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Digital Events and Your Online Community Space

3 minute read

October 30, 2020

Even as COVID-19 has reshaped what is normal, some things don’t change - like conference season. Yes, all the in-person events have transformed into virtual events - but they are still happening. Those that were virtual before (like our Conversations event), are now part of the conference season too. There is, however, a silver lining—never in history has there been so much amazing and accessible content.

But as we all know, not all events are made the same. Some are just a string of webinars, or an endless video stream. I am the first to admit that our earlier attempts were more webinars than anything, but from lockdown to 6 weeks for an event, I will allow myself and my team some slack.

What has struck me more are the events this Fall which we've had several months to prepare for. It was pretty much summed up with this comment one company rep told me about their event: “social connections were an afterthought”. Additionally, I’ve also gotten some requests and questions about “ using your Community” to support / enhance digital events. 

Face palm moment. “Using your community”  the verb use should not be, ahem, used. You do not use your community. You can empower them, you can enable them or you can support them. Let’s remember to always put people (i.e. individuals) at the center of this conversation - and not get lost in the concept of using this group without consideration of humanity. .

There is another reason why I like to start by thinking about people. Why do people go to events? Sure it’s  great to hear talks, but you know what really matters most to them? Meeting others, connecting and networking with other peers. This is where the community can be so essential. So let’s break down how to best include your community before your event, during it, and after it's over.

Pre-Event Community

Invite people to participate in a category about the upcoming event, where they can ask questions, get inside info and start to meet others. Plan content for the community, such as AMA, group calls and other activities. The forum is also a great space to get pre-event questions, so don’t be shy to add a discussion per each talk.

I am also a big fan of https://icebreaker.video to create some fun networking experiences. The forum is the heart of the planning, the middle of the wheel, but don’t be afraid to use other channels, such as Icebreaker, Zoom or social media. 

I also recommend you invite in your speakers, and experts into the community, so they can also get a sense of the audience for the talks. 

You can never be too early in setting up this space. I would also recommend to keep this space open or partially open to the public so they can get a taste of the event.

During Event Community

Create a space where people can share notes and questions about the session. Make sure you have clear reminders to the audience, that this is the space for any resources. You can also load up slides and maybe other special items from the speakers.

Make sure the speakers are aware of the space to continue the conversation, and encourage people who have questions after the session to use this space.

This is a great way to make the larger audience for your content to know a community for them exists.

Post Event Community

This is the most crucial aspect in my view. Make sure after the event, that people know the community is still there for questions, but also there beyond that. This is a great touch point for all attendees to know that even though the event is over, that the conversation is not over.

It’s a great space to hold AMA’s based on the content they shared, and re-engage your community on the most consumed content, but also on content you think could use a spotlight.

Other Considerations

Have fun with the community by creating a badge for those who attend, or replicating “event” happenings like the morning coffee/breakfast with a room or video call for those to join. The main thing to be successful is you plan - and don’t make the community portion of your event seem like an afterthought. 

Now it’s your turn to share your advice. What have you found or learned in creating events with your community? Share your best tips in the comments!

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Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla Forums. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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