I can't stress enough how important I believe that it is that meets should remain free
; I think this should be the first priority when deciding upon the nature of the events. 'Flashy' meets with behind the scene tours and the likes, but at a price (as offered by TPR, for example) are all well and good but ultimately in doing this you're pricing some people out of being able to attend. If you can get these perks (and ERT would be another) for us at no extra cost then that would be amazing - if not, I don't think implementing such a system would be wise. Certainly not for a little while.
I think a variety of locations would also be ideal, as has been offered in the past. This is an Alton Towers fanboard but the park has fans throughout the country, and many of us are Merlin Annual Pass holders so it's only fair on the Northerners and Southerners that something is offered near to them throughout the year. Furthermore, even more extremely, perhaps some social events could be arranged at attractions with free admission - London museums? A pub crawl? Alternatives for people who choose not to - or can't - attend Alton Towers on a regular basis but still want to feel part of the TTF community.
As for Alton Towers meets themselves, I would suggest 'part day' meets as being an excellent idea - as you suggest, a couple of drinks in the Tavern, maybe. These would be perfect for new members to become acquainted with the group without feeling the pressure of 'having to' stay with them for the entire day. However I do feel that 'proper' meets should return, also. I really don't think there was too much of a problem with the way in which meets were organised last year (besides the lack of a clear 'meeting point') so it's a shame that you feel the need to 'fix' what probably wasn't broke.
Nonetheless, I look forward to attending some of what you do organise in terms of meets for the 2013 season. Always good to meet new people.