Gathering people with common interests is not an easy task. Meetups need more than just time. Organizing it also involves so many vital components. Dan Handford, the founder of Multifamily Investor Nation, discusses his strategies for starting meetups. Any organizer must know what to expect in these events must especially know how to organize it from the registration to follow-ups. Dan broadens his discussion by highlighting the four things that you need to know to have a successful meetup.
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Organizing Successful Meetups with Dan Handford
Our guest is Dan Handford. Thanks for being on the show again, Dan.
Thanks, Whitney. I appreciate it.
Dan Handford is a managing partner of PassiveInvesting.com, an apartments syndication company that has $130 million, 130 doors. Dan is also the Founder of Multifamily Investor Nation, a nationwide group of over 9,000 elite multifamily investors. Dan, give the audience a little more about your background.
I’m not sure exactly what my first episode was with you, Whitney, but if you search on Whitney’s podcasts there’s another first episode, where I dive a little bit deeper into that. Did you research that first episode?
I did. That’s WS14.
If you want to deep dive into a little more about my background, go to episode WS14. I’m a businessman. I am an entrepreneur. I have multiple businesses and many of them have been doing very well. My goal has been to build up a business and get it to a point where it’s passive so I can go in and grow the next business. I have multiple businesses that I’ve done that way. The largest group of businesses that I have is a nonsurgical orthopedic medical clinic. This clinic is one of the main reasons why I decided to get into the multifamily game and the syndication route.
It’s because of all the taxes that I was having to pay for the profits we were making. I’m writing six-figure checks to the government. I’m tired of doing that. I tried to figure out how Trump is paying no money in taxes and I realized that real estate is the ticket. I didn’t want to play on any small levels so why not go big, so I decided to go to that route of multifamily syndication side to reduce some of the taxable liability that I have as well. That was the main reason. Whitney and I met very early on in my journey and have been good friends since then.
[bctt tweet=”Location is a key element when you’re trying to run a successful meetup.” via=”no”]
It has been a pleasure to know you and it’s been impressive to see what you’ve been able to accomplish very quickly. In the syndication space, one thing we’re always doing is networking and it’s so important. The meetups that we’re going to and a lot of people were hosting meetups. Dan has developed a way where he’s hosting and being a part of many meetups. One thing I wanted to discuss was your strategies for starting these meetups. It would encourage the audience to start their own meetup. Why is that important and give them some tips on how to organize it? What should they expect from a meetup?
Networking is a very vital piece to the whole syndication route, whether it’s syndication, multifamily or other types of syndications, you’ve got to be networking. One of the things that you can do to be able to network is to create networking opportunities that you can cultivate yourself by utilizing meetups. The most popular platform for meetups is Meetup.com. That’s the platform that we leverage as well. We have our group, Multifamily Investor Nation. It has 50 groups. Our goal is to double that. Hopefully, it will be at 100 but we’re at 50. We are looking for co-organizers in various cities to be able to help us host these meetups in their local cities.
We leverage other people to be able to help us grow this network. They’re able to take some advantages of some of the opportunities that we give our co-organizers as well and it doesn’t cost them any money. There are some opportunities there. If you’re in any way interested in that, you can always shoot me over an email at Dan@PassiveInvesting.com. I love to be able to chat with you about being a co-organizer. For those of you who might be like, “I want to host my own meetup,” I want to give you a couple of strategies and some things to think about whenever you’re trying to host one of these meetups. When you’re talking about the Meetup.com, they do charge a fee of $5 to $20, somewhere around there, when you’re hosting your own meetup, which is nominal for the amount of value that you will get by hosting one of these meetups.
There are a couple of things you want to make sure you do to make sure that you are successful with it. With us, we have right at 50 groups. We have a few things that we’ve learned over the last several months that have been able to increase the attendance to our meetups. The first one is going to be the location. Everybody always needs to have a location that’s convenient for them. They need to have a location that is easy to access and parking. When you’re starting to look at a venue of where you’re going to host this, you’ve got to look at all those things.
