Pre-Event Community Building

Don't let your events stand alone as isolated pillars

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 Videoustream.tvlivestream.  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.

I know many of my fellow #eventprofs and #assnchat colleagues will have more suggestions.  If you liked this post, please Re-tweet it on Twitter.

14 responses to “Pre-Event Community Building

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Pre-Event Community Building « Future Business [swanthinks.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com

  2. Marie Stafford

    Good article, as many times I am the only person from my organization to go to an event and touching base prior helps me to find folks to link up with once I arrive. It also helps me to make a plan prior to the event.
    New site to promote meetings, tradeshows, conferences etc. is EveryMeeting.com. Great concept, and very new, but I am sure it will grow as fast as some of those social media sites.

  3. @Marie, checked out the site. Surprised they are charging to post events at this early stage. Seems they would want to build some volume/followership first.

  4. Oh my gosh! This is such a thorough and comprehensive list on mashed up instructions on how to build a truly interactive event.
    GREAT stuff!
    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
    http://www.twitter.com/GreenA_V

  5. Hi Swan,

    I agree with you that people seem to be running to facebook and twitter as a starting point without considering other options or even a real strategy. Your list brings together several great ideas for what can be done to start engaging participants early.

    My additions are going to be strategy based. For event organizers embarking on a “pre-event” strategy, I suggest that they ask themselves the following questions:

    1. What type of engagement do you want from your participants?

    Some people want to create buzz – while others want to start discussions. Others just want to start the networking process. Depending upon your answer here – some of the suggestions above will be more effective than others.

    2. Ask how will your participants engage with you?

    You probably have 3-4 generations at your event. Each will want to connect and engage with you in different ways. As a result, some will be interested in creating content, others will critique it and some will just consume it. By understanding how your participations are most comfortable engaging you AND matching your technology decisions to their comfort level – you can hit a homerun.

    3. How do you plan to integrate all of these insights, content, etc into your main event?

    I have been meeting with some people recently that want the “full enchilada” model – but they have NO IDEA how they are going to use the content that they are gathering from participants. I highly recommend that you think through what you want to do with the insights that you generate. As this will help you select vendors and make the proper technology choices.

    Ok – that is all I have for you now. I hope that this helps! If you have any questions, please let me know.

    Sam Smith

    Twitter: @samueljsmith
    blog: http://interactivemtgtech.wordpress.com

  6. Robert,

    Great Article.

    I am a very big fan of this concept, in fact I advocate it! Most people spend thousands to attend these events…for what, 2 or 3 days? What can you really get done in only 2-3 days?

    Think about extending your conference experience before, during & after the event for better networking, better learning, and better ROI.

    I did a webinar last week on this very topic:

    If you are so inclined, please watch this 26 minute presentation.

    http://tonyveroeven.blogspot.com/2009/09/better-conference-experience-with.html

    MemberClicks wrote a related article. This is beginning to be a hot topic… finally!

    Thanks Robert!

    @tonyveroeven

  7. Swan,

    Thanks for some great suggestions here. Sam, your questions to guide meeting owners are also fantastic.

    I wanted to add that while pre-event networking is key, it often doesn’t necessarily allow participants to find one another when on site. With several hundred to several thousand participants present, one needs more than just a person’s name to actually find them in a crowd.

    Several technologies exist to help forge those connections. Spotme, which is the solution I know best, is one (great!) option. It makes for smarter face-to-face networking by allowing participants to “spot” people they are looking for when they walk nearby by showing them the person’s picture and real-time proximity. It also gathers the “wisdom of the crowd” by allowing participants to submit questions to speakers, post comments on sessions, vote on content, and fill out surveys to give fodder to presenters.

    There are lots of tools out there that accomplish one or some of your suggestions, but I thought I’d share Spotme as a platform via which many of your ideas can be realized.

    Cheers,
    Sheerin

  8. @sheerin,
    Rest assured that we will talk about DURING event community building in part 2 of the three part series. There is going to be a little bit of a break until that time though because I just signed on with One+ to be a columnist on Event technology. I will be moving this series to there.
    – September – Video2.0
    – October (in draft) – Twitter at events

  9. Pingback: Two Great Articles on Creating Conference Buzz

  10. Pingback: 10 useful articles about Events 2.0 « eventastic

  11. Great article–Love the practical tips and walk-throughs. Thanks so much for providing the “how tos” for the first steps.

  12. @Meg, it is my pleasure. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

  13. Pingback: 43 Social Media Tips, Tricks, Big Ideas & Real World Examples for Meetings & Events « Interactive Meeting Technology

  14. Pingback: Tools and Trends to Help Planners | C2C Permits Blog

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