An online community that centers on an event has all the major players of a traditional live event. You have presenters finishing their PowerPoints minutes before their session begins, attendees searching for the right breakout sessions, sponsors who want to see and be seen, plus exhibitors who want to engage attendees.
You’ve probably dealt with many live events and know how these people interact with you and each other, but here’s our take on the way these groups may engage online and benefit from your social networking online event community. As well, we’ve included some ideas to help you help them.
Presenters at events are the thought leaders, the buzz creators and usually the main purveyors of valuable information. Online, they can be all that and more. In your community, ask your speakers to upload content (such as their presentation materials), start conversations about their topics, interact with attendees who have signed up for their sessions and more.
Outside your community, ask them to blog about their speaking engagement at your event (with links to your event community and conference pages). Have them create short, informal YouTube videos (like this one from Beth Kanter) that give away “nuggets” about what they will be sharing at their event. As well, ask them to share updates with their social media followers.
You might find if useful to include these types of social media activities into your presenter agreement. This becomes a guideline for your presenters to follow and will help your online event community thrive.
When they really dive in to an active online community, attendees are going to love it. Many attendees place a high value on the networking opportunities at live events, and an online event community offers networking to a much more advanced degree. In addition, attendees love to be able to research their sessions to determine their best itinerary. They’ll also enjoy downloading material in advance, participating in discussions and meeting up with people who share their interests.
In your event community, be sure to ask your attendees engaging questions such as:
- What problems do you hope the event will shed light on?
- What are you attending?
- What’s the one session that interests you the most and why?
Ask them anything that gets them talking. And realize, not everyone will talk.
You might create a team of social media champions who are already active online and at the peer level with other attendees. Sometimes conversations are better started at this level and attendees feel less like you are trying to force them to engage online.
One thing you can give attendees to make them feel special (and to promote your event) is an online social conference badge. Which is merely a banner ad promoting your event. This badge can say something like, “I’m attending XYZ. Are You?”
For more tips on getting attendees involved,
check out 5 ways to Make Your Members Feel at Home in Your Online Community.
Here’s an example from the Theater industry: TCG National Chicago.
Here, over 65% of the total face-to-face attendance (748 attendees) participated online using a Conference 2.0™ event community:
Sponsors and Exhibitors
Sponsors and exhibitors attend events for one main reason: to make connections that will lead to business. At live events, they frequently take a back seat in the industry discussions because they frequently spend more time in the exhibit hall than in the sessions.
When a sponsor or exhibitor gets involved in an online event community, they can really create relationships and participate in the education. Vendors can bring a high level of expertise to your event community.
They keep up with industry trends, know the hot topics and can provide meaningful insight into active discussions. They can also provide valuable tools to attendees by sharing information about their products and services that allows potential clients to research their options before the live event. For them, social media and online networking is a great way to build brand and start the relationship process online before the face-to-face interactions occur.
Sponsors and exhibitors may be a factor in helping your online community stay active after the live event as they continue to engage online to stay connected to their contacts after the event.
In addition, the companies themselves can use social media to help promote your event and online community to the rest of their contacts. Like your presenters, ask your sponsors and exhibitors to blog about issues relevant to solving attendee problems. Ask them to inform their following about your event, but remind them a good content marketing strategy goes miles further than trying to “sell” to their audience.
The best way to prepare sponsors and exhibitors for your online event community is to help them understand the community guidelines before they get involved. Check out the Dos and Don’ts of Participating in an Online Event Community as a guide for your sponsors and exhibitors, as well as other attendees.
Be sure to take care of this group as they a major source of revenue for your event and can bring a strong, positive experience in the online community while providing the solutions attendees are looking for.