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Fostering community within events

Adapted from my presentation for the 2022 Event Experience Summit at Bizzabo

The one unchanged aspect of community throughout this Pandemic Era and dare I say, into the future, are the necessity for events of all flavors. In person, digital, body doubling sessions, coworking, and more. In preparing for events large or small, with many hosts or with just a few, adding instances where members can connect and engage with the actual content of the event is ideal. Through immediately engaging within the event, more aspects of it are cemented into their memories. Memorability allows for return members, increased purchases / downloads / etc, higher satisfaction and all those goodies. The below are just three primary areas I’ve honed in on that are the lowest hanging fruit to add into your events which can have people coming back for more!

Collective Whiteboarding is great for town halls, AMAs, IRL events, and even planning

Screenshot of collective whiteboarding
Great POV of a digital whiteboard as prework [Miro, Mural, Whimsical, etc]

They can be executed digitally or in person. It’s a wonderful way to engage event attendees prior to an event by getting them in the zone for interactivity. It’s a way to ensure inclusivity of ideas, thoughts & opinions by opening up a low pressure, yet potentially ritualized space. Even if people have a time conflict with the event, they can still be heard by affirming access to the boarding space by way of the pre work or in a form prior to meeting IRL. Naturally, this allows for anonymous contributions which can be especially accommodating for smaller, higher touch gatherings where no one wants to be singled out.

  • For IRL events, ask attendees to sign in + add a post it to a brainstorm wall

  • Consider pulling 2-3 post its from the wall to have as a starting point for the sharing

Rituals for the likes of flagship events, chapter events, info sessions

Rituals are excellent for fostering active participation, inclusivity, familiarity, psychological safety and much more. Rituals can be as long or short, in depth or as shallow as is preferred - as long as they’re recurring! They especially allow your organization to have a shtick! Something that people can attribute solely to you / your organization that acts almost as a pillar that they can hold on to. Where, in the often tumultuous elements, waves, and gales that stir the pot of any community, a pillar is just what many need to reorient themselves and catch their breath.

An example can be, when starting each global chapter event, attendees get into their power stances to one particular song - followed by introducing themselves to someone new. This can be done in person with the people around them, or in virtual breakout rooms with cameras on. Find more of my ritual examples here.

Screenshot of my rituals notion page

Interactivity as a general collective overview for all event types

Interactivity, beyond the glaringly obvious, provides a chance for attendees to focus back in to the event with a prompt. Within even a 10 minute window, attendees can begin to drift their attention in and out when interactivity isn’t sufficiently placed throughout the events’ more verbose moments. Interactive promptings can provide a few moments of respite if the content is data, jargon, or text heavy [depending on the format of the event, clearly].

Never forget, any opportunity for attendee involvement = BIG WIN!!

Poll responses showing where people were joining presentation from
Real responses from a poll in a presentation in 2022

Ways include this sort of thinking are like QR codes that redirect to a poll or a word cloud, having a jar passed around the room to collect real time responses to queries, or even mid event Q&A to break the veil between audience and presenter. There are countless ways to think outside the box with the goal of increasing audience engagement within the event.

Adding intentional chances for a plethora of ways for members or audiences to connect with each other [hello! community within events] are an excellent way to be extraordinary, inclusive, and memorable.

Final slide from deck with takeaways


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