The moment an attendee becomes part of your event community is priceless. Their support is what makes growing your event possible. And the better you can facilitate that relationship, the more successful your event will be.

So how can you tap into your attendee networksto build a thriving, self-sustainable event community? To find out, we asked expert Claire Wasserman, founder of Ladies Get Paid — an organization helping women navigate gender power dynamics in the workplace.

Here are Wasserman’s top three tips for building your community event strategy.

1. Zero in on the “why” of your community event

Attendees only become part of your community when they feel a sense of belonging. To ignite that fire, you need to emphasize why your event exists in the first place — and then build everything else, from your strategy to your promotions and event brand, on that foundation.

Discover the “why” of your event and community with these questions:

  • Why are you hosting this event? Why does it need to exist?
  • Who is this event for? Why should they attend?
  • How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to learn?
  • What will be your call to action post-event? What will be the takeaways?

For example, maybe you’re a nonprofit trying to rally passionate people around an important cause. Or perhaps you’re a brand gathering industry thought leaders who will show professionals the way forward. Asking why at every turn will push you to be specific as possible.

2. Create an experience that aligns with your “why”

Once you’ve exhausted all possibilities and defined your event’s purpose, consider how you’ll create an event experience that aligns with it — starting with your event format. How you structure attendees’ time at your event can work for or against your efforts to build a community.

For example, take the traditional conference format. The audience is seated in chairs, while a thought leader speaks to them. This might feel like the best way to connect your community with the content that inspires them, but the lack of participation can leave attendees feeling isolated.

Instead, try to provide your community with opportunities for engagement, such as:

  • Encouraging audience participation with hand raising during a session
  • Disrupting attendee expectations in a good way with an unexpected room lay out
  • Grabbing attendees’ attention by starting a session off with group exercises
  • Architect moments of peer-to-peer learning throughout the day

Tip: You can also opt in for something more experiential, like a pop-up experience within your event. Don’t have the budget for something like this? Offer it to sponsors as an activation!

3. Find the right talent for your community event

The people you hire to speak or perform at your event also play an important role in your event community strategy. You want to assemble a diverse array of perspectives and backgrounds that will help you offer a rewarding experience and grow a sense of belonging.

To find speakers and talent that align to your purpose, use these three tactics:

  • Tap into your network. Think about the most inspiring, connected people you know and ask them for help. Be clear about what kinds of perspectives you’re looking for in your ask. It also helps to provide a few sentences that outline your purpose and mission.
  • Look for lists. Start is by looking at speakers who’ve participated in other events and conferences, as well as lists that celebrate highly accomplished professionals.
  • Join groups. LinkedIn and Facebook groups have proven invaluable in Ladies Get Paid’s search for speakers. Become a regular contributor, so that when it comes time to promote your events, you have a built-in network of people who will be interested!

Tip: Make sure you don’t end up with too many recommendations from your network by asking people to make suggestions, rather than connecting you outright.

Keep your event community engaged for years to come

Building a community of engaged event-goers is just the beginning. Discover how to keep things going and growing from Wasserman and her team in Better Together: How to Build (and Maintain) a Strong, Thriving Event Community.

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