It’s hard to do one in an area where there’s no parking or it costs too much to park. If you do it in an area that’s not the best part of town, a lot of times people won’t come because they don’t want to go to that part of town. Location is a very vital piece to the whole meetup. Trying to host a good meetup is finding a good location. My suggestion would be to find a location that you think would do well. Try it for a couple of meetings. If you don’t feel you’re getting the attendance, then change the location to a different area. The nice thing about locations is that you can change it fairly frequently and very often.
When you’re hosting to meetup, you should have a minimum of two, but sometimes up to three or four different co-organizers for each meetup. The reason why you want to do that is because when you have multiple co-organizers. If one person is out sick one day or whatever, you don’t have to not host a meetup, you can go ahead and host that meetup. That allows you to be able to have that flexibility and it gives you back up if you don’t feel you have to be at that meetup every single month, if for some reason you can’t do that.
Speaking of the location, when we first moved to the town we’re in, I looked for a local REI Club so I can start meeting people. It was downtown and parking was always difficult. You always had to pay for parking if you can find it or you might be walking a good way. The location was in the second or third floor of this building. It was dark and it didn’t seem the greatest welcoming location. I kept going to it but I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t. Maybe they wouldn’t even feel comfortable being up in that space. It wasn’t very welcoming or inviting.
Most people will probably come for the first time, but there are a lot of people that will probably show up and leave because of the venue. My background is in chiropractic, but I don’t practice anymore. I had a friend of mine who was a chiropractor and one of the problems that he had is people were not showing up for their new patient appointment. What he had found out though was when people were coming to see him at his office, it’s not that they weren’t coming, they weren’t going inside his office. He started to look in at the dynamics as to why people weren’t coming into his office. What he found out was as people were driving into his office, they would see no cars in the parking lot. People were driving in and going, “My goodness, where did I get myself into?” They would leave.
All of his staff were parked in the back because they had a back employee parking lot. Nobody would even think that anybody was there. It was like an old and run-down strip mall but it was gentrifying the area. It had been remodeled or whatever but the outside had no parking. The new patients would show up and they would feel uncomfortable because there was nobody in the parking lot so they would leave. One of the things that he did that solve his problem was he went to a junkyard and had cars towed into the parking lot sitting there. They were nicer towed cars. They were not like junkyard go beat up cars. He filled the parking lot with some cars and it solved the problem. Location is a key element when you’re trying to run a successful meetup for sure.
Co-organizers, I can understand having numerous people that are going to help you organize this group in case you can’t be there for sure.
It’s easy to find those people because a lot of times when you host your first meetup, you’re going to meet some people and they’re going to want to get involved with your meetup. One of the ways you keep them sticking to your group is you ask somebody, “Would you mind helping me? I’m hosting these things. I will pay for all the expenses and stuff but I need somebody to help me.” I might not be able to show up every month or if I get sick. You never know what might happen. My wife might have a baby. Who knows what happens? I might have to go on a quick business trip out of town. I don’t want to not host the meet. Those are the reasons that you would give it to somebody to help with the meetup. You can make them a co-organizer. Even when you’re there, you can get them a responsibility of doing certain things. If you have announcements when you first get started, you can have them do the announcements, introduce you and all that kind of stuff. Definitely some roles, responsibilities that you can separate and segregate in these types of meetups.
What’s next? What’s something else that we need to talk about to make this run as efficiently as we can?
The first thing is making sure you have the proper location and then getting those co-organizers. The second thing is making sure that you have two components to every meetup that you have. Number one, you have to have a networking component. You need to have the component of allowing people to meet each other, talk to each other and introduce each other so that they start to get to know each other a little more. The more somebody feels part of the group, the more they will feel attached to it and the more they will want to show up. You want to make sure that you treat those opportunities. What we typically do in our groups is when we’re meeting at 6:00, for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, it will be a time for networking. People go to a little table, they will fill out a name badge and stick it on them. They will walk around, talk to other people, network and get to know people.
