Some of the most memorable events are fondly remembered not for the scheduled activities, but instead for the people that show up. Having guests feel like they’re part of a group goes a long way. A sense of community might be just the thing that convinces attendees to come back again and again.
Let’s get started on our top six tips
Display live social conversations
Have you ever seen one of those screens that shows people’s posts on social media in real time? The one thing you do have to prepare on your end is a hashtag, so that the program can pull together all the content people are posting using that hashtag. Let attendees know what the hashtag is, and encourage them to get sharing on their social media channels. Display the screen in a place lots of people will walk by so that everyone knows it’s there. Don’t forget to include instructions for how they can be featured on the screen!
Keep it fairly small
We think under 100 people is the magic number. Sure, some people will tell you that bigger is always better, but they’d be wrong. Really big events with thousands and thousands of people are often incredibly overwhelming. It can also be hard to get to know people, because everybody is busy running around trying to meet as many contacts as possible. On top of that, you really are just one little person in the big crowd there.
Use your contacts — and their contacts, too!
You’re probably just a few people away from getting in touch with just the right people to come to your event. Take advantage of your contacts, and see if they’d be willing to invite people from their contact list too. Even if you don’t know them, you’ll already have at least something in common (both knowing the same person). It’s also a great way to get to know more people involved in similar activities and with similar interests and goals. If the aim of your event is to get networking done, then this is even more reason to get networking beforehand!
Communicate with your guests after the event is over
Sending your guests a follow-up thank you message after the event is a common courtesy. It can also be a good way to foster a sense of community, as you can take the opportunity to help people stay in touch after the event. You could do things like offer a list of everybody’s contacts on LinkedIn so that people can connect there. Maybe you have the information from the event registration and can compile the list yourself. You could also create a spreadsheet in Google Docs and have people add their own information.
Call all speakers and guests by name
Calling people Mr., Ms. or Mrs. Smith can create a very formal feeling. Instead, call people by their actual names, and make an effort to remember them, too. It helps people feel like they matter, and that’s a key step to creating a real community. It can be a bit tough to remember everybody’s names, so consider having name tags on hand to make things easier. You can also use some tips from Forbes magazine to get better at remembering names.
Invite people to participate
A big element of making people feel like they belong to a community is feeling like their opinions are valued. Encourage people to participate and make their voices heard. If your event guests know their is a space where their thoughts and input are welcome, they’re much more likely to get involved. Once people get involved personally, they’re more likely to feel like they’re part of the community and a valued member.