This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending EventCamp’s 2011 National Conference, located in Chicago at the fun and eclectic Catalyst Ranch. EventCamp is a barcamp-style conference designed for event professionals looking to integrate new media and technology into the events they are producing. Along with four keynote speakers, there were several crowd-sourced sessions, voted by the #ecnc community.

With so much knowledge, talent and experience contained in one building, it was hard to come up with this list—but I’ve managed to pare down my notes to 5 major takeaways from EventCamp. All of them relate to the important sentiment of connecting with and listening to your audience.

1. “People just want to belong.” –Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan). There are many ways this can be accomplished. You can facilitate connectivity by helping attendees find each other before your event with the help of Follow the conversations leading up to your event on Twitter. Listen to what people are saying, collaborate and share ideas.

2. “Don’t forget your virtual audience!” Glenn Thayer (@glennthayer) also recommended connecting with your attendees on Twitter so they can come directly to you with questions. Design an awesome virtual experience for your remote attendees by building a strong online community, listening to feedback about what type of experience your audience wants and setting up live viewing parties are all great ways of achieving this and will most often increase the amount of live attendees at your next event.

3. “Use your virtual platform before and after you go live.” Erica St. Angel (@ericastangel) doesn’t believe that your virtual platform should just be used for the event itself. Beforehand, present a snippet or teaser of a keynote speaker, or the top ways you can maximize your experience at the meeting. Afterwards, engage your audience to measure conference satisfaction and attendee engagement. Just because your event is over doesn’t mean it’s time to move onto the next big thing!

4. Create, incentivize and recognize participant immersion. Scott Klososky’s (@sklososky) intriguing Skype presentation (where the audience was exposed to a ‘skype mullet’—jacket and tie up top, boxers below!) focused on the future of event immersion. Find out which ways your attendees prefer to communicate and then facilitate the connections. People tend to innovate faster when hearing ideas from others; good ideas are contagious and events provide a great forum to accomplish this.  Then, reward and give incentives to people who accomplish certain tasks, such as giving a reduced registration fee to the people who complete the most.

5. Build a loyal community. Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) focused on the how-tos and the importance of building a devoted following. Make it about your audience by engaging them, asking questions (“How did you enjoy our event? What did you think of our blog? What would YOU like to see?”) and coming out from behind the curtain (website) to connect with people.

Looking back, I assumed that I’d be writing this blog post about new media in the event planning industry and how the latest technology could help event planning professionals create better events, and I very easily could have. But in this crazy age of ever-evolving technologies and must-have gadgets, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the reason we plan events: our audience. I think the one sentence that resonated with me the most from the entire weekend was from Liz Strauss: “do what you love in service to the people who love what you do.”

As Eventbrite’s new Chicago Event Evangelist, I’m excited to draw from the amazing experience I had this past weekend at EventCamp and apply it to my new role at Eventbrite. And for the latest on great Chicago-area events, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!