The tech scene in San Francisco has a vibrant and visible community. The community holds several meetups every week, often more than one meetup in any given night. These meetups range from business entrepreneurship to software engineering tools. For argument's sake, we can organize these meetups into three categories: lecture, booth, or freeform.
Lecture-style tech meetups are informative sessions where developers of any company can attend to learn about the latest and greatest technologies. These meetups allow a developer to know what other companies are doing in Silicon Valley. Presenters share their experience in using a particular technology, explain why and how a technology was built, or advertise a new product. The content presented at meetups is new and untested. Some of the technologies are relevant in years to come; other technologies will not make a difference. Yet, it is crucial for developers to attend these meetups to stay up to date.
Booth-style meetups are less structured than lecture-style meetups. Several companies showcase a working demo of their product. Attendees visit each booth to learn about their products. The onus is on the company presentations to make a clean and well-presented session within a few minutes. There are often half a dozen or more people watching the booth at a given time. One good example of a booth-style meetup is SF Fashion and Tech.
Freeform social meetups are social mingling sessions where entrepreneurs and developers meet each other. It is equivalent to business speed dating. Sometimes an attendee list is provided beforehand for targeting networking between individuals. Other times, its a complete wildcard in the meetup. 106 Miles, Hackers and Founders, and Drink Entrepreneurs SF are excellent meetups that allow attendees to network with each other.
From the experiences of our attendance, we recommend that novices start with the tech meetups and booth meetups. Individuals can leverage common ground to start a conversation. The talk's content or presentation serves as an immediate common ground. Free-format meetups can be more difficult to start and sustain a conversation due to the variability in attendees. In all these meetups you'll learn something new and meet new people, so get in the scene!