Maria Keenan

Why Meetups Are Important | 5 Questions with Caitlin Teed

If you don't know what Shopify is (!) it's an e-commerce platform for retailers. 

And it's very popular. Caitlin Teed is Shopify's partner community manager, meaning she's responsible for multiple events and other community building and engagement activities. 

Caitlin brings all sorts of people together under the umbrella of Shopify's inclusive tech scene. Given that you can sell anything (legal) on Shopify, customers can be interested in subjects as diverse as zombie garden gnomes and bulletproof strollers. 

I was compelled to talk to Caitlin about those communities, what happens when they collide, and why meet-ups are important. Here's what she had to say:

1. You weren’t always in events during your time so far at Shopify. What made you want to transition into that role?

"I started my time at Shopify on our support team, helping our merchants and all kinds of Shopify users through setting up their store, troubleshooting problems and listening to their struggles and successes."

This approach is reiterated across the company and outlined Shopify's thesis statement about their customer success roles: 'It’s not just tech support, it’s people support. It won’t always be easy, but if you're resourceful, ask questions, and enjoy having genuine human conversations, you may have just found your dream team.'

"I was behind a phone or a chat messenger for most of those conversations, and while I loved helping people around the world,

I’ve always been a person who believes in the power of face to face connections.

"I transitioned into a role that combined my two passions: to educate and connect our community with the tools they need to succeed, and building those opportunities for them to not just learn from us, but from each other.

"That role lead me into helping with Shopify Unite, our annual partner and developer conferences, as well as A Day with Shopify (now Pursuit), Commerce Awards and our Shopify Meetup series."

2. What makes meetups such an appealing event format?

"Meetups are important because they’re informally fun and educationally inspiring — and of course, they’re free. Our meetups around the world take all shapes and forms; some users host meetups on Saturday mornings, while others only in the later evenings. They range from 30 to 250 attendees, and it’s this fluid community feel where everyone is welcome. But what binds us together is the Shopify product and opportunities presented by it.

"[The] tool [caters] for so many different users around the world that it can bring out everyone from those in the idea phase to a highly established business. And there’s a magic to meetups where you can have someone in the early idea phase of a business shaking the hand of a highly established organization. You can even connect them with an agency that specializes in Shopify and they can then be the turning point in their business, providing them with the road map they need to level up."

I guess the magic is the mystery — you’re never sure who you’re gonna meet and it’s magical to think great ideas and passions can spark at these gatherings.

3. Why is the Shopify community so special?

I like to think our community values collaboration over competition — many of our competitors can attend the same events without it feeling awkward or impeding on their business goals.

"The beauty of the Shopify community is that it is also very fluid meaning there are so many opportunities for you within the ecosystem — we’ve had Shopify merchants take their learnings from setting up a store on the platform then use them to design and develop Shopify stores for other entrepreneurs. Shopify Partners then submit a theme to our Theme Store, only to discover that their passions lie in app development instead."

Further to that, according to e-Seller Cafe, Shopify also helps you to become a better marketer. A new section was recently introduced to the Shopify UI: the marketing tab. Therein, users can manage and track their email marketing, paid advertising and other campaigns directly in their e-commerce system. So, it's plain to see that Caitlin is resoundingly right when she tells us:

"There are many doors you can open throughout your journey, and you’re never stuck on one journey, I think that’s what truly makes it an ecosystem."

shopify best cms

Image source: Richman Training

4. If you could give one piece of advice to community event organisers based on your experience, what would it be?

"Listen and thank people by name. The sweetest thing in the world for someone to hear is their own name. I am terrible at remembering names, so I try to get to know attendees by remembering something key about them and tying their name to it. For example, 'Caitlin likes cats'. I then try to tie that fact to their name and their face before I end the conversation so I remember for next time.

unite

Image source: Shopify Partner Blog

"And listening, you have no idea how important it is to hear people, and what better environment than when you are face to face? You may realize half way through the conversation that there is almost nothing you can do to help this person through the particular problem they’re going through, but you have no idea how important it can be to someone just to feel that they are heard, and they will appreciate that and remember that."

5. (According to everyone at Team Tito who’s had the pleasure of getting to know you,) You absolutely radiate positivity. What’s your secret to always having a positive outlook in your professional life?

"Smile more — even when it’s hard and you want to give up. It would surprise you how often you can defuse a high stress situation, or accept negative feedback by a simple thank you and a smile. If you start your event with a frown and a negative attitude, you’ll soon see how contagious it is and it can change the whole vibe of your gathering. It’s not always easy, but smiling makes it better."

Admission Presentation Title: Tell us a bit about what you'll be presenting at Admission.

"My talk is called People Power, keeping your events charged.

There’s a lot that goes into an event, the behind the scenes, the months of planning, the logistics — but what really goes into an event is the people.

"I’ll be focused on harnessing the power of the people who attend your events, niche in on their purpose and how you can build that trust between you and your attendees through delightful experiences and exceptional listening skills."

For more details about the conference and a chance to see Caitlin speak, you can find details on the Admission website:

Admission, a conference by Tito