Here are three ways you can use your community to improve attendance and ensure a successful event:
1. Ask for ideas and help from community members during the planning stage.
Members will want to be involved. They’re truly an audience already interested in your message, so harness that interest by inviting them to be part of the planning committee.
Since the association’s online community is where they’re used to encountering each other, it’s the ideal venue for event planning committees to convene for the easy exchange of ideas and discussions, all in one central location.
Including members in event operations also will help your organization understand what they’re really hoping to get from the event, and you can optimize accordingly, taking their expressed interests into consideration as you book speakers and create activities for these special occasions.
2. Hype it up and get your members excited.
Get members excited in the preliminary planning stage, and they’ll be more likely to get enthusiastic about the event. Encourage their input in online conversations about the event – give them this arena to express their ideas and interests to you and each other. Discussions are the cornerstone of any successful community and the best place to gather information from your members about speakers or activities they’d like to see at a conference or event, building excitement even further. Having the “insider info” on the event – what sessions will be held and which keynote speakers will be in attendance – can help build anticipation for the event. Reinforce that anticipation with a countdown or intermittent teasers posted about event activities.
Be sure to regularly post reminders of the event activities members can look forward to, maintaining momentum so that interest doesn’t drop off. And don’t forget the power of social proofing: If it looks like everyone else is going, other individuals are more likely to go as well. If you consistently communicate excitement about and reminders of the upcoming event, members can’t help but feel anticipation for all they’re going to encounter, from the keynote speakers to the various breakout sessions, at the upcoming event.
3. Encourage online collaborators to meet in person.
They’ve been communicating in the online space and feel comfortable with each other. After working together in the digital space during the planning stage of an event, members will likely welcome the opportunity to meet each other in person and will take a proprietary interest in the success of the association event or conference.
It can help make the considerable undertaking of a major event seem a little like a cakewalk: The organization gets help planning and executing the event, and your members’ sense of their own value is heightened by their close involvement in the project. And the social momentum begun in this online endeavor is likely to manifest positively by making your event an even greater success than you may have thought possible – all with a little help from your members.