Advantages Meet new people and people you've only talked to online
Disadvantages A bit of hard work, inevitable hangover.
|Quality and consistency of tracks|
|Cover / Inlay Design and Content|
|Value for Money|
|How does it compare to the artist's other releases||Outstanding|
|How does it rate alongside the competition||Outstanding|
Traditionally, Ciao Meets have mainly fallen into two camps: the pub meet and the theme park meet. Of all the Ciao meets to have happened thus far, the vast majority (if not all of them) have come under one of those two banners. I much prefer the pub meet scenario purely because I dislike theme parks with a passion and not because the pub way is necessarily "better".I find that pubs offer a good way of getting a lot of members into one spot and once the initial introductions are made, the conversation usually starts to flow (and pretty freely too, given the number of 'strangers' in one place). It's also handy in that people can turn up for a bit, then leave if they choose to come back (or not). Some people can turn up early and leave early, some turn up late and stay until the end. I feel that pub meets (as opposed to theme park meets) offer more flexibility for attending members. Meets don't have to be at theme parks or pubs, though. It's primarily up to the main organiser, but there are plenty of other ways a meet can happen. Given that meets are arranged purely for the reason of meeting other Ciao members, trying to find a way to get people talking to each other and together as much as possible is what's going to define the meet.
As a "proper" meet is a community action, I think it's important that the community is given the chance to participate as much as possible in the design and planning of the meet, within reason. If I were organising a meet, for example, then it certainly wouldn't be a theme park meet, but I think it would be selfish and rude to simply make a decision on when and where and then offer it to members to turn up.Breaking the planning of a meet down into phases, it appears to be quite simple. This is typically how meets have gone before when I was planning them:
1. Suggest the meet, providing a brief outline of the venue (city) and possible dates. Also, ask for suggestions and invite people to help.
2. Start putting out the word.
3. Get involved in the actual organisation of the event.
4. The actual meet.
Secondly, there appears to be a category listed on Ciao for "Proposed Ciao Meets", which is a good starting point for getting news of your meet out there. The problem with Ciao is that I don't think this provides the interactive aspect that is required to ask questions and gain feedback easily in terms of various questions that may be asked during the course of organising a meet.When spreading the word, there are loads of methods to use beyond the "Proposed Ciao Meets" category. The obvious one is to ask people to list your meet/meet review/homepage in their "About Me", although that obviously carries some risk that you'll be reported by the Ciao Nazis for 'advertising'. Similarly, you can spread the word via people's guestbooks, although again you might run into trouble for "spamming" guestbooks, so if you're going to use this method, try and make each message personal and don't simply cut and paste the same message into hundreds of GBs. The satellite sites relating to Ciao can also be used to spread the word and these can have further uses (as explained later). Lastly, there's the independent guest book site, Tooyoo (http://www.tooyoo.org) that can be used as a means of contact and spreading the news.
Getting around to the actual organisation, I've found that it's a lot better if you can group everything and everyone into one place. This cuts down on the amount of information you have to spread around the place, plus ensures that no-one is ever left out of the loop. Encouraging discussion at this point also helps cover all bases. There are some things you might well have overlooked, and others can help cover these gaps in planning.When arranging a Meet in Glasgow a few years ago, I found YAHOO Groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/) an invaluable tool. They're free to use (and within your grasp if you already have a YAHOO ID) and provide the organisational tools you'd require. For example, you can create polls, in order to see who wants what. There are areas for uploading files, so pictures and maps can be made accessible to everyone and a message area so people can swap messages and ideas. This is especially helpful if there are a large number of people showing an interest in your meet. The only real downside is that everyone has to be a member to take part (although not to view), but I don't really consider that to be a major issue.
The same applies to the various Ciao satellite sites out there, such as Opinionators.co.uk, which can have their uses, although they are probably more restrictive than YAHOO for this kind of thing. They can still be handy, though, as they'll reach groups of people at once rather than Ciao GBs, which can only reach individuals and anything that cuts down on the amount of work you have to do has to be good, right? Asking a site administrator or moderator to make your meet thread "sticky" (i.e. sits at/near the top and is constantly visible) always helps and most should be obliging. In the past, some people have set up dedicated email addresses via Hotmail and created mailing lists to spread the news and make announcements, but I find that these can be unwieldy and I avoid them where possible.The next thing worth considering is collating all the information people might need in order to plan their own journeys (this is especially true if people are travelling from other parts of the country). A list of potential hotels close to the meet area is a good starting point. If travelling members so choose, they could perhaps arrange a group discount if everyone can agree to stay in the same hotel. A list of handy websites is also quite useful. People might wish to use the likes of Google Maps to plan journeys or at least have an idea of the layout of the Meet city, Trainline.com (train timetables and information) and any kind of related information. Don't worry about missing anything because other members will have their own favourites and will hopefully share these with other potential meet attendees. The very act of sharing and swapping information will, as stated above, help break the ice between members who may not have been in contact with each other on Ciao.
Don't worry about the numbers of people attending. Loads of people will show interest, though various factors might change for people between you initially suggesting the meet and the actual meet itself. I've often found that smaller meets (say under 15 people) tend to stay fairly steady in terms of numbers, but larger meets (20 people or over) might actually have a big difference in numbers between people who say they'll show up and those who actually do. The dropout rate for larger meets is usually around 50%. People could change their minds, circumstances can change, emergencies can arise and plenty of other factors can kick in, thus effecting people's ability to turn up. Likewise, names you've never seen listed during the discussions can suddenly appear with a few days to go as people didn't want to commit themselves too early have made a decision to turn up.Overall, though, the most important thing to remember is don't stress about it. It's something you're doing for fun and for the possibility of meeting new people. Previous Dooyoo and Ciao meets have seen me in Nottingham, London (more than once) and Glasgow, which isn't bad going for a bloke from Belfast. I've come away from them knowing a lot more about the people than I had previously, even forming some very close friendships along the way. I'm not sure that meets have increased my enjoyment of Ciao or Dooyoo, but they've been great in their own right.
Finally, the only other thing you have to do now is relax, turn up to the meet and enjoy yourself. Not once have I not enjoyed myself at a meet and I've been to around half a dozen or so over the past six years. After the meet is over, depending on who turned up, then the post-meet takes place, often involving sniggering at the drunken pictures of everyone and laughing at the time someone did something silly. That's when organising a meet really pays off; after everyone's met, friendships have been established and the hangovers have receded, people have the day or weekend to look back on, hopefully with good memories.
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