The nature of the events industry is founded on in-person communication. Getting people from all over to come together and have meaningful conversations about a certain topic. In fact, this is one of the primary motivations for millennials to attend events in the first place.
An Eventbrite survey revealed that 80% of millennials said that attending live events makes them feel more connected to other people, the community, and the world. More than just chatter, they come to these events seeking meaningful connections with others.
However, most events tend to put a focus on networking. They set up networking breaks over coffee and cocktail mixers post-event, and all this does is get groups of people to stand awkwardly around empty tables waiting to get asked what they do.
Moreover, networking is transactional in nature. It’s about what one can do for another, not about forging good experiences and lasting relationships. While networking is important, it isn’t exactly the experience that your audience is looking for.
Event organizers need to focus on community building—creating an environment where people can openly converse with one another and, hopefully, stay in touch with each other even after the event has come to an end. In communities, attendees focus on their own value and how they can be of help to others. Communities are inclusive and mutually beneficial and result in happy, satisfied attendees.
The best way to do this is by changing your mindset of a successful event, setting up community-building activities, and a number of other steps that will be discussed below.
How to build a community through your events
#1 Change your mindset of a successful event
If you’re coming from a traditional event organizing background, you probably already have all these preconceptions of a successful event. Trendy speakers talking about the latest and greatest; lots of meetings held and business cards exchanged.
However, building a community isn’t just trends or numbers. Sure, you might have gotten the hottest speakers of the moment, but is what they’re talking about something of real interest to your audience? And maybe there are tons of meetings going on under your watch, but how many of these are real, meaningful conversations?
A successful event is one that engages the audience. And in order to do that, you need to put your audience first. What do they care about? Who do they want to connect with? And how can you get them to connect with each other?
#2 Organize community-building activities
How do people meet each other? Sometimes they meet through coffee, dinner, or even a weekly game night at the local bar. The one thing these scenarios all have in common is some sort of activity. While organic conversations are possible, there is no better social lubricant than fun, community-building activities for people to bond over!
And no, networking is not a fun activity, so do away with the networking hours and roundtables. You need activities that facilitate conversations that are natural and meaningful.
Toasty is a live platform that helps people ask each other the right questions. You can use it on the spot whenever you feel like the room is stiff and you need people to start conversing with each other. Just go on Toasty, group your audience in any size or combination, and deliver the right icebreaker questions that will keep them talking for hours.
The great thing about using a platform like Toasty is that you can give your audience direction without needing to physically host or intervene in their conversations. Attendees can simply follow the instructions, meet with their group, and ask the questions that are set for them on the app.
#3 Involve your audience in your next event
When you’re building an event for your audience, you need to be able to hear from them as well. Get their opinions on the program structure, event topics, and social activities that they want to do at the next event.
Not only will this make your next event better, but it will also make event organizing a collaborative experience. Your attendees aren’t just spectators, they are co-organizers in a way. And that will make them much more attuned to and invested in your event.
In terms of how you can get them to be collaborators, you can crowdsource in a number of different ways. You can do it manually by talking to a number of attendees after your event and asking them how you can improve the next one, but that tends to be tedious and arbitrary. You can also ask them to send in feedback forms after the event, but attendees don’t usually pay much attention to these.
The best way to crowdsource is through technology. The Toasty app allows you to collect feedback from your audience in a fun and interactive way. Through Toasty, you’ll also be able to discover more about your audience through data analytics. You’ll see the questions they found most engaging and the topics that they were most passionate about. This data can be useful in building your next event.
#4 Stay connected after/outside the event
The cool thing about communities is that they stay in touch even after the event is over. To keep your attendees collaborating outside of the event space, you need to find mutual spaces where they can easily connect. In other words, take the conversation online.
Set up a private or secret group on Facebook or LinkedIn and allow members to post, comment, and share freely. This gives them a safe space to converse without feeling exposed, which is especially helpful for introverts who might find it easier to chat via a messenger app versus in real life.
Of course, the online community will not happen overnight. You’ll need to nurture it by regularly communicating and engaging with your audience. This could be in the form of sharing funny memes, posing engaging questions, or posting whatever sort of content that’s relevant to your group. This is going to spark engagement and keep your audience excited about checking the group.
Sooner or later, you’ll be able to tap the online group to host small meetings and events, or you can sit back, relax, and watch as they begin to meet up themselves.
#5 Be a connector yourself
Community is all about what you can offer to others, and as the event organizer, there’s no better contribution you can offer than a connection.
Actively get to know your attendees, introduce them to the others, and facilitate discussions between them. Get a feel for the more outgoing and extroverted bunches and help them make friends with the quieter and more reserved ones. This will bring a spirit of inclusivity in your events and help build a sense of community and camaraderie.
After all, in order to build a community, you need to be a part of it.
The power of a community
Building a community is no easy task, but it’s very rewarding for event organizers. By fostering a community, you create an excited, engaged, and collaborative audience. You’re more likely to have successful events because former attendees are more likely to attend the next one. And you’re giving attendees the human connections they seek when going to these events.
If you’re looking to build a community, Toasty can help you do just that. Toasty is a platform that helps bring people together through fun, interactive games.