Planning an event that brings your community together offline can be daunting no matter what the size. What if nobody shows up? What if it’s boring? Who do I invite? We recently had our first bitly breakfast where we brought together community managers and digital strategists in the nyc area for a before work discussion on community building. We thought we’d share some of our event planning takeaways.
1. Collaborate with great people
It’s important to get help from the people you work with and the wider community. You should first communicate with your whole team to make sure everyone is on board with having an event and knows they are invited. Including your team will make it easier to execute the event well and will build a sense of community internally. If you have a panel, make sure that all the panelists offer a different perspective to share. Don’t be afraid to invite people that not everyone will know- it’ll make for an interesting conversation.
2. Communicate the purpose of the event clearly
Letting people know what to expect means you’ll get the right people through the door. Even if you aren’t certain about the exact details of the event- make sure what you write speaks to the audience you want to bring together. We targeted Community Managers and Digital Strategists for this event, and focused our discussion specifically on community engagement. Once you have all the details defined- send a follow up email or share the news on your social channels.
3. Send reminders beforehand
It’s easy to sign up for an event and forget about it. We’re all guilty of this, especially when it’s free. Remind people a week in advance and a few days before via email. If you have time you can even reach out directly to some of the invitees on twitter or via email and let them know you’re excited to meet them.
4. Manage your attendee list
Think carefully about the size of the event space and how many people you’d like to attend. Also think about whether you’d like to host a free or paid event. A free event will typically have a larger RSVP list, but you can anticipate only about half of your RSVPs to actually show up. Less people will RSVP if they have to pay, but those that do are more likely to come. You can use the money made to cover event expenses, or donate the earnings to a charity organization. We used Eventbrite to manage our event page and attendee list.
5. Give time to network
The personal connections you make at events can be even more valuable than the event itself. Attendees may have to arrive late or leave early, so make sure you give them time to network both before and after the main event. If attendees are shy at first it is your responsibility to begin conversation, bring people together, and make them feel comfortable.
6. Make attendees feel special
We wanted everyone to enjoy themselves at the bitly breakfast. To help, we provided a complimentary breakfast and coffee for all of our attendees, and sent them home with swag bags filled with Scout Books and Tattly’s. If you’re on a tight budget you can still offer your guests something small, like complimentary coffee or stickers.
7. Follow up
When the event is over ask attendees for feedback to learn how you can improve in the future. Send a thank you email to everyone for coming and include any useful resources or links that were discussed during the event. And like any event, be sure to follow up personally with the people you really hit it off with.
How are you bringing your community together offline? Any suggestions for planning multiple events internationally? What if it’s organized by community members? We’d love to hear all your tips.