The start of GTSW
When we (Ellen, Hannah and Mike) founded Green Tech South West our vision was to run in-person events to bring a locally based community together from the South West of the UK. We wrote a group constitution to set out what we were trying to acheive.
Our first event in Feb 2020 was a great start and was well attended for a new group.
But then, as you’ll all know, covid hit and put a stop to further in-person events for some time. The three of us weren’t prepared to let the energy from our first meetup fade away, and felt it was worth continuing. We decided to try online meetups.
The move to online only
It went well! For the next two years we hosted an online event every almost every month, with a full write-up for each.
There were so many advantages to running online. Not only in lockdown times did we gain a sense of purpose by bringing people together, but we also saw the community grow massively. We found it easy to hear from speakers from all over the world. We had people joining us from all over the UK and increasingly from other countries in Europe and beyond. Despite not meeting in person, Green Tech South West felt like a real community and a movement, one that people were engaged in and hungry for.
Exploring hybrid events
By summer 2022, with just shy of 2,000 people in the community, we decided it was safe enough to bring the in-person element back again. Having learnt so much from all that time running online events, we made the event hybrid.
We felt so humbled by how the online community had grown, we felt we owed it to the community to keep offering online access and recording the events so everyone who wanted could participate.
In June 2022, we organised our first hybrid event. We welcomed Ecologi and Greener to the Engine Shed, and an in-person audience of around 30 and an online audience of around 30.
In the whole of our GTSW journey, I think we’d say that running hybrids was the hardest thing we’ve done. We got a lot wrong, found it very stressful and time-consuming. For the first few events the online part of the hybrid offering just wasn’t the experience we aspired to give people. The tech issues were a nightmare! We especially enjoyed the time when CrowdCast deployed a whole new version of their software, which we didn’t spot until half an hour before one event.
We owe a big thanks to Sam Russell, who stepped in as a volunteer to help us with the tech. We couldn’t have done it without him. Sam has helped at all five of our hybrid events. After quite a bit of pain, we think we’ve got the hang of it now.
Time for a rethink
In between our hybrids we were still running online only events. But we started to notice the numbers dropping off. Whereas in the previous two years, we’d usually have at least around 60 people turning up, it had become more like 20 or 30. Plus we were promoting those events much harder than we’d done before to get a smaller audience.
In summer 2023, we decided it was time to rethink the offering of Green Tech South West, and also what we, as volunteer organisers, felt joy from doing.
Without question we remain committed to Green Tech South West and the people in our community. We still get such a buzz from a successful event and the feedback from people who found it useful. We love seeing new connections and ideas blossom. We’re proud of this community.
But we could see that running the monthly online events as well as the hybrids was becoming too much for us to do, and we were losing our mojo from the workload.
Hybrid events going forward
Our decision is to pause the online events for now and focus on 4 or 5 quality hybrid events a year. Pure online is something we may come back to later, or we may do the odd one. But it’s no longer our primary focus.
We are committed to still providing an online option at evey speaker-led event we do. We appreciate those that continue to attend online and see them just as much a part of our community as those able to join us in person. That won’t change.
As an aside, we also realised that for hybrid events we can still invite speakers who can’t be there in person. We’ve been able to present 60 second intros from those participating online at our hybrid events, and we can use the same approach for speakers. It’s nice we can keep that option open and still bring an interesting pool of speakers into the community.
Seeking more help
The other thing we realised is that we’ve been running GTSW for over 3 and a half years. It’s time for us to more deliberately open up the group and get some fresh ideas in.
But recently we haven’t been as vocal about asking for help as we should.
What we need help with
Helpers at the events (both in person and online)
In person you could help us greet people in a friendly way, dish out name badges, keep the food and drink stocked up, help us with the tech to get speakers set up, tidy up afterwards, shepherd people to the pub.
Online you can help us make sure the chat feed is lively, and ensure people feel welcome.
Organisers to join us in running the community
Help us identify topics and invite speakers, prepare the event write-ups, market/promote the events and group, keep in touch with the community in between events, answer questions, do the post event write-ups, update the website, surface our previous content, bring fresh ideas into the community and how we run things, help us find sponsors and keep them happy,
We try and keep our events as economical as possible, whilst giving people a meaningful and quality experience. As organisers, we give our time for free, so all sponsorship goes to the direct cost of our events. However with rising costs of venue hire and food and drink, we could do with getting a few more sponsors to support us. We’ve put together a short deck about sponsoring us.
If you’re interested in lending us a hand, or have some ideas or suggestions, please drop us an email greentechSW@gmail.com.
We’re keen to see what the next few years of running GTSW will bring us, and we hope you are too!