Guild’s "Professional Community Leaders" group met online to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing us as we head into 2021. The discussion generated a lot of ideas, particularly around how to combine virtual events with online community.  

These were the key themes and challenges that emerged from our session:

Better combining events with online community

All our communities were used to meeting in person pre-COVID. Virtual and hybrid events are now here to stay so how do we get better at combining online community with these events?

  • ‘Hybridisation’ of events and communities across digital and in-person is the new normal.
  • 'Community' teams and 'Event' teams need to be more connected to join up the experience and make the most of both.
  • 'Events' and 'Community' need to become a seamless experience for participants to the point that the difference between the two melts away.
  • If you link to a specific thread that is relevant to the event content being presented/discussed then you can drive 30%+ crossover engagement from event-to-community to 'continue the conversation'. Could work well for sponsors to answer questions and show thought leadership?
  • Event speakers and panellists can continue to answer questions in the online community immediately after their event session.
  • Events organisers can more proactively matchmake/introduce people in the online community after the event e.g. "you both attended the session on X so might want to connect to share learnings". Could do this for sponsors also if done carefully.
  • Need to better understand how to move between more informal/unstructured environment, like community conversations online, and more formal/structured content experiences like events whilst maintaining the human connections and 'story arc'.
  • Challenge of “Zoom fatigue” for virtual events. Live attendance rates dropping but on-demand viewing increasing. Opportunity to weave the community experience into this on-demand viewing also.

Improving engagement in the community

  • How to re-engage community members particularly now with digital fatigue? Flash communities as an antidote to shrinking attention?
  • How to break out of the "90-9-1 rule" to get active participation from more group members? Activelly call them out, @ mentions, mini-interviews with them, use events to re-kindle engagement etc.
  • Getting participation from the right people not just the same ones all the time? Smaller groups, leader groups, guest experts, AMAs (Ask Me Anythings), revolve the host role etc.
  • Building trust: more human connection (intros, events, profiles, informality, smaller groups etc.), privacy/consent, respect.

The business case and proposition for your community

  • Shift towards paid membership and subscription models with community part of the proposition.
  • How to define the value proposition of your community to make it worth paying for? What elements to include? What do members get? What do they actually value?
  • How to capture the value from community conversations and events? Need to distill and give back the expertise (but not just chat).  
  • Pricing... different models and packaging, monthly/annual/multi-year, individual vs group/corporate, enterprise vs low touch SaaS etc.

Community capabilities

  • People skills required: community leaders, community managers, still hard to find and often not core enough to the business/operations.
  • Getting the tech stack right: "all in one" vs "best of breed", buy vs build vs integrate, data integration challenges.

And finally...

Thanks to Lee Gimpel of Better Meetings for doing an excellent job hosting our session.

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