What’s your favorite part of attending a trade show or conference? We’d be willing to bet it isn’t the hours of travel or continental breakfast, but the social aspect – the chance to meet new people, to talk about shared interests and industries, to make work feel like play. Where’s the fun in being shuffled from session room to session room?
Creating a sense of community among event attendees is vital to the success of an event, from both attendee and organizer standpoints. Capturing those feel-good moments and forming a year-round community keeps guests engaged while making your events stand out as must-attend functions. Consider making community-oriented programming a cornerstone of your event strategy as we enter a new frontier of pandemic organizing.
In this article, we cover why turning event attendees into community members is crucial for your goals and your attendees.
Whether your year’s worth of events are mostly in-person, mostly online or a hybrid format, gone are the days of basic presentations and panels. Event attendees value opportunities to connect with one another. According to BizBash, three-fourths of meeting and convention attendees “cite networking opportunities as a key factor in their decisions on whether to attend.” When your event prioritizes peer-to-peer connection, be it through attendee “matchmaking,” gamification that encourages social interaction or roundtable-style discussions, you’ll see a difference in turnout. Community-oriented programming is a major draw compared to solely educational content.
Creating community isn’t just crucial for getting people to a single event, but crucial in creating repeat attendees. A positive experience at your event guarantees word-of-mouth marketing. The same BizBash study reports that “more than 80 percent of event attendees indicated they would recommend the event…if the experience met or exceeded their expectations.” When you put on an event with community in mind, it’ll get people talking, which leads to repeat attendees who make it a point to turn out year after year. With event attendance as an always-relevant KPI, it makes sense to invest in community to boost turnout!
Community equals event turnout equals engagement. We know that attendee engagement is an extremely important metric by which events succeed or fail; in fact, 80% of event organizers use attendee engagement as a KPI for measuring event success. So to make your event an objective success, turn guests into community members for max engagement. The key is to create a community that is active year-round to truly keep the conversation going.
Create a foundation for your event community with a platform available to attendees between events. Mobile apps and virtual event platforms are the perfect tools for keeping attendees engaged after the last conference. Creating a space for former guests (now community members!) to chat, network and dig deeper into your content or social media is a win-win. Whether you create a content hub, host AMA sessions or organize regional meet-ups, attendees get to have fun interacting with friends and colleagues in a way that boosts interaction with your brand.
Name an event organizer who hasn’t had a wrench thrown in their plans over the past two years. With the COVID-19 pandemic, plans can change within hours of a government mandate or news of an emerging variant. With traditional event structures, this means months of planning could be for naught. But with an existing event community that you engage with in the “off-season,” you have more flexibility and content offerings to fall back on when things don’t go to plan.
At this point, we all understand that digital communities and friendships can help us through tough times. The same goes for your event community. If you find yourself needing to switch from an in-person event to a hybrid or virtual format, a sustained connection between events will reduce attendee churn and give you ways to engage your audience in different ways. When you put community first and utilize virtual community-building tools when adjusting your event game plan, your attendees won’t feel as though they’re missing out on a “better” event.
Besides increased engagement and enjoyment for your attendees, a year-round event community is great for your bottom line. Reducing the scale of your events and relying more on virtual event formats or digital content means less money spent on huge productions, and lower costs per event. Plus, sticking with the same event management platform year-round that you can manage your event community with can help you streamline your organization timeline and your budget.
Consider adding smaller, regional events alongside your mobile app or event platform to replace multiple cost-prohibitive mega-conferences or trade shows. Pared-down, more affordable in-person events keeps community members active and even expands your reach to new attendees – and that means increased attendance at your annual conference, or in the long run, community is key to a sustainable budget.
The grandeur of a huge annual meeting or expo is hard to beat, but in the ever-changing event industry, prioritizing event communities is a sustainable strategy for keeping the fun going all year round. With tools like mobile apps or virtual event platforms, you can take event attendees from guests to community members while increasing event turnout, engagement and lowering your budget. Community, be it in-person or online, keeps us connected - what’s an event without the conversation or new colleagues? Stay in touch by investing in a year-round event community.
Need an event management platform that can help you create community? PheedLoop has you covered.