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How Online Community Platforms Keep Conferences Alive

Written by Joshua Paul | on May 5, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Are Organizations Without an Online  Community Platform Missing Big Opportunities When They Hold a Conference?

How do meeting planners, marketers, and association executives measure conference success - revenue, registrations, attendance? What about long-term member or customer engagement? Is your conference still successful if the thought-leadership, idea sharing, and conversations tapered off a few days after the conference and disappear almost completely after a week?

Conference engagement without an online community platform

Engaging Attendees at a Conference or Meeting

Typically, digital conference engagement activity flows like this:

Engagement Before the Conference

  • Email: Registrants receive emails from organizers and vendors.
  • Twitter: Registrants, organizers, and vendors excitedly tweet about anticipation and preparation. These messages are peppered with session or vendor promotions ("come to my session" or" visit my booth").

Engagement During the Conference

  • In-Person: Attendees participate in lots of personal networking and interactive sessions.
  • Twitter & Mobile Apps: Attendees create a flurry of activity on Twitter and the conference mobile app sharing ideas and connecting with one another.
  • Blogs: Some attendees live blog or blog daily about the conference and ideas they are hearing.

Engagement  After the Conference

  • Twitter: There is a big drop off in conference–related Twitter activity in the days following the end of the conference. Twitter activity gradually tapers off over the next week.
  • Email: Attendees receive thank you emails and evaluation surveys from organizers.
  • Blogs: Attendees with blogs write conference recaps, summaries of takeaways, and posts about trends and impressions. You'll usually see a flock of blog posts within a week of the conference, though only the most news-breaking and controversial posts receive many comments or spur additional blog posts.

One of the major reasons that organizations hold conferences is to use the momentum coming out of the conference to increase engagement in upcoming initiatives or in the overall organization. If the conversations among attendees die when the conference ends, where do the ideas go? Where is the momentum? Where is the community?

Attendees may have enjoyed the 2-3 days out of the office and brought great ideas back to their day-to-day business, but the organization that hosted the conference does not see a sustainable boost in engagement.

Example from ASAE's Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference

During the two-day conference, 303 people publicly tweeted 2946 conference-related messages. This comes out to roughly 10 messages per person or 5 conference-related tweets per day.

On the day after the conference ended, 43 people sent 63 conferences-related messages via Twitter. While organizations shouldn't expect to maintain the peak levels of engagement that they received during the conference, ASAE saw close to a 96% drop in digital conversations with the conference Twitter hashtag (#MMCCon). The low ratio of less than 1.5 messages per sender tells me that there were not two-way conversations occurring around the great ideas that attendees took away from the conference. In fact, these Twitter messages were mainly "had a great time" and "glad we connected at the show" messages.

Following the weekend after the Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference, conference-related Twitter volume dropped even further:

5 days after the conference: 5 tweets

6 days after the conference: 9 tweets

7 days after the conference: 6 tweets

An Online Community Platform Keeps Conference Attendees Highly Engaged After the Event

Do conversations around the ideas, issues, and content presented at a conference need to drop by 99.9% in the days after the exhibit hall goes dark? Organizations that effectively use their member engagement software know that conference activity, momentum, and revenue can extend far beyond the last day of the meeting.

Conference engagement when using an online community platform

How are organizations that have online communities keeping the momentum going? Here are some of the ways you can use an online community platform to keep members engaged long after your event:

  • Documents & Resources: Supplemental documents from sessions can be loaded into the resource library where attendees can download them and comment on them.
  • Social Media: Members and speakers can upload their own photos, video, and documents into the media library.
  • Discussion Forums: Organizers and attendees can start discussions in the online forums around sessions, blog commentary, and new programs launched at the conference. Groups can also be segmented by attendee-type to keep relevant content in front your community members.
  • Blog and Social Network Feeds: Attendees can read, comment on, and share aggregated information from related Twitter and RSS feeds.
  • Segmented Email: Targeted emails make attendees and other members of your community aware of the online discussions and resources.
  • Content Alerts: Personalized alerts keep attendees coming back to the community for relevant content and conversations.
  • Feedback: Poll and survey data can be collected and results can be shared.

Organizations that use the tools in their online community platform to extend the conversation are able to take the momentum that started with their conference and convert it into increased participation in their next meetings or initiatives.

Does discussion and idea sharing have to die with the end of the conference? Can the right online community platform help? How would your organization benefit by keeping members engaged for months after a conference? I welcome your thoughts in comments below.

Related Article: 10 Tips for Better Conferences Using Mobile and Online Communities

Topics: Member Engagement, Online Community

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