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What you do for your first event will depend on the type of group you want to run, and the size of the audience you expect to have.
Don’t be discouraged if not many people show up. Many thriving groups started out small and built up attendance over the years.
Here are some ideas for what to do during the first event:
If you are expecting mostly people who are already quite familiar with EA, having a social event may work well. The social event could be held at a café, be a potluck at a member’s house, or be a picnic (weather permitting), etc. Since effective altruism will likely be new to some of the people, have a short explanation of effective altruism prepared so everyone knows what your group is about. Check out these approaches to explaining effective altruism to create your own explanation. It is worth having a few questions that people can ask each other to spark discussion.
If you are expecting more than half of the attendees to be fairly unfamiliar with effective altruism concepts, it is better to have some content in the meeting – either by running a workshop or by using a reading or short video to introduce effective altruism and spark discussions. Social events where more than half of the people are new to effective altruism can result in new people talking mostly with each other and gaining an incorrect or incomplete impression of EA.
Give a general intro to effective altruism presentation or workshop. This might be a good idea if you have confident speakers and are expecting more than 10 or 15 people to turn up. We recommend making this interactive so that people get to think and discuss ideas. One popular activity is a giving game, where participants choose which charity to donate a pot of money to. Another is a cause-prioritization activity, where participants assess a few cause areas and try to work out which one is the most pressing.
Read or view and discuss an introduction to EA. Some candidates are the articles Introduction to EA and Do Unto Others, and the videos What are the Most Important Moral Problems of Our Time (by Will MacAskill) and The Why and How of Effective Altruism (by Peter Singer). Resources and tips for holding discussion groups are here.
Consider inviting, if your group is ambitious and has the time available, a prestigious speaker if you have one in your area. Big speaking events take a lot of time to organise and, although the turnout is good, usually few of the attendees convert to regular club members, so you might find there are better first activities for your group. Since this will be the first introduction to effective altruism for many attendees, it would be ideal if your speaker could talk about effective altruism.
People’s first impression of effective altruism is likely to stick so if your event only covers one aspect of effective altruism, people might come away with the idea that this aspect is all there is to EA. So whatever you choose to do at your first event, make sure part of the event includes a clear explanation about what effective altruism is and a taste of the breadth of cause areas and the different ways people can effectively contribute (through their career, donations, and volunteering). This is useful to do whenever you have several new people attending. Check out these approaches to explaining effective altruism to create your own explanation.
More guidance on how to plan and conduct events can be found here.
At the end of your first event, invite people to any subsequent events you have planned, even if you don’t have all the details confirmed.
Your Next Event
I know, I know, you are still working out how to host your first one, but it’s probably good to have at least some information about the details of your next planned event. Many groups have found it useful to hold the events regularly at the same time and place to make it easier for regular attendees (not to mention organisers).
Try to make this within a month of the first event (or sooner, especially for bigger groups), so that you can maintain momentum. Perhaps, prepare a slide about the next event if you are giving a presentation or write it up on a flyer (flyer templates can be found here). At least make sure to clearly state that there will be another event and where people can find these details.
Information on how to advertise your group and your group’s events is coming soon.
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