Social Conference Strategy Without Human Engagement = Fail or Why Conference Organizers Need To Think Like Community Managers
Canned speeches and passive audiences are out! Conference attendees have reached keynote fatigue.
If you plan a conference:
- Where the presenters read their presentations, you can expect a major audience revolt.
- Where the keynote presenter talks non-stop for 60 minutes with no audience engagement, you can expect an audience snooze-fest.
- Where an attendee can learn as much by studying the handout, you can expect death by PowerPoint.
- Where speakers are selected based strictly on their proposals without confirming that they have good presentation skills, you can expect attendee boredom and ho-hum reactions.
- Where attendees are forced into “track boxes” based on their demographics, you can expect a an angry crowd.
- With eight hours of butts in chairs and talking heads, you’re exacerbating AAD (attendee attention deficit).
- With the same old speakers, presenting the same old topics from last years’ conference, you’re encouraging attendees to check out and visit the host city’s attractions.
- Where speakers present outdated research and information with no relevancy to the attendees, you can expect a negative Twitter storm or blog post.
- That’s like a widget-making-machine expecting each attendee to walk in, receive inputs and leave with same outputs, everyone with the same answers, and no thought to each individual’s uniqueness, expectations and learning preferences, you can expect a train wreck.
It’s time for conference organizers to start thinking about their event strategy like a community manager. They should view their attendees as a community, a living, breathing organism that craves human connections, engagement, belonging and acceptance. Attendees are the conference’s tribe. It’s time to go back to relationship building where customers are known by name and more than a credit card number.
So what is a community manager? In the business world, a community manager represents the company and has the most consistent, deep relationships with the clients. Community managers create an environment that encourage an intended outcome. Chris Brogan says community managers are similar to good party hosts mixed with restaurant hosts. (Parties more personal and restaurants require them to think with a business mind.)
Why Conference Organizers Need To Think Like Community Managers
1. Community managers focus on helping their customers build better relationships with the business.
Conference organizers should focus on helping their attendees build better relationships with each other, the sponsors, the exhibitors, the subject matter experts and the conference organizers.
2. Community managers strive to engineer a new bedrock of the human shaped business, one built on relationships and engagement.
Conference organizers should strive to engineer a social conference built on fostering human connections, relationships and attendee engagement–not passive audiences listening to one-way monologues. (What percentage of your conference schedule do attendees sit in chairs passively listening versus actively engaged in discussions or activity?)
3. Community managers see their role as customer service blended with internal and external communication and sometimes sales.
Conference organizers should see their role as attendee service blended with internal and external communication, education and information sharing, and sometimes a conduit to sales.
4. Community managers enable members to have a voice, share their opinions, discuss their insights, ask their questions, and showcase their expertise.
Conference organizers should enable and encourage attendees to speak, talk, discuss, share, ask and showcase their opinions, insights, questions, voices, expertise.
5. Community managers use online tools that provide a structure and framework for member conversations.
Conference organizers should structure schedules with sessions like peer