Today’s guest post comes from Jennifer Pitts, the Director of Marketing at Pathable. Pathable provides event apps, mobile conference apps and websites for trade shows, events and associations.
It’s no secret that people attend events to network and learn from experts in their industry or field. Events provide a unique opportunity that one might not otherwise have, to connect in-person with influencers and peers and build personal and business relationships with them.
However for some, networking can be overwhelming or even difficult depending on the size of the event, personality type or just finding the right people to connect with at the event. To help overcome these obstacles, event planners have begun creating online communities where participants can connect virtually before, during and after the event. Here are a few tips to building your online community so it improves networking and the overall event experience for attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers.
1. Get started early to maximise the success of the community. Launch your online community a few months before the event to give attendees time to get acquainted and begin networking virtually before the day of the event. This gives attendees plenty of time to find the right people so they aren’t struggling to find them during the actual event.
2. Be Involved. As the host of the event, be involved with the online community. If you don’t personally have time to participate in the community every day, then delegate this to someone on your team. At a minimum, welcome everyone to the community and give them a few tips to get started. Then your designated team member can manage the engagement going forward.
3. Recruit sponsors and exhibitors to join the community early to help drive engagement. This shouldn’t be difficult as they have already committed to your event and are there to network, build their brand and establish new business relationships with your attendees. Request that they fill out their profiles completely, upload collateral for attendees to review and start public discussions that draw the attendees in. Their focus shouldn’t be to sell, but to start meaningful conversations around their expertise or industry.
4. Leverage your speakers whenever possible. Many attendees are coming to your event to learn from the speakers. The online community is a great place for the speakers to share their content, start discussions around their speaking topic or even get input on what attendees really want to learn from their session before the event even starts.
5. Encourage personal meeting scheduling in advance of the event so attendees get the most out of the event while they there. The online community provides a platform for attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers to find the right people to connect with before stepping foot onsite at the event. Scheduling their meetings in advance ensures they are connecting with the most important people while at the event.
6. Entice attendees to participate in the community by doing something special for them at the event. Host a special gathering for those who filled out their profile entirely, enter community participants into a drawing for a giveaway, or work with sponsors to give away something for free.
7. Keep it going after the event is over. Don’t stop just because the event is over. Use the online community to continue conversations on hot topics, get feedback on ways to improve your event next year, and keep your audience engaged for the next event.
What is your favourite way to encourage networking at your events?