Being a community manager is challenging, yet fun – but many of the best practices behind creating a good community event program have not been shared out loud. We usually see the end result of engaging events happening all around us without knowing how to get start ourselves.
In recent panel conversation with Katie Ray and Rachel Basoco, we talked about how to design the perfect events for your community. Our speakers shared insights and guidance for anyone wanting to start their own programs. We'll include tips on how to recruit and manage speakers, and ambassadors, how to build a robust event calendar, and ways to engage your community members.
A community events program needs to engage
Every community manager knows that the world of community events is constantly evolving – and that means so must your strategies and approach.
Community events remain the core catalysts for engagement and ensuring that people find the common ground and they are still the easiest way to bring your all community together. Be it virtual, hybrid or fully physical, community events have been reshaped by the past few years to become more dynamic and more complex than ever – and scaling this change has proven a challenge to even the most dedicated and experienced community managers out there.
For Rachel Basoco, Community Consultant, the value of effective community events actually goes both ways.
“Events are helpful from a community leader’s perspective in understanding what it is that our community members need, understanding the value prop you’re offering them, understanding feedback, engagement, attendance – events really help shape your forward strategy, but also in giving your communities goals.”
The goals of a given community – from speaking events and knowledge exchanges to simply enhancing your level of engagement – can be proactively shaped by community events. This is especially the case when everyone gets to participate.
The best community events are about cultivating relationships
For Metadata Head of Community Katie Ray, community events are a fantastic chance to deepen relationships.
“There’s a really big difference between the conversational forum aspect and the relational community building aspect,” she notes. “Community events really help facilitate that. Events aren’t just webinars – they can be roundtables, happy hours, pseudo-Ted Talk style events – anything you are doing that brings people together with the same focus.”
While the value of a good-old Q&A community event format shouldn’t be ignored, a good community manager should never feel constrained in the kinds of community events they put forward. The real value of the relationships that are created through vibrant community events can shape so much of the in-community relationships being created, even if it’s not obvious at the time.
Just get started, step by step
With so much expertise and best practices out there, not to mention packed calendars of community events already taking up the time in your calendar, any community manager involved in a community event-planning could understandably feel overwhelmed. The key is to remember that community events are all about collaboration, not competition. Furthermore, the real value of community events is not necessarily something that is measured by attendance levels or similar metrics – it’s a far trickier thing to pin down.
The secret? Communication, just like so much about how to be a great community manager. Digging into what is and isn’t working in your community events for your attendees, speakers and guests can go a long way towards refining your approach.
What format, timing and overall structure of your community events are attendees best meshing with, and what can be improved?
Remember, sometimes less is more too. Everyone is busy nowadays – there’s no need to create dozens of community events for their own sake, especially shortly after a community launch.
If nobody shows up to your first few events? Don’t lose heart – what counts is that you, the community manager, keep showing up. You’re the anchor that’ll create the community in time.
How far in advance should community events be planned?
Are you a community manager who loves a detailed game plan, or do you prefer to go with the flow? There’s no hard and fast answer in an industry as fast-moving as community events, yet there is still a good balance that it’s smart to strike.
“You have to align it with your business goals. Succeeding in this helps you secure a budget too – you can show how much your community events make for the company and how they support its business goals, so the higher ups are more likely to invest in more community operations.” – Katie Ray, Head of Community at Metadata
Contingency planning ahead of any community launch can help create a buffer against the unexpected – if your business needs an event to turn five leads into sales, for example, invite seven or eight leads with the expectation that some will fall flat or not show up accordingly.
Remember – community events are meant to be fun
It’s easy for any community manager to get so lost in planning and data that they forget how much fun community events are meant to be. That has hidden dangers – if your heart’s not in it, attendees can often notice, and community operations can accidentally come off as disingenuous.
The beauty of any community launch is the chance to try something new, and give your guests a taste of the unexpected. For Rachel Basoco, the secret to this is remembering that variety is the spice of any community.
“People learn and engage differently. Any time you can take a step back from what you’re doing and do something fun instead is always engaging. Keep your audience a part of the conversation with community events that feature built-in polls, Q&As, even dance parties. The fun is why we’re here!” – Rachel Basoco, Community Consultant
August 9, 2022
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