Let's add 20 cents per bottle for delivery and adjust it upward to 1 € per drink. We gonna add three drinks per person for our calculation.

510.00 € - Pizzas - paid by sponsor / host

300.00 € - Drinks - paid by sponsor / host

Sure, food could be optional. But if you work for 8 - 10 hours a day and want to attend a community event, everybody is happy to not have to care about the food situation.

But what about the speakers?

Usually, we try to find local speakers but it's quite hard for us. We believe in the community and a lot of people started speaking at FrankenJS. For example, Tobias Koppers, the inventor of webpack started speaking at FrankenJS and we couldn't be more proud of that.

To follow up with our example calculation we assume that we have: 

  • 2 local speakers from the same city
  • 1 domestic speaker
  • 1 international speaker located in the EU

Finding speakers who are interested in giving a talk is relatively easy, but to arrange time and date, covering travel costs and accommodation is the tricky part.

After weeks of doodling with speakers, we found a date and now we have to care about travel and accommodation. The first approach to cover these costs is to ask the company where the speaker is employed. But it's fairly rare to get this working. If the speaker is self-employed and works as a freelancer, it should be taken for granted as an organizer to help the person with financial support.

For further calculation, we'll assume that our domestic speaker will get costs covered by the employer. Train tickets plus a stay in an affordable hotel should cost about 250 €.

We still have to pay the budget for our international speaker who works as a freelancer in this case. No employer covers those costs, nor our event-host do. We really want to have the speaker because it's clearly a big benefit for our community. If we don't get the costs backed by any company - and that happened a few times - we cover costs by ourselves.

It's time for another calculation update.

510.00 € - Pizzas - paid by sponsor / host

300.00 € - Drinks - paid by sponsor / host
250.00 € - Domestic speaker - paid by sponsor / employer
300.00 € - International speaker / 2x flights - paid by us
100.00 € - International speaker / 1x hotel - paid by us

What about time compensation?

You probably know how the story goes. Time is money but that's the only part we cannot enrich. That is how the community works. We do everything in our little spare-time as our speakers mostly do. Talk and meetup preparation is unpaid and it takes days or weeks to get those things done. Traveling and attending at the event itself is mostly unpaid.

But to make it more transparent in our calculation we assume that our international speaker who works as a freelancer has three unpaid days. Her name is Alice. She works in London as a freelance JavaScript trainer and charges 150 € per hour (because the calculation is based in EUR). Alice works for 8 hours a day and spends two days traveling and one day in Nuremberg. Unfortunately, she can't work remote - for reasons.

510.00 € - Pizzas - paid by sponsor / host
300.00 € - Drinks - paid by sponsor / host
250.00 € - Domestic speaker - paid by sponsor / employer
300.00 € - International speaker / 2x flights - paid by us
100.00 € - International speaker / 1x hotel - paid by us
3,600.00 € - International speaker (time off) - paid by speaker

For sure there are a lot of hidden costs for everybody. Organizing costs time and money for each speaker, host, sponsor and meetup organizer.

But for know let's add everything to get a rough result. We also gonna add one out of four of our annual expenses.

510.00 € - Pizzas - paid by sponsor / host

300.00 € - Drinks - paid by sponsor / host
250.00 € - Domestic speaker - paid by sponsor / employer
300.00 € - International speaker / 2x flights - paid by us
100.00 € - International speaker / 1x hotel - paid by us
3,600.00 € - International speaker (time invest) - paid by speaker
37.50 € - 1/4 annual expenses - paid by us

Overall costs covered by the speaker, sponsors and us:

437.50 € paid by us

1,060.00 € pair by sponsor
3,600.00 € time invest by speaker

Final result:

     => 5,097.50 € overall costs 💰

What about attendees and `no-shows`?

Going on meetups or other free and public community events needs time. After a packed working-day and a waiting family at home, it is not easy for most people to make it to those events.

But please, cancel your reservation if you can't make it to the event! Do it and do it as soon as possible!

There is a common term in the organizer community. It is called `No-Show-Rate`. That's the percental amount of people who do not show up at the event but are still registered as an attendee. A no-show rate of 25% is common but can rise to 40% - 60%.

Now let's take the result of the calculation above and divide it by 100 registered attendees and we'll get...

     => 50.98 € per attendee

That's the price the community pays for you to have a great, interesting and informational evening. The price to socialize, to network and to make new friends.

At a no-show rate of 40%, the price already goes up to ...

     => 84.92 € per attendee

Sometimes it is possible to add more seats than actually available. 130 virtual seats for a meetup with 100 seats, just for compensation. But if all 130 would show up we could probably get in trouble due to fire restrictions or something else. So, to invite more people than expected is alway an f*ck up.

But it's not all about the money!

We could add even more hidden positions to this calculation, such as employees of the host who stay late at the venue. Costs for power or water and probably security guards or facility managers.

Nobody can pay for the time and effort to organize all those things. To arrange time and dates, to check if there are conflicting events. To check if the content fits for the community. To support diversity and to bring a benefit not only to the audience but to the host and speakers, too.

The community should be open and awesome for everybody, attendees, speakers, hosts, sponsors, and organizers - everybody else who is involved.

To show up or to cancel in time is a sign of respect to everybody who is involved in the event.

That calculation and the specs of our events are probably not comparable to other communities or meetups. However, this format works well for us - even with this setup. We just want to make it a bit more clear how we handle costs and how hard it is to deal with no-shows.

A very last word: please support us!

We are now on Patreon! We are glad about every single cent which supports our mission, to bring even more great speakers to Franconia and to meet more often.

For example, we could bring more speakers of underrepresented groups or students who can't afford those costs.

You can support us via Open Collective and Patreon

If you have any questions feel free to give us a ping via [email protected] 

Thanks 🙏😻

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