Events should act as major milestones in the development of your community. They don’t even need to be your events, just major events in your sector. Events shouldn’t be minor blips, but calls to action which unites your audience and sustains a permanently higher level of activity.
Most events struggle here. Most conferences fail to sustain the energy they create. They don’t have a plan to sustain the activity nor integrate the event with the community. Most communities don’t take advantage of the biggest events in their sector.
For the best results, integrate the two:
- Use the event as a call to action. This is the most important one. Use the event as a major call to action for your community. If someone is advocating for a new approach to a topic, then form an online community of practice around that specific topic. Invite people to join. Discuss how the ideas can be applied. Present conclusions. A single event can lead to numerous CoPs (or sub-groups within the community). My biggest complaint with TED is they completely waste the energy they spend so long cultivating at every event.
- Initiate discussions and create content about the event. Build discussions and content leading up to the event. This ranges from announcements about what’s coming up to, to discussions about aspects relating to the event. Preview the event. Then write a live blog during the event, do interviews with attendees. Finally, use the topics created during the event as content/discussions afterwards. Integrate the community with your community.
- Enable registration through the community. If people register for the event through the community, it’s easier to engage them in the community via event-orientated content, discussions, and activities. TeachForAll (one of our clients) did this well.
- Organize and facilitate sub-events/meet-ups. If lots of your members are attending the same event, help facilitate sub-events and meet-ups. If members are traveling far, and don’t know many people, it can really help if they are able to meet-up with members beforehand. If there are no sub-events planned, then help organize some for your community members.
- Help co-ordinate travel/support for those attending. Similar to the above, provide a place within the community where members can co-ordinate their travel plans. Drive and encourage co-operation between members.
Events create energy and potential that is hard to match. Events cement online relationships. You need to seize the opportunity they create. You need to integrate the event deeply within your community. You need to help facilitate those relationships and interactions between members.