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The Event Planner’s Guide to Using Online Community for Your Annual Event

Written by Stephanie Cinque on July 24, 2018 at 8:20 AM

Event-Planning-Tips-with-Online-Community

Your annual event might be looming, or it might be a year away – wherever you are in the planning, it can feel like you’re stuck in a crazy-making cycle.

The good news is, if you have an online community, you’ve got access to a tool that puts you one step closer to making your job so much easier. Are you taking advantage of the support your online community can provide?  

We’re not saying you have to get best friend necklaces, although if you did, we would totally support it, but taking advantage of the event planning resources your online community offers won’t hurt. Planning your annual event can become hectic, and it would be a shame not to rely on the tools at your disposal. 

There are three components to any event and those are before, during, and after. Sounds easy enough, right? Managing an event within an online community is no different. Let’s dive in!

Before: Increase event registration.  

Your online community is a fantastic resource to encourage those who haven’t registered for the event to register sooner, rather than later. Let’s check out these four strategies:

Advertise your annual event.  

If you can use your online community platform’s CMS to advertise, you should definitely do this for your annual event. Advertising is a quick way for members to see what you want them to as soon as they enter the community. Additionally, when your ads are for internal promotion, such as your association’s annual event, these ads can seem less intrusive than those for external content.  

Use retargeting.

Retargeting is a simple practice that can increase the power of your promotion. It works by using web tracking data to personalize what ads members see. Ever gaze on your Amazon Prime wish list via Google, forgot you left your oven on in the kitchen, then get back, log into Facebook instead, and that Instant Pot pops up like, “Hey! Forgetting something?” Well, think of this as a similar approach.

For example, if a member visits your annual event page but doesn’t register, you can set it up so that they’ll see an ad for your annual event pop up on the homepage a few minutes later. This can help bring them back to the registration process, since they may have just forgotten that’s what they were doing.  

You can use marketing automation software to retarget your members, or you can use retargeting specific software. 

Use automation rules.  

Set up an automation rule to get members closer to registering. For example, you could set up an automation rule segmented by who has registered and who hasn’t, groups for those who haven’t completed registration, or groups where someone in their network has registered, and use those groups to send automated emails encouraging them to register.   

Set up security groups.  

With security groups, make the call to action for registration more specific by segmenting security groups. You can segment community members by certain characteristics when you use security groups. Once you’ve developed the groups, you can surface content on your online community and send customized messages to each group.  

For example, you may want to share content about the special student track at your event with all students in your organization. You can set up a security group that allows you to target only students.

Another handy trick is to segment people who are local to your event into a security group. Since they’ll probably be the only ones who can come at the last minute, you can program content to appear on the community focused on last-minute signups for your event.

More resources: 

During: Create more value for event attendees.  

You’ll need to make sure you’re balancing both event promotion and event satisfaction in your mind while planning for your event. You don’t want members to arrive at this event you’ve been talking up and feel that it wasn’t helpful, engaging, worth it…you name it. So how can you make sure members enjoy your event, when it rolls around? Try using your online community in these four ways to increase event satisfaction for attendees.  

Create a subcommunity for your event.  

Get attendees hyped about the event by creating a subcommunity for them within your online community. If your community is integrated with your AMS, creating this specific community can be a piece of cake. The community uses the data about whose registered and a subcommunity is automatically created. 

This exclusive area will help them feel part of the group that’s going, and you can help get the buzz going about what and who will be at your event. Also, this can add to your registration promotion as non-attendees see the discussion focusing on the highlights of the upcoming event.  

Expect that this subcommunity for your event will become one of your most active communities. Since you have 4-6 weeks of lead time, attendees have a chance to build an online community prior to the event that translates to community at the event itself. Sometimes even presenters get involved beforehand. You might see people even looking for roommates at the conference on your community!

Encourage attendees to get together. 

Your members are probably coming to your conference to learn, but they also want to make connections. You can help them get to this goal by creating a meet-up challenge or starting discussion threads about meeting up at the event.

The extroverted among your attendees may feel more comfortable meeting people at the event, but for the introverts, the event subcommunity with meet-up threads can help them get the most out of your event. 

Use the subcommunity to share fun engagement ideas, such as “update your profile so you can put a face to the name!” (Setting up an automation rule for registrants who have not updated their profile picture on the community can be especially useful for this.) 

Share event info in the community.  

You might have a web page specific to your event, but make sure you’re using your event subcommunity to post updates about the event.  

Get attendees excited about what they’re going to by sharing frequent updates or blog posts about sessions, keynote speakers, special perks, the venue, things to do in the area, etc. Again, this can also help boost registration when other members see what they’re missing.  

Seek real-time feedback.

One way to increase attendees’ satisfaction is to crowdsource ideas and potential speaker options in your event community, first. This way, attendees/members feel like they’re part of the decision. 

For example, finding a keynote speaker for your event can be difficult – you sink a lot of money into getting the speaker, and there’s no guarantee attendees will enjoy the speaker’s address. Use the polls features to gather votes for options that you’ve selected.  

More resources: 

After: Keep the event going. 

Remember that awesome trip you took last summer that you couldn’t stop posting or talking about for weeks afterwards? Attendees returning home usually feel a similar emotion. They’ll want to talk about what they learned and how great their experience was – and where better to discuss than in the online community? Continue the momentum by encouraging discussion and sharing resources in the event community.  

Share resources for attendees.  

Your event community can help you make sure attendees continue to find value in the event even after it’s over. They can discuss ideas with each other, ask for notes on sessions they couldn’t attend, and keep up the connections they made at your event.  

The event community can also reduce the amount of follow-up work you have to do after the event. You can guide members’ questions to the community, where you can upload presenters’ slide decks and other relevant information.

Tag your presenters and they may even be willing to run “ask me anything” sessions on the community, continuing the conversation from the event.  

Hear what attendees thought.  

As long as you’re prepared to hear the good and the bad, using your community to seek attendee feedback for next year can be very helpful. You could post a survey in the event community, start a discussion thread specifically for suggestions, or even get one of your super users to start the discussion in case members feel more open sharing when it’s not to you directly.  

Capitalize on FOMO. 

You can use FOMO, or the “fear of missing out,” to encourage registration for your future events. The buzz in your event subcommunity may do this naturally, but you can help this along by showing other members how much fun everyone had. No one wants to miss the best event of the year!

Try posting pictures from the event in the community, use a picture banner with “see you next year” as your community banner for every member, or post exclusive giveaways like “win a copy of the keynote speaker’s book if you share your top three takeaways from the event.” 

Assigning a special ribbon or badge through gamification to those that attended is also a great way to capitalize on the feeling of being left out to encourage members to go next year. 

Take advantage of online community’s support.

Your online community is a way for you to rely on the ideas of your members, and it’s a vital resource as you plan your annual event. Try these techniques on for size, and you may find that members are more likely to register, enjoy your event, and keep talking about it for weeks afterward. 

On second thought, maybe those best friend necklaces are a good idea. 

More resources: 

Looking for more tips? Join us on August 14 at 2 PM ET for a 15-minute webinar where three other associations will share how they're successfully leveraging online communities for their events. 

 SAVE MY SEAT

Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement, Associations, Member Engagement, Online Community

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