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How to Host a Conference Meetup: Paul Millerd Style

Last updated: March 27, 2024

This article will show you exactly how to organize a meetup or happy hour the next time you attend a conference or workshop.

You will learn how to:

  1. Invite people at a convenient time,
  2. Pick a venue nearby,
  3. Have everyone wear name badges,
  4. Do a quick round of icebreakers, and
  5. Take a good group photo.

When you organize a small group event like this, you’ll make more connections, create better relationships, and help others to meet interesting new people.

Paul’s Conference Meetup

Paul Millerd wrote a book called The Pathless Path: Imagining a New Story For Work and Life.

When Paul attended a conference in Portland, he decided to host a meetup using some core concepts from my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party.

Paul Millerd 1
Paul leading the conversation at their meetup.

Paul had never done something like this before. But, thanks to some easy-to-learn key concepts, he was able to make his event a big success. Keep reading to find out how.

Past Experience: Twitter Meetup

Paul has previously hosted a happy hour in Austin, Texas using my party format. In February 2022, he organized a Twitter meetup with the famous writing instructor Dickie Bush.

They gathered over 25 people at a local bar. Everyone had name tags. Paul even led two rounds of icebreakers to help his guests mingle and make new friends.

How to Host a Conference Meetup

When Paul attended this conference, he knew that he wanted to bring together a group of likeminded people. It would also be a nice way to introduce his various friends.

Because of his prior experience hosting the Twitter meetup and from reading The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, it was very easy for Paul to organize a meetup. He knew exactly how to gather and which facilitation skills would be helpful to lead a small group at the conference.

Picking a Venue

Paul hosted his meetup in a public park. This was a good venue because it was free, there was seating for those who needed to sit (even though sitting can be like a kryptonite!), and it was a close walk to their conference venue.

It was also outdoors, so a nice excuse for everyone to get some fresh air!

Paul Millerd 2
Paul circling up his group for some icebreakers in the park.

Icebreakers and Introductions

At your meetup, you can do a simple icebreaker to get everyone to introduce themselves. The purpose of this icebreaker is to operate like a survey of everyone attending. It will give others ideas about who they might want to meet!

To run your icebreaker, you’ll want to first circle everyone up. Ask anyone who is able to stand in a circle. Tell them that you’re going to do an icebreaker to help them all make a new friend.

Announce that you’ll be asking everyone to answer three simple questions:

  1. What is your name?
  2. What do you do for work?
  3. What is one of your favorite things to eat for breakfast?

I talk a lot about the breakfast icebreaker in Chapter 12 of my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party, and why it works every single time. But if you don’t like that question, you could also ask:

What are your hobbies? Or: What is something you’re really excited about right now?

Next, you should go first in answering the icebreaker questions. Answer them and then go around the circle to have others say their answers.

Paul Millerd 3
A wacky version of the group photo with Paul and his new conference friends.

Video Example

Here’s how Paul did that at his meetup in the park. See the video below:

Mix and Mingle

After the icebreaker, allow the group to have unstructured time. Everyone can mix and mingle and meet new people. Resist the urge to lead another icebreaker right away, or to add new instructions.

Simply say: “Thanks everyone for doing that. Icebreakers can help us to meet new people at a meetup like this. I hope you’ll go up to someone new now and say hello.”

Photos of the Conference Meetup

These are a few photos that Paul shared from his successful conference meetup.

Paul Millerd 4 1
Paul’s conference friends have met him in the park. Paul is making a speech!
Paul Millerd 5 1
Paul, in the orange shirt on right, announces the start to an icebreaker.
Paul Millerd 6 1
Paul and his guests posing for a group photo in Portland, Oregon.

Another Example: Meetup Within a Meetup

I did a meetup within a meetup in a similar style to Paul.

At 200+ person meetups, I find it hard to actually connect with people. So I create my own sub-group by giving them my style of name tags.

Here’s how I do it:


This was a great way to host a meetup during a conference. The things that Paul did which worked well were:

  • Convenient meeting location: near the conference, easy walk, and free!
  • Name tags: require everyone to wear their conference badges, so it is easier to say Hello.
  • Icebreakers: A quick way to get to know everyone. These encourage new conversations and help others to find shared interests.
  • Short and sweet: He kept his meetup to less than an hour during the lunch break.

Now you know how to bring people together the next time you attend a conference or a workshop.

Have you ever hosted a meetup like this? What worked well? Send me an email and I’ll update this article with your tips.

Leave a comment on this article here.

About the author

Nick Gray is the author of The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. He’s been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and in a popular TEDx talk. He sold his last company Museum Hack in 2019. Today he’s an expert on networking events, small parties, and creating relationships. Read more about Nick Gray here.

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