The association for the people and businesses of Sheffield's digital industries.

talent 23, a year of talent and skills

a year of talent and skills

Meet the Meetup: Sheffield AI

The meetup that is keeping the human side of AI alive.

Sheffield AI was launched in response to the rising trend in large language models like ChatGPT. The meetup founders, James Charlesworth, Courtney Kyle, Steve Roberts and Dan Koseoglu, wanted to build a community of like minded people to share experiences and look ahead at future developments. Just six months later, these events are attracting audiences of almost 100 people. We caught up with James and Courtney to find out what you can expect from Sheffield AI.

Tell us about Sheffield AI – what is it, who is it for, and how long has it been running?

James: The meetup began with a mailing list in summer 2023 and we had our first event in September 2023. The rapid increase in popularity of large language models, in particular consumer-focussed LLM applications (primarily ChatGPT) led us to want to bring a community together in Sheffield to share experiences and thoughts for the future. 

We primarily target the tech community in Sheffield and the majority of our mailing list is made up of software engineers, product managers and designers. However the meetup is open to anyone with an interest in how AI is being used to build the next generation of software solutions.

How did the organisers come together to create this meetup?

James: Through conversations with Dan Koseoglu of Affecto Recruitment, we realised the implications of AI reached far further than simply SaaS products and touched all industries in some way, including recruitment. We thought it would be beneficial for folks in Sheffield to have a place to meet and discuss advancements.

What can people expect at your events?

Courtney: Engaging topics from diverse perspectives, and an audience from all types of backgrounds. It’s been really interesting to chat with other attendees to learn how they’re applying AI in fields like education, law and IT. 

James: We try to put on two talks, one that is technical and one that is more accessible for a non-technical audience.

What were your key principles when setting up the events? Have these changed or developed at all as you’ve gone on?

James: We really wanted the events to feel sociable. There is a (perhaps valid) paranoia around AI that it will replace the human element of conversation and collaboration, and we wanted to remind people working in this field that human interaction in person is still the most important driver behind innovation, no matter how smart ChatGPT and the like can seem.

Meeting up with other people, hearing real stories and keeping the human element alive is extremely important. We wanted to create a source of inspiration that can never be replaced by a chatbot, and that can only happen by getting real people in a room together.

What are the biggest challenges you have come across in organising and running the Sheffield AI events? How have you dealt with them?

James: Finding speakers is a challenge.  Since LLM usage in software products is still an extremely new practice, it is hard finding verified “experts” who have extensive experience implementing these technologies and would be confident sharing at our meetup. As such, we encourage folks to speak primarily from passion and any experience they have, as opposed to only seeking out speakers with years of experience in machine learning. We also want to bias towards speakers who are based in Sheffield and the surrounding towns and cities to keep the event feeling local to this area.

What is attendance like at your events? Do you get a lot of regulars returning, or are there new people all the time?

James: Our second event was attended by almost 100 people, 60% of whom were coming for the first time.

Sheffield AI is hosted at Hideaway.

Why do you think it’s important for people to go to meetups, what are the benefits professionally and personally?

Courtney: It’s incredibly valuable to learn from others’ experiences and perspectives, and great to connect with folks in the local community. I always leave meetups with new ideas. And of course, from a professional standpoint, you never know the doors that may open when you meet new people!

What do you think of Sheffield’s meetup scene? Are you a fan of any other meetups?

Courtney: Product Tank for great product-centric talks, Front-End Sheffield is relevant for engineers and designers, and Anomaly Life Drawing if you like flexing your creative muscles.

What are your plans for the next Sheffield AI?

James: We will continue to host at Hideaway for as long as we can since it is a beautiful venue with a very sociable feel, and great food!  We have sponsorship secured for the rest of 2024 and are planning four events per year.

How can people find out more?

Visit and sign up to our mailing list to hear about future events and get onto our AI-curated newsletter.