Events are a powerful and visible manifestation of a community. But combining physical, virtual or hybrid events with online community is something that most organisations could improve upon.

This best practice guide highlights how event organisers and community managers should plan and work together to add value to both events and the communities connected to them.

1. Getting events <> community aligned

Event organisers are seeking ways to have year round engagement with their audiences and event communities.

Community managers are used to having in-person events as part of their offering but have had to embrace virtual and hybrid events, including new technology and platforms.

Clearly event organisers and community managers should be working closely together to deliver a joined up experience where the community adds value to the events which in turn help improve community engagement.

But in practice we know this alignment is often missing because of differing priorities, skillsets, tech, processes, timelines, incentives etc.

So how can we prevent event organisers and community managers working in isolation when they should be joined up?

We want to begin with sharing best practice as this interdisciplinary capability emerges and matures. In time we will evolve playbooks and models that are proven to work for different kinds of events and communities.

2. Before the event

2.1 Use your community for event programming

There are lots of ways you can tap into your community's collective expertise and contacts to improve the content of your event:

  • 'Call for papers' - ask your community if they'd like to pitch ideas to speak
  • Speaker recommendations - ask your community for help in recommending speakers they've seen or would like to hear from - this can also help create much more inclusivity and a diverse range of event speakers
  • Hot topic polls - use polls to get feedback from your community on what topics are most important to them and use those insights to shape your agenda
  • Analyse your community conversations - the conversations your community is having are hugely valuable in revealing what topics people care most about, what challenges and opportunities are in their minds. You can use text and sentiment analysis tools to uncover popular and trending themes to drive your event content.
  • Community as content at the event - you can even create a content slot at your event which comes directly out of the community e.g. community meetup hour, "ask me anything" session with the community host/leaders, analysis of the most popular questions in the community, community awards for the most valued contributors etc.  
Pro tip: if your community feels it has helped shape the content of your event(s) then they are more likely to register and actually attend. There will be a stronger emotional connection and sense of participation.

2.2 Promote your event via your community

Clearly your community gives you lots of opportunities to promote your event(s) including:

  • List your events with add to calendar - you'll likely use some dedicated event tech for the event itself but you should obviously list your event and promote it within your community, ideally with 'add to calendar' functionality.
  • Build anticipation and excitement in the event run up - your event marketing should include ways to get your community excited about the forthcoming event e.g. keynote speaker announcements, influential attendees coming, sneak previews, "behind the scenes" videos, images and insights, PR coverage, countdowns to the event, sold out status etc.
  • Community specials - consider special offers for the community e.g. discounts, VIP passes, bonus content, speaker / backstage access, community area/meetup at the event, special badges/lanyards for community members etc.
  • Community as event evangelists -  if you have a tight-knit community who naturally act as ambassadors, you could call upon community members to help promote the event with social media amplification and sharing. If there is less natural goodwill in your community then you can still incentivise these behaviours in return for community specials (see previous point).

Event details with 'add to calendar' on Guild

Pro tip: delegates are more likely to remember and turn up to your event if it is in their calendar. It's important that any tech you use supports 'Add to calendar' functionality across multiple calendar types.  

2.3 Add value to sponsors in your community

If you have event sponsors then you should consider ways that your community can add value for them, including:

  • Sponsor mentions - just as you would thank your sponsors at the event itself, you can call them out in your community to give them additional awareness building and profile raising. For example, you can include links to relevant content they have.
  • Community co-branding - you can add graphical sponsor branding to your community, even if temporary, just as you would at a physical event or online.  
  • Community participation - you may not usually allow sell-side sponsors into your community but for key event partners you might allow a select number in, if properly vetted and quality controlled. They could participate in conversations with delegates, gain market insight and deliver thought leadership with valuable community contributions themselves.