We have the second piece of this which is the educational component to it. This is a component that I feel I made a mistake on the beginning because originally when I started these meetup groups for the Multifamily Investor Nation, it was all networking. It was, “I will go meetup at a coffee shop. We go meetup at a restaurant or whatever.” All we’re going to do is talk and network. Although that sounds good and it makes it easy for all the co-organizers because they don’t have to worry about anything other than showing up, it left a piece of it out. That stickiness component to it or that education piece. I learned this from our meetup rep. I was telling her in the beginning, “I don’t feel like we’re getting people coming back every month. I’m feeling stuck.” She said, “Tell me how you’re doing things.” I told her and she said, “One of the things that you can do to keep your meetups stickier is by creating some education component to your networking instead of just being networking. That way, people can see different topics that are going to be covered and it will attract them to your particular meetup.” To have more of a topical meetup is a very vital piece to it.
[bctt tweet=”The more somebody feels part of the group, the more they will fill attached to it and the more they will want to show up.” via=”no”]
One of the things that we’ve started to do with our groups is all of the co-organizers that we have in our group get together with me on a webinar once a month. I train them, only them, on a particular topic. They’re going to be training their people inside of their meetups. We give them a one-sheet content. We go through that and teach them the content. They’re learning from me, from a high level of what is this content, how they need to learn, how to answer questions and stuff like that. We’re putting together this one-sheet with some frequently asked questions so that when they go to their cohost or meetup, they now have the content piece to it. We had this twelve-month content calendar that we are able to produce and allow people to be attracted to our groups and continue that educational piece to it. Location is number one, number two is that networking and education piece that you have to make sure that you have with each one of your groups.
If I’m new to this space but I’m trying to get started, I want to do a meetup to network, how much experience do I need to be able to start my own meetup?
That’s one of the challenges because when you first get started, you might not feel you’re the expert. You might not feel you should be the one hosting the meetup. There are a couple of options for you there. If you’re joining us with one of our groups, we will provide some of that content for you so you will be able to feel more confident and competent when you’re hosting your own meetup. The other way to do it is instead of you being the one teaching, you can invite other guest experts into your meetup to be able to share that content and to provide that value. Whether it be a local multifamily broker, a local banker or something like that, you can have them.
We have contractors that would like to do that stuff and talk about what are the different advantages of carpet versus vinyl plank, luxury vinyl plank, all the different pieces you can talk. You can bring other experts in that can share some of that content piece to it. As you are getting in new into this space and you want to start a meetup, it’s always good to have a little bit more of a background in that. You can feel like you’re teaching and providing the value that you wanted to provide. You can also, in the meantime, invite those guests as experts as well.
I’ve seen a lot of people do that. They’re not comfortable speaking in front of the group yet. They want to get there but they don’t feel like they’re the expert. They don’t feel like they should be the one up there speaking. I’ve been to groups where all they do is invite people to speak. They invite me to speak or invite numerous people to speak on a weekly basis. That still allows the host to be the one that everybody knows. That person is still gaining a lot of benefit by being able to network and knowing everybody in the group.
The first thing is the location. The second one is making sure you have the networking and the education piece to it. The third thing is you need consistency. I’ve seen a lot of meetup groups that start and they are all over the place, where they don’t have a consistent time. If you have a consistent time, the second Thursday of every month, the first Thursday of every month or I’ve seen some, every Thursday for breakfast, there are different frequencies but there’s a consistency to it. That’s a missing component to a lot of meetups. That’s why a lot of meetups are very sticky because people never know when they’re going to be able to go because it’s not as consistent. The more consistent you can make your meetup easier is for your members to remember without even having to go any type of Meetup.com platform. They know every Tuesday at 7:00 PM, every Saturday morning or every first Saturday morning of every month at 11:00 or whatever it is. It allows them to have that consistency. Consistency is a major piece to making sure that you have a successful meetup.
Have you found the most success weekly, biweekly or monthly?
