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Keyboard Meetups: It’s More than the Boards!

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One of the most time-honored traditions of the mechanical keyboard community are the in-person meetups hosted all over the world each year. Unlike video game communities or trading card games, there’s neither a regular weekly meeting schedule nor a large, once-per-year type convention hall that packs every keyboard enthusiast together under one roof. Instead, usually once per year people at a state, regional, or even country-wide level gather for a grassroots organized keyboard meetup bringing keyboards, artisans, and nearly everything they have keyboard related to show off and share with other people in the hobby. Whether its organized by a few outstanding, well known community members or put on by a keyboard vendor, these meetups are almost always an amazing opportunity to get to meet other people you only know from behind a screen and to try out a bunch of keyboards, keycaps, and switches you’d otherwise have to sink money into trying out. And for those of you who have never made it to one of these meetups yourselves, there’s also often free giveaways, raffle prizes, and even sometimes panels or interaction sessions with big streamers or content creators depending on how big of a meetup you’re attending. Speaking from the heart here, keyboard meetups are genuinely some of my most favorite times of the year and are one of the biggest reasons that I’ve sunk as far into the hobby as I have over the past 6-7 years. In addition to getting to verbalize my love for all of my switches and getting to share my collection with the other people who attend meetups, I’ve formed incredible connections and friendships that persist to this day and have opened so many doors and opportunities for me within the keyboard community. As I’ve grown and picked up content creation over the years, though, I can’t help but notice that how I was attending meetups changed a lot. At the very start, I was almost 100% focused on the keyboards, the artisans, and the cool giveaway prizes I could win with the people around me being somewhat secondary to all of that. Now, though, almost all of my interest in attending meetups is getting to talk to people, meet old friends, and sharing all of the fun stories and drama we’ve gathered as a community over the years. I’m not saying that attending a keyboard meetup just to try out different keyboards is necessarily wrong, however I think that people who are going just for that purpose and not all the awesome people around them are missing out on a lot on the ‘community’ part. So, here’s my short list of unwritten meetup rules that I wish I would have been told about to make sure I was not only getting the most out of all of my meetups throughout the years but that I was being the best mechanical keyboard community member that I could be: -1. You don’t actually need a keyboard to attend a keyboard meetup…

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Figure 1: The first switch tester I ever took to a keyboard meetup!
Heavily implied in the name of a ‘mechanical keyboard meetup’, most people often assume that you need a mechanical keyboard in order to, you know, meetup. To put it about as succinctly as I can, this is simply not the case – any and all meetups are more than welcoming to beginners who are interested in trying out boards, asking questions, or just wanting to see what all the community is about. Furthermore, if you are a beginner who has just begun to wade into the hobby a bit, you may feel a bit uneasy about bringing your “beginner keyboard” because it's not “endgame status.” Sure, meetups are often packed wall to wall with pinnacles of people’s keyboard hobby, collections of massive amounts of artisans (or switches), and even prototypes of unreleased boards from designers themselves, but that does not mean there’s not space for entry level keyboards. Everybody in the community effectively started at the same point that you all, beginners who are reading this, are at now and nobody would think twice about seeing an entry level board amongst everything else. In fact, most people who have sunk into the hobby quite a ways have lost sight of what beginners first find in keyboards and so there’s a pretty decent chance they’ll never see one of them in person if you don’t bring it! -2. Ask people about their keyboards, artisans, etc.