The Good Growth Conference community is hosted on Guild by the event sponsor / partner Tata Consultancy Services (TCS)

3. During the event

As events are so time-bound and intense, the community aspect can get forgotten whilst the event is on. But this is a missed opportunity for mutual cross-promotion including:

  • Promoting your community at the event - this seems obvious but is often forgotten. You should promote your community at the beginning, middle, and end of your event to get delegates to join or revisit. Remind them of the benefits and what they miss out if they don't join your community or participate. You should point out that community members also get a better event experience and continue to get value from the event, long after it is over.
  • Have a call to action / button to join your community - if your event is online, or hybrid, then make sure there is a button / link that is prominent which links to a page selling the benefits of joining your community. Most event tech platforms allow for these CTAs (calls to action) to be added to the interface. You should see your event as a way to capture value beyond the event in the form of community members.  
  • Cross-link live from event chat to community conversations - your event tech platform will have a chat section that is used for more operational and ephemeral chat that is usually lost once the event ends. But you can post links in this event chat to relevant threads on your community platform for delegates to continue the conversation and capture the knowledge shared in a permanent way that adds value to the community.
  • Create event FOMO in non-attending community members - at Guild we believe events are just one manifestation of the underlying community that is always on. We typically advise against creating standalone event communities - rather it is better for all community members to be able to see the chat and excitement caused by an event as part of the wider community and wish they were there to be part of it. You can post updates, photos, testimonials, screenshots etc live as the event is happening just like you would to social media.
  • Give your event sponsors extra value - for example, you can post a message to your community immediately following a sponsor's presentation at your event to say thanks, noting how well it was received,  attaching a PDF of the deck and providing links to related content (white paper, webinar etc) from that sponsor. These can then be seen by all community members, in perpetuity, giving your sponsor further awareness and lead generation opportunities.
Cross link from your event chat to your online community and vice versa


Pro tip: get speakers into your community before the event to build the anticipation but also so that they can immediately answer follow up questions following their session and make their deck available exclusively to community members seconds after they finish talking.  

Live interaction between event tech and Guild community platform

4. After the event

Once an event is over, event organisers are usually immediately busy planning the next one. But there are lots of opportunities to extend the value of the event using community:

  • Continue the conversations - in the previous section we discussed how more live interaction between the live event and the community is possible. But immediately following the event you should harness the excitement and energy of the event to continue conversations within the community e.g. surface anything that got a lot of interest at the event or was a hotly debated topic.
  • Continue the networking - a big part of the value of events is the networking. This networking value typically ends once the event is over but you can continue the networking in your community with follow up introductions and connections.
Pro tip: particularly if you are in B2B, make sure your community platform has rich enough professional profiles that members can search not just on name but job title and organisation so they can find and connect with other delegates post event. Most event tech platforms have very limited profiles which is not great for networking and the connections are lost as soon as the event ends.    
  • More value-add for sponsors - again, as per previous sections, you can call attention to your sponsors by thanking them in your community for supporting the event. You can go further by posting links to relevant follow up content they're keen to promote, or even related events of theirs that you may be happy to promote if they don't conflict with your own events. You can really add value by making individual introductions to prospects if you feel that is appropriate.
  • Ask for feedback to improve the next event - this is a standard thing for event organisers to do, but they may forget to ask the wider community. Some will have attended but you also want to hear from those in the community who did not attend, as they may give insightful feedback to you as to why not (time of day, location, format, cost etc).  
  • Post event assets to the community - most events have a wrap video that you can post to your community as a memory for those who attended and a "here's what you missed, you should come next time" for those who did not. You may also choose to post the presentations, videos of the sessions etc. Or you might post summary versions with links to the full versions behind a subscription / membership paywall.
  • Call out individuals from the event - use your community as a platform to acknowledge the contributions of particular individuals to your event. These might be speakers, sponsors, key influencers, journalists, members of the event team etc. This personal touch is a powerful way to build the emotional and human connection with an event brand.
Pro tip: make sure your community platform supports @ mentions so you can call out specific individuals. This is a powerful way to get their engagement and draw attention to them in the community - like inviting them on stage or citing them in a speech at your event.    
  • Maximize archival value from the event to the community - just because your event is over does not mean it no longer has value. Far from it!
    At the very least there should be a way for community members to see not only what events you have coming up but what events happened in the past. This is particularly important for new community members who will be able to see the value you have delivered in the events archive. And if you link to the events' assets they can even 'relive' the event retrospectively (possible as a paid membership benefit).
Extend the value of the event by continuing the conversations and networking

Link to event assets post event so community members get archival value

5. Examples and case studies

Here are just a few organisations using Guild to run communities to support their events:

We're here to help

It is super easy to get a community up and running on Guild to support your event - see Getting started on Guild: going live with your first group .

But don't be afraid to get in contact as we'd love to help and make your event/community an even greater success!

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