We recommend monthly. If you have the ability and the time that it would be better if you did more frequent than that. I know a meetup that’s going on. One of my partners, Danny Randazzo, has one going on in Charleston, South Carolina. His is pretty much every week. It’s a breakfast meetup that they meet every week. He’s grown that fairly large because it’s consistent. Not that everybody shows up every week but because it is every week, it’s been able to grow. People know that he’s doing it and he’s there. It helps to grow it a lot faster. It creates a lot more camaraderie. You get to build a lot more confidence and rapport with those people inside of that group as well. Even for some of our own multifamily syndications that we put together ourselves, several of our investors have come from that group.
I can see too where if you have breakfast or you have lunch, that’s going to eliminate a lot of people from being able to come. Maybe they have a day job, they’re trying to get into real estate or they’re doing both. Until they get the real estate or business going, they’re not going to be able to come to that meetup. What about the time of day? What’s been the best for you?
You have to play with it a little bit. One of the things that we suggest is if you could do it on a Saturday morning, those tend to be the times that pull the most. You also, as the co-organizer, have to ask yourself, do you want to make it convenient for everybody else? Do you want to make it convenient for you? The more convenient you can make it for yourself, the more consistent you’re going to be. The bigger and better your group is going to be, the better you will be able to provide more value to them. If you don’t have a family and you don’t mind taking time out some of your Saturdays to go host a meetup, that’s perfectly fine. In my situation, I don’t prefer to do them on Saturdays because that’s the time I like to reserve for my family when I’m not traveling.
You’ve got to be able to do it. If it’s too inconvenient, you’re not going to be consistent. If it’s not consistent, it’s not going to last.
The last one here is number four. The first one is the location then networking and education components to it. The third one was consistency. This fourth one is about providing additional value by getting discounts into larger events. If you’ve ever been to a REIA Club or anything like that, they usually have local vendors that will give discounts to people who are members of the group. If you could start to leverage those types of relationships, it allows you to provide more value to the group. One of the things that we try to do with the Multifamily Investor Nation is we try to get up with other people who are putting on larger events that are usually in person, like your larger multifamily events around the country. We go to them and say, “We would like to start to promote this with our group. Can you provide our group with a discount?” Being able to give that discount to our members to get more value from it.
The same thing with you. If you have a local meetup group that you started and you have 30, 40 and 50 members, you can go to these larger groups and say, “I see you have this event coming up in July. I wanted to see if we were able to get twenty tickets, could we get a discount?” That allows you to be able to have that leverage of scale like in my space, with the larger apartment communities, we have that economy of scale. It works the same way here. That’s another way that you could provide value and create additional stickiness to the group, is to go and provide those additional larger discounts for those larger groups. Similarly, the way we do it is we don’t buy them all in bulk like that. We usually will have them give us some link that we can provide to our group that will allow them to get those discounts.
I like that you’re adding value in there. They’re going to be more attached to your group that way and they’re going to want to come back. They’re going to want to see what value you’re providing for them next. What are maybe a couple of things that we wouldn’t normally expect who haven’t started a meetup before? I’m a little nervous about being in front of the room. What are some things that are going to happen that I wouldn’t even expect but I need to know?
[bctt tweet=”Consistency is a major piece to making sure that you have a successful meetup.” via=”no”]
One of the biggest things that will probably shock you is the number of people that show up versus the number of people that register. There are a couple of different ways to handle that. Some people will start to charge a small fee like $2 or $3 to reserve a spot, which is a smart way to do it. We’ve even done it that way and people have paid $2 or $3 and still don’t show up. However many people show up, I would usually plan for about a quarter to a third of those people showing up. For example, we did a meetup in Dallas, Texas. I was in Dallas for an event and I hosted a meetup the day before. We had over 50 people register for that in-person meetup and we had about fifteen people show up. It’s hard to plan sometimes.
When we do meetups, we don’t usually provide any type of food or anything like that because it’s very hard to plan. Unless you start to charge a little bit more for your meetups, which I’m in the process of testing that. Instead of charging $2 or $3, maybe charge $10. You have that money go towards food or when the profits are over that, you could give it to a local nonprofit or something like that or host it for the next meetup. The second thing that we’re planning on testing is a yearly membership to our group. It’s like a REIA Club where you come into the first one and it’s free. If you want to come into the future ones, you pay $50 or $100 a year, whatever it is. It creates that larger group that feels like they’re part of the family. They’re members of the actual group. Those are still out though.
