The meetings & events industry is currently undergoing a massive evolution, which has brought to surface many complex topics that all #eventprofs are thinking about. Last week, we hosted our first #twineTalks event. We created #twineTalks as a way to power peer to peer conversations within the industry about challenging and complex topics.
We know that talking to each other is a great way for our industry to harness collective intelligence and to explore, distill, and tackle these complex topics.
Our first #twineTalks session, tackled the hot topic of if and how events can lead to year-round, 365 engagement, that turn into lasting communities.
The word “community” has become the new “pivot” of 2021 and #eventprofs can’t look anywhere without seeing or hearing about the importance of turning event attendees into members of a year-round community. We are seeing many organizations experiment with different ways to keep attendees coming back to engage with their brands in hopes of making a long-term commitment. The power of community is clear - make people feel like they belong, and keep them loyal to your brand.
Approximately 40 #eventprofs gathered last week to discuss the feasibility of turning your event into one of many touchpoints with your attendees and to answer the broad question of: How Can Events Create Year Long Engagement?...and the discussion was rich, colourful and left us with lots to consider.
Here’s what we learned:
In one word, what was the main theme you took away from your discussions?
(you know Lawrence was on the call when the word “headphones” makes the list)
- All Year? Dream on. There was a lot of doubt in the discussions as to whether or not attendees even wanted year-long or 365 engagement. Some suggested that less might be more - quarterly or more distinct milestone events would take place throughout the year, with social media being used to drive engagement and conversations the rest of the time.
- Supported by brands, but not driven by brands. How the community is built was also a prevalent theme. Brands need to be careful about how these communities are started. One concept that came up repeatedly was that brands or organizations cannot force community on its attendees or members. Many highlighted that communities had to have an organic, grassroots origin, perhaps supported by brands, but not driven by brands. There was a lot of mention that one of the strongest communities online is the #eventprofs hashtag on Twitter, which is not owned by anyone and all content & events on the hashtag are user generated. The community is supported by many brands, but not owned by any brand.
- Balancing technology will be key. When asked if technology is helping or hindering our efforts of creating community, the group was evenly split, believing that technology could help eliminate geographic boundaries and democratize networks, but the fear that technology could become a distraction was also a common theme. There was also concern that organizers would rely too much on technology to keep a community connected, and actually burn people out with screen fatigue. As we are able to return to live events, the power of smaller, regional, in-person gatherings to help sustain community engagement cannot be overlooked.
- Wait, don’t these already exist? What are associations doing? As you can see from the above word cloud, the role of associations was a big discussion topic since associations have been trying to do this for years. Associations should have a massive head start on this as they are basically already communities, with different ways to create engagement throughout the year, but why have many of them failed to do so? In fact, when asked what communities people felt most strongly about being part of, only one association, ILEA, came up. What are associations missing, what role can they play, and how will they get left behind if they don’t figure it out?
- We knew it, you knew it, we all knew it...networking remains the #1 priority. When discussing what value communities deliver, connecting with like-minded folks, networking with peers, having a place to bounce ideas off of each other, and a place to go for help ranked at the top of the list for why people belong to communities. If you’re building a community, having a way for people to connect with each other, developing channels for them to help each other, and nurturing those channels will be key.
Like any complex topic, we didn’t expect to leave our one-hour #twineTalks with all the answers, but the key themes that were distilled highlighted some areas for us to focus on as #eventprofs who are slowly becoming community managers: Leverage existing infrastructure like associations and technology, less is probably more, nurture it to grow organically, and focus on creating channels for connections.
At the end of our event, we were also joined by #eventprof and community builder, Mustafa Khan. Mustafa is an event producer and community manager for Village Global, which is a venture capital firm funded by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and other iconic entrepreneurs. Mustafa has been planning events for nearly 9 years and he’s produced events for brands like Facebook, American Express, Target, and Macy’s.
Mustafa shared three things #eventprofs could do in the next 30 days to start our community building journey:
- Ask your client or team to identify the top 3 business KPIs for your community
- Talk to your community members or customers and find out what they want
- Plan and start building what a 6-month program would look like
If you missed our #twineTalks, we hope the summary was helpful. We’re not recording these events since they’re meant to be very unstructured, organic, discussions, but be sure to check out our events page for details about the next event.