Some of the really great discussion lately on the #assnchat Twitter Chat definitely merits reflection. Standard first stage use of social media for events are apps like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as a marketing mouthpiece to reach prospective audiences.
That is just scratching the surface of the potential. Event owners and organizational leaders are quickly realizing that social media provides value well beyond the megaphone.
Thanks to a variety of communication methods (including SM), periodic face2face events are just one element of overall community management. Rather than using one as a broadcast medium for the other, they can both be used in conjunction to enrich a community.
That may sound good, but leave you thinking, “how the heck do I do that?”. To some degree the answer depends on your audience (members) and your history with them. However, since “it depends” isn’t very helpful, I will attempt to provide ideas from which you can pick/choose a-la-carte for your situation. This post was inspired by @MichelleBruno‘s blog post about additional revenue at events.
This first post covers pre-event ideas beyond the expected “create a webpage”, “create a Facebook page”. Stay tuned for parts 2 (during events) and 3 (post-event)
- Show the buzz
- Select and promote a hashtag EARLY. Your attendees will collect there and create more buzz. You can use a widget to bring those posts into your web environment for more exposure
- If anyone writes about your upcoming event, give them a way to submit their blog post so that you can showcase it to prospects and attendees. There is nothing a blogger likes more than exposure.
- Give them online buttons they can use to proudly display on their site/blog that they are going to your event. Give them a bonus if someone came to register through their button
- Post links to any articles that were written about previous events.
- Ask your members what they would like from the event. You don’t have to DO everything they say, but at least listen
- crowdsource speakers, topics, session-formats, locations, etc… try these tools: uservoice, crowdsound, ideascale
- Provide a way for your attendees to communicate with your speakers. Many speakers will customize their speeches if they know what questions people have.
- Run info/Q&A sessions using live stream providers eg. Audio: blogtalkradio, talkshoe Video: ustream.tv, livestream. Make sure you combine the live stream with a twebevent to make it collaborative and to add more activity to your hashtag.
- Inform prospective attendees who is already registered
- Post a list that grows automatically as people register. Don’t just put names, include organization name and title.
- If your online community has profiles, display that they are attending as a badge on their profile and all their community contributions
- Profile key people who will be attending including interviews with them about why they find the event valuable
- Give prospects and attendees a taste
- Make sure you have more than just a short bio of your speakers, connect relevant posts from their blog, videos they have posted, etc…
- Get your speakers to do some custom content for your event (community): podcasts, blog posts, videos, etc… all about the session they are going to do at your event
- Run some web events talking about the event and previewing content from presenters
- Show some of the fun/education that happened last year. If you are not already taking lots of video at your event, you should be (more in next post)
- Open up some pre-learning
- freebie samples to get people excited
- Some of the presentations that did not make the final selection for in-person
- content that they can get immediate access to once they register for the event
- design some at-event sessions around the pre-event content. Since the common foundation will be established pre-event, the face2face time can be used for greater collaboration
- Provide an option for attendees to pay a greater amount to receive extra online content. Some might want extra content, but can’t come a day early for your extra session.
- Help attendees find each other - If you have a quality online community, members can find each other easily already. This is especially important before an event for people who want to maximize networking Tools: Crowdvine, SocialCollective, Pathable
- Allow people to indicate sessions they want to attend. Show everyone who is going to what sessions. This is another way to determine the size of rooms, whether to run a session twice, or cancel a session.
- Provide a virtual expo. There are software providers for this, but even a single webpage with links to a few brochures and their website per sponsor, helps to narrow down where attendees want to focus their time at the event.