The rapid spread of coronavirus puts community events worldwide on a pause. Offline events worldwide are being cancelled, postponed or moved online.
The situation is no doubt a pressure to many community managers. Not only it is hectic to deal with the logistics of cancellation of events, but community builders are also forced to seek ways outside of offline events to retain community engagement for the next 3-4 months.
Community builders in Asia Pacific (APAC) took the hit 1.5 months earlier than the rest of the world. In the part of the world where people are not allowed to even leave home since February. How did APAC community builders keep their community active with virtual events in the past month?
The limitation of virtual events
While we are scratching our heads trying to virtualize our events, it’s important that we understand the limitation of virtual events. Only then we can organize virtual events that drive community growth.
☹️ Less control over people’s attention
Two screens and a couple of thousand of miles away are all it needs to take away your audiences’ focus. You can never tell if people are paying attention to your presentation or grocery shopping on the other tab.
☹️ One-way communication
Event host has little options to interact with the audiences in virtual events, partly due to the limitation of tools, partly due to only 1 person can talk at a time. The one-way communication makes events less engaging and fails to bond your community.
☹️ Little networking opportunities
One of the big appeals of offline events is the opportunity to meet and connect with new friends. It is difficult to coordinate networking in virtual events, simply because most virtual event tools are not designed for virtual networking sessions.
Adding social components to overcome drawbacks of virtual events
Fortunately, the cons of virtual events can be compensated with the addition of a social component. On one side, social components engage the audiences, giving you more control. On the other side, social components connect audiences with each other and thus grow and strengthen the community.
How event organizers in APAC added social components to virtual events?
👉 Before planning any virtual event, talk to your Community Opinion Leaders (COLs)
APAC community builders understand the power of opinion leaders.
Community Opinion Leaders are your moderators, facilitators, and members who genuinely contribute to the community. They are the people whose opinions are valued by other community members. Building a personal and trusting relationship is your gateway to keep your community together during the remote months.
Hosting a team building session with COLs is a chance to announce your plan for the next 2-4 months. It shows your respect for their contribution in the past and gives them guidance on how they can help you during the outbreak.
👉 Organize social media contest
In offline events, it’s intuitive for people to bring a couple of friends with them. In the digital world, everyone will be sitting in front of their own screens, so there is little snowballing effects.
Luckily, APAC event organizers are the experts in utilizing social media contests to kill two birds with one stone. Social media contests engage your audiences outside of your virtual events and create buzz around your community in the digital world.
Here are some ideas to get you started on social media contest:
- Repost to win: invite your potential audiences to reshare your event marketing post to win a prize.
- User-Generated Content (UGC) contest: invite your audiences to submit their thoughts/writing/drawing on a topic related to the theme of the event to win a prize.
- Live poll: Invite your community to vote on what sub-topics they’d like to learn/discuss at the virtual event.
- Tag a friend: invite your attendees to simply tag a friend in the comment section to participate in a lucky draw. The winner gets a prize.
👉 Implement networking sessions
One of the biggest appeals of attending offline events is to meet new friends that will lead to new opportunities. Virtual event hosts are having a hard time making such networking happen. Existing virtual event tools are designed to maximize the host-audience engagement, but not to maximize the audience-audience connection.
In physical events, people only connect in smaller groups, where they feel comfortable sharing their personal stories. In virtual events, only one person can talk at a time. How can we provide a space for personal connection over the internet during events?
Toasty is a tool designed to meet demand in virtual networking. If you have used Toasty in offline events before, you know it divides a large crowd into smaller groups based on the result of a live poll. The live-technology then prompts Conversation Cards or guides each group to play icebreaker games such as Who Said That.
👉 Start exclusive chat group for event attendees for a limited time
Almost all communities nowadays have online presence of some forms: Facebook group, Slack group, or forum built on online community platforms.
However, it’s still important to intentionally connect people who attended the same virtual event afterward. Here is a popular tactic used by APAC community builders:
- Create a private group chat/channel only for people who signed up the event during the event marketing phase
- Engage with these attendees before the event
- Remind people to attend the virtual event in the group
- Share any photo or document incurred during the event to the group
- Encourage conversations on the event topics after the event
- Dismiss the group within 1 week of the event
The private group provides a place for event attendees to connect with each other immediately after the event in a more natural setting. The time limit brings urgency to attend events and connect with each other after the event.
2020 is the year of virtual events
Like it or not, virtual events will take up the majority of the event scenes in 2020. It could be frustrating but it also gives community builders around the world an opportunity to adopt new tactics to engage the community.
Time to put these tactics in practice and keep your community engaged in the year of virtual events!