Tips on Starting an Esperanto Club
If your town doesn't have an Esperanto club, why not start your own? You don't need anyone's permission to start a club!
Choose Time and Place
Even if you don't have time to advertise a group, pick a time and place where you can go for an hour each week and use the time to do something/anything related to Esperanto: read Esperanto-USA, try to write something in Esperanto, etc. Just build the hour into your own schedule and make sure you can attend.
Weekly meetings seem to work better than monthly meetings; they become part of people's lives, like Survivor or Star Trek, and they get used to knowing that Tuesday evening is the Esperanto meeting. (Try to pick an evening without major TV shows like Survivor or Star Trek. :-)
It's a good idea to hold meetings in a public place, rather than someone's house. Rooms are often available at libraries, malls, and community centers. Restaurants can also work well.
Increasingly, it is possible to find places with wireless network connectivity that can let you bring a laptop and get access to internet resources while at the meeting, which can be useful.
When you're ready to start trying to advertise your meetings, list your group with E-USA, any regional Esperanto groups, and with Esperantoland. This will help people to find out about your meetings. You can also send occasional announcements about your meeting schedule to Esperanto mailing list. There may be people in your area lurking on the mailing list who will come to meetings, if they know they're happening.
Most newspapers and cable access stations will let you advertise your group for free. Don't pass up this free publicity!
You can publicize your meetings using posters and fliers. E-USA has a large collection of posters that you can draw from. Possibly put a sticker on the Beer Posters about the local group and its meetings.
It's pretty easy to create a website and mailing list to help facilitate organization. A website doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective. Yahoogroups will let you create a free mailing list with a web interface that can include all the information you need to publicize your group. It's a good idea to make the list moderated so that each message (or at least the first message from new members) -- its a tiny bit of extra work, but that way you can assure that no spam will get sent out to subscribers via the mailing list. Nothing will kill a mailing list faster than spam.
Many colleges have an "Organizations Night" at the beginning of the school year so organizations can put up a table and tell students what's going on. This could be a very good opportunity to meet people directly, give them Beer Posters and handouts etc.
Local libraries sometimes let you put up displays, leave bookmarks or literature for people to pick up, etc. Also a good place for a meeting notice.
Meetings have to be fun. With food.
When you hold meetings, it's a good idea to have some kind of sign or signal to help people recognize that they've found the group. A small Esperanto flag works well.
What happens at meetings is up to the group. Meetings should always include an opportunity for newcomers to ask questions about Esperanto before the conversation is conducted entirely in Esperanto. If there are newcomers, it's a good idea to have everyone introduce themselves and perhaps explain when and how they came to learn Esperanto. To be prepared to answer questions by beginners, there is a useful guide for activists which has a lot of ideas for how to explain Esperanto to beginners.
There is always interesting conversation at meetings. Often meetings will include Esperanto lessons or reading aloud from an Esperanto book or magazine. Meetings are opportunities to share interesting articles or new books. Some meetings are relatively formal and include a formal speaker who presents some topic or article. Others are very informal, simply meeting over tea or coffee. How your group works is up to you.
For ideas, contact other group leaders and ask them for suggestions. Many of the group leaders have been facilitating meetings for years and have a wealth of experience to draw from.
Here are some tips for forming a club:
- Use this free website to create a blog, static pages, or other content.
- Don't be surprised if local newspapers or local student papers want to write a story about you!