UX Happy Hour Bangkok – Building a community from scratch
UX Happy Hour is a monthly meetup of UX professionals and people interested in UX in various cities around the world. I first discovered this meetup while I lived in Chicago. I became a regular attendee and then eventual became a co-organizer of UX Happy Hour’s Chicago chapter.
When I relocated to Bangkok from Chicago in 2015, I really missed having great conversations with UX professionals. I was looking forward to engaging with the Bangkok’s UX community. I looked at various events and meetups and found that while there was a vibrant tech community here, the UX community in Bangkok was extremely small, with any events / meetups that catered to design doing a presentation only once in a while, with little to no networking / community interaction. As a result, designers in the community didn’t really connect too frequently.
Launching a meetup
Seeing this gap in the Bangkok community, and also driven by my personal desire to have a community of UX practitioners that I could engage in conversation with, I decided to launch UX Happy Hour Bangkok in 2015.
I created a Facebook page to advertise the event, I reserved the bar at the Sheraton hotel for the event, and advertised it intensively over the next few weeks.
The first event turned out to be fairly small, with a group of 10 attendees, and most of them being entrepreneurs and business executives rather than UX professionals.
After engaging in conversation with these attendees at the first event, I learned about better ways to reach out to the design community in Thailand. One of them being advertising in certain online communities that were gaining traction over the years.
With the new insights from attendees of the first event, I began to plan for the second event, I switched the venue over to more affordable coffee shops, with group seating areas. I also leveraged different online groups to advertise that were suggested by some of the attendees. This resulted in a much larger turnout.
While the turnout was improving, I noticed that people were still fairly shy to engage in conversation with each other, as they weren’t used to just meeting up and interacting with strangers. Culturally people just weren’t accustomed to striking up conversations with strangers, so I needed to figure out a way to make this a very comfortable experience.
To tackle this issue, when planning for the next event, I started to introduce everyone individually to the group. I also chose topics and led some group discussions where I encouraged every attendee to share their viewpoint and feel like they were heard. These changes made people feel a lot more comfortable interacting with people they had just met for the first time. Receiving positive feedback on these changes, and finding that the format was finally beginning to work, it was time to finally focus on scaling the meetup.
With scale in mind, I brought on two co-organizers, one of them was the owner of a digital agency in Bangkok and a veteran organizer of tech events in the city. The other was the Design manager at an e-commerce company. With their efforts, we started to slowly expand the group. We started advertising to a larger audience, but with a twist. From various observations during the events, we made a choice not to heavily advertise to bring in bigger crowds, but rather to engage people meaningfully during the event and then encourage them to invite others via word of mouth.
We kept organizing this month after month consistently for more than 6 years and as Bangkok’s UX professional population has grown, we have also become the premier meetup for UX professionals in the city
Since launching in 2015, UX Happy Hour Bangkok has now expanded from what was initially a small group of 10 people that I brought together, to what is now a community of more than 1,500 people in Bangkok.
The meetup continues to grow month over month, with increasing number of first time attendees, as well as a large number of returning community members.