After our collective experience of the past two years, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of connection. And this is ringing true right across the business events sector.
A developing industry shift is the creation of actively engaged communities and networks before, during, and after an actual event.
Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau (DACB)’s Karen Tocher looks at the rise of the Community Manager in the business events sector and explores why the role can be pivotal in delivering a meaningful, purpose driven, impactful and long-lasting business event outcome experience with local and global communities benefitting. And how DACB can support business events in the role of community manager.
The value of building a community
As we come out of the pandemic, the appetite for connectivity and community is stronger than ever, which presents a significant opportunity for the conference and meetings sector. We all need to work together starting conversations and discussions which will help transform our communities and support areas such as community wealth building and future building.
Google search ‘community’, and one of the most common definitions is ‘people who are considered a unit because of their common interests or social group.’ And, as part of their business strategy, a conference or event should not only connect with but also nurture such communities with a common purpose.
According to the Business Visits & Events Partnership (BVEP) Shape of Events 2021 report, today’s event delegates increasingly prioritise ‘experience, authenticity, and participation.’ The report also highlights the importance of forging authentic connections with people by moving from ‘inform’ to ‘involve.’
Providing your delegates, members and stakeholders with an accessible community to actively be a part of discussions means significantly added value to an event that also adds up to good business sense. And this should not just be limited to the business event but all year round.
The role of the Community Manager
Whether it is event organiser driven, or a separate function, the community manager role should work to build and maintain an active and thriving network of communities around a given event.
Ultimately, the aim of the Community Manager is to bring people together across a range of platforms to develop meaningful connections and a common purpose that are participative, mutually beneficial and add value to discussions and outcomes. They do this by:
As a ‘liaison’ or 'facilitator' between an event and its audience, a Community Manager works to build long-term relationships that not only enhance the value of the content and discussions, but also supports its responsiveness.
The role should be well-connected and have access to an active network of experts, businesses and communities. Think ‘business event matchmaker’!
For Community Managers looking for local community or specific contacts, agencies such as DACB can also help make the right connections.
Communication is a two-way street. Directly connecting with your audience in a positive and consistent way builds trust within your business event communities and, ultimately, increases audience engagement and participation.
But this engagement also needs to be authentic. A Community Manager should listen to the dialogue and act on feedback so that delegates and stakeholders feel part of the process. Increasing engagement can also be organic, with your event communities naturally participating in the success of your business event by sharing knowledge and promoting it via their own platforms. And come the event itself, your communities are more likely to actively participate, as they are already ‘bought into’ the day.
Increased engagement should also mean a more meaningful relationship beyond the event itself, providing invaluable opportunities for feedback, gaining and sharing knowledge and improving the overall business event experience.
Finally, creating communities around your business events must be a long-term strategy if the momentum of community engagement is to be maintained.
By continuing to connect with an event’s audiences and stakeholders meaningfully, a Community Manager can also move these communities to a more active role. Using social networks and digital platforms, this can include mini-events, content sharing, post-event surveys and private discussion groups.
This pre and post-event community engagement can be particularly effective as a bridge between your business events when you need to maintain interest and ensure that your strategy continues to hit the mark.
More than just a trend
While community engagement is not a new strategy for the business event sector, the pandemic has brought it into sharp focus by highlighting the added value of positive and supportive connections and the opportunity to find a common purpose that works to support both wealth and future building for our communities.
Adopting the principles of the community model or engaging a Community Manager to drive the strategy forward can and will reap rewards for your business event, your team, your stakeholders and members. Ultimately, that means increased engagement, raised awareness, delegate loyalty, authentic knowledge transfer, wider global reach, and long-term participation.
And, with an endgame to grow vibrant, active, and committed communities around your business event and its brand working together to transform the future, this is definitely not an industry ‘trend’ – it’s both a foundation and a pillar for sustainability.