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Figure 2: 2018 Ohio Mechanical Keyboard Meetup.
Trust me, I’m well aware that the piece of advice of “asking people about their keyboards at a keyboard meetup” reads as the most obvious, braindead thing I could have suggested. However, I do not just mean asking them about the specs of their build that you could figure out on your own. When you get a chance to talk to people about their keyboards or artisan collections, ask them why they chose to build that, how they built something if it is not your typical keyboard, or what interested them in that specific keyboard. You would be shocked how many people have personal stories or anecdotes behind their seemingly blasé keyboard or something as simple as a pure red colored keycap in a box. Asking people about the details and context to their interest in keyboards will not only guarantee you the start of a conversation, but will also likely get you stories about keyboards you’ve never heard of, introduced to other people at the meetup, or could even point you in the direction of a whole new niche you could have never known about previously. And in case you’re worried that people won’t want to answer all those questions about their keyboards or artisans, rest assured you are dead wrong – meetups are usually the one time a year where people get to nerd out about their hobby! -3. Make an effort to talk about things other than keyboards!
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Figure 3: 2017 Bay Area Mechanical Keyboard Meetup hosted by Drop!
As I mentioned at the top of this article, some of my closest friends and acquaintances I’ve made in the keyboard hobby have come as a result of meetups. Deals on keyboards, private groupbuys, free artisans, and more than I can willingly share here have all happened just by talking to people and forming those friendships. After introducing yourself by your username, ask people where they are from, what they do for work, and just genuinely get to try and know people for who they are and not just the boards that they type on. If all of that sounds a bit too forward for your tastes, see if people either are currently planning on and/or would want to go get food after the meetup is over. While a good amount of meetups are hosted in venues such as bars or breweries which have some sort of built in food component, I would bet you a ton of money that people will want to get together afterwards to get pizza, hot pot, or whatever food is nearby. Just planning to be involved in a keyboard meetup for a few extra hours and going out to eat with a bunch of keyboard people will 100% make you friends in the community and grow your connection without any direct keyboard being involved at all. Do NOT just be like me when I first started and leave as soon as the meetup is over! -4. Support the venue however you can!
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Figure 4: 2022 Minnesota Mechanical Keyboard Meetup hosted at Lake Monster Brewing!
Here’s a little secret: Keyboard meetups are not free. While a good few of the more local ones are actually free to attend for anyone who wants to show up, that does not mean it comes free to the organizers. Whether it’s relying on goodwill from venue locations like breweries or organizers shelling cash out of their own pocket to make it happen, the venues have to come from somewhere. In the spirit of building a stronger community and making friends in the keyboard space, one of the first things you should do upon arriving is ask the organizers of the keyboard meetup how you could support the endeavor. Something as simple as buying two or three drinks / some food over the span of a four- or five-hour meetup at a location with those things or offering something as small as $10 to the keyboard person hosting the event is a sure-fire way to not only make you friends in the keyboard community but will help guarantee a spot there for the meetup again in the future. While nobody will ever mandate that you have to do these things and you’re more than welcome to not have to spend any money (other than potentially required ticket prices for some meetups) at a meetup, it’s a small way to keep the keyboard community healthy moving forward.
While I know that this all may seem a tad bit obvious to some people out there, I can assure you from first-hand experience that it’s easy to get lost in all of the cool keyboards and artisans at your first few meetups. Tack on the experience of getting to meet some of your favorite content creators or streamers in person if they too are at the meetup and it’s going to be hard to remember that there’s other keyboard nerds around you just as excited to be there as you are. So, whether you’re planning your first meetup or your hundredth, make sure to remember to bring some extra cash, an appetite, and some fun stories to share about all of the stuff you’re bringing to show off!
(Edited)
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C.Babb
3
Mar 7, 2024
Where/how do you find out when and where the meet ups are? If you are completely new and dont even have one yet can you still go and not get judged? Heh
C.BabbUsually there are links to these things posted in various keyboard Discord servers or on the main r/mechanicalkeyboards subreddit. As well, anyone of any experience level or familiarity with the boards is welcome! Some of the smaller meetups I've attended over the years take place in breweries alongside normal patrons or other events running in adjacent space and the spillover always makes for fun interactions.
C.Babb
3
Mar 9, 2024
ThereminGoatMKThank you so much for the reply! I’ll check out reddit. I have discord but I admit I have no clue how it works (embarrassing I know). Ill have to figure that out. Thanks again, I appreciate it so much!
dovenyi
52
Jul 25, 2023
I try to keep track of keyboard meetups here: https://kbd.news/meetups Feel free to ping me if I missed your event.
sani8
0
Jul 19, 2023
hello t is
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vulnshunter
0
Jul 22, 2023
sani8Cool!
sani8
0
Jul 19, 2023
hnhnhn
wickid-good
15
Jul 14, 2023
I hosted a Keyboard Panel last year at Connecticon, but not a lot of turnout. I dropped the ball this year, not replying in time for a panel. Would like to see something in southern New England.
EastGhost555
5
Jul 14, 2023
I would love to go to something like this if there was something close to me. I don't know anyone into building keyboards so getting started into this hobby has been solely self motivated and full of YouTube videos and Reddit threads.
Subie
6
Jul 13, 2023
Anyone know where I can find meetups in Southern California?
Subie
6
Jul 14, 2023
Thanks, I was trying to look into meetups once but I guess I didn't look the right direction and gave up looking. Where can I get into that discord server?
kbtrains
2
Aug 7, 2023
SubieAGHH my bad for leaving you hanging for so long, I don't visit this site much link is https://discord.gg/jZakzwsT
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