I’ve heard both ways about that as well. Charging a couple of dollars so people were maybe a little more committed and you can count on or have a better idea of how many are coming. If 50 people registered, you can count on about half showing up. Is there anything else that you want to share with us that we need to know about starting a meetup?
No, those are the main pieces there. If you have any further questions you can email me. If you want to be one of our co-organizers in one of our cities, you can do that as well. If you go to MultifamilyInvestorNation.com, there’s a link on that page that links you to our meetup platform, which shows you all the different cities we have. If you’re in one of those cities that we have a meetup, let me know if you’re interested because we’re always looking for additional co-organizers in those areas as well. In larger areas like Dallas, Texas, we could have multiple meetups going on at the same time. We want multiple co-organizers in each one of those meetups.
Shoot me an email at Dan@PassiveInvesting.com. I will be glad to be able to jump on a call with you and let you know what the specifics are. We also have an event coming up called The Multifamily Investor Nation Summit, which goes against everything I said about networking in-person. This is a virtual online event. I know you’re going to be speaking at it. We have over 60 speakers at this one. We did it in January of 2018 and had 586 attendees. We’re looking to be doubling that for this one coming up in June. I would love to have all of your audience join us for that. I’m not sure what the prices of the tickets are because they fluctuate every week a little bit.
If you go to MultifamilyInvestorNation.com/summit or you just go to MFINSummit.com, you can register and find out more information about that summit. I’m going to do something special for your audience here. We decided that we wanted to support the nonprofit that Life Bridge Capital supports. We wanted to be able to donate all the profits from anybody using that promo code, Whitney. Use Whitney’s first name in the promo code when you register for a ticket at the MFIN Summit. It’s June 27th, 28th and 29th. It’s all online. It’s virtual. You can’t miss a thing. All the sessions will be recorded. If you use that promo code for Whitney, we’re going to donate all the tickets sales. If you register there, they might be around $300. That will go all to the nonprofit for the children adoptions that Life Bridge Capital supports.
Thank you very much, Dan. That’s very generous. I appreciate you helping support that. Thank you very much for elaborating on us being able to start a meetup, why we should and things we should think about. I know you’d put out the Multifamily Investor Nation, but is there any other way people should be able to get in contact with you?
That’s the best way. Shoot me over an email at Dan@PassiveInvesting.com. If you’re interested in doing some passive investing with us, you can go to PassiveInvesting.com. I would love to have you join us, even on our Multifamily Investor Nation Facebook group. We also have a YouTube channel. We’re pretty much out there on about all the social media platforms. You can also find me on LinkedIn. I definitely would love to help provide some more value to your audience if they have further questions for me as well.
I appreciate the audience for being with us and I hope you will check out the Multifamily Investor Nation Summit and use promo code, Whitney. Thanks again, Dan, for supporting how we support families that are adopting and do those expenses and helping fund that. I hope the audience will also go to our Facebook page, Real Estate Syndication Show. We will talk to each of you again soon.
- Multifamily Investor Nation
- WS14 – previous episode
- Danny Randazzo
- Multifamily Investor Nation – Facebook Group
- YouTube – Dan’s YouTube Channel
- LinkedIn – Dan’s LinkedIn
- Real Estate Syndication Show on Facebook
About Dan Handford
Dan and his wife, Dennae, along with their 4 children (3 girls and a boy), reside and work in Columbia, SC.
Dan has an extensive successful background in starting multiple seven-figure businesses from scratch including a large group of non-surgical orthopedic medical clinics located in South Carolina. His family of companies has annual budgets in excess of $10MM.
He is the founder of the Multifamily Investor Nation where he educates a nationwide group (9,000+ members) of multifamily investors on how to properly invest in multifamily assets.
He is the co-host, along with his wife, Dennae, of the Tough Decisions for Entrepreneurs podcast which can be found on iTunes and Google Podcasts.
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