Communities have formed and evolved since the beginning of humanity. Building community is part of being human. but online communities have only taken off in the last decade or so. Online communities connect like-minded individuals — people who share similar challenges, concerns, and successes.
Many companies take advantage of this desire for connection by creating their own branded, online communities. They keep members engaged in their organization and give them a platform for peer support and knowledge sharing, which is often difficult to find elsewhere.
Online communities are great for gaining access to lots of information and sharing ideas, but it’s difficult to mobilize members to collaborate and create something lasting simply by connecting them via the web. To establish strong bonds and build member loyalty, they need to be committed and a see value in their relationships. Online communities lack the context of facial expressions, tone of voice and body language.
That’s why live and in-person experiences are so powerful for creating a strong foundation for event communities.
Building an Event Community Thrives on In-Person Event Experiences
With our increasingly digitalized lifestyle, the importance of community is becoming more widespread as individuals see the value of creating, learning, and sharing together – both online and offline. But more than any other marketing channel, face-to-face experiences solidify these communities and help sustain them in the long run. In-person events connect like-minded people, providing opportunities for moments of inspiration that encourage people to personally engage and commit. In the process, engaged event community members deliver added value back to fellow attendees, event sponsors and partners, and the event organizers. Amazing things can happen when you bring people together.
Why It’s Important to Build an Engaged Event Community
Your marketing team will love your efforts to build a community around your event when they see more and more opportunities for touchpoints with your organization. Plus, watch your attendees develop ownership of your event when they buy into your event community. Don’t forget about how much easier it will be to demonstrate measurable audience engagement when it’s time to report on the ROI of your event.
Catalyzing and supporting the creation of a community around your event can help:
1. Increase Attendee Engagement Pre-, During and Post-Event
Helping attendees connect through their common interests before the event helps to break the ice during their in-person interactions later. Creating spaces at the event for attendees to meet up, share thoughts, ideas and common challenges through discussion can foster meaningful connections that people will value long after the event. And you’ll know you’ve successfully engaged your audience when your attendees choose to keep in touch and share learnings throughout the rest of the year.
Recommended Read: Turn your event into a fun and engaging experience through gamification. Learn how in the Ultimate Guide to Gamification.
2. Decrease Attendee Disengagement
You know that some delegates are just there for the freebies, drifting in and out of speaker sessions. Putting some extra work into giving attendees a variety of options to connect – for example, group discussion channels through an event app – is a great way to decrease attendee disengagement and help everyone feel part of a tight-knit group.
3. Build the Event Brand
Most importantly for recurring events, building a brand around your event is only possible when you have a community of ambassadors to evangelize the ethos. TED is a perfect example of an event brand that has expanded beyond the physical walls of the event space. A strong brand won’t fade away after the event but can be kept alive for the rest of the year in the hearts and minds of a tight-knit community.
4. Strengthen Your Marketing Strategy
Leveraging the event theme, updates and reminders throughout your marketing channels over the course of the year will not only support your marketing strategy for your event, but also your organization. Leading up to the event, produce and promote content thematically linked to the event; for example, webinars run by upcoming speakers or blog interviews with high-profile attendees or speakers.
5. Improve Attendee Retention
Happy, engaged attendees who felt that your event was a valuable experience will not only want to attend next month or next year’s event, but will ideally spread the word within their network, and bring a friend or two next time. Fostering a comfortable, community-oriented environment means that attendees will begin to treat your event it as a meeting space to reconnect and network with their peers and colleagues, and it may even become an annual priority to work into their schedules.
6. Quantify ROI Through Measurable Engagement Channels
It used to be a challenge to measure and prove to senior management that attendees were engaging and networking at your event. But with developments in event technology, this has become much easier. Now, you can measure and quantify attendee engagement by looking at numbers such as:
- Attendees who participate in discussion forums, in-app group discussion channels, and LinkedIn groups related to the event.
- Social media posts (shares, hashtags usage) from event community before/during/after the event.
- Responses to pre/post- event polls and surveys.
Recommended Read: Learn how the Canadian Society of Association Executives was able to achieve a 90% event app engagement rate with their attendees.
How Do You Start Creating An Event Community?
With so many benefits to creating an event community, it’s hard to turn a blind eye. There’s nothing like the buzz of an event among respected peers and colleagues to make members feel excited, engaged, and ready to take on the world!
But how do you start that buzz, and once it’s started how do you keep it growing?
Within the next couple of weeks, we’ll be releasing a comprehensive guide with best practices, tips, and design ideas on how to create successful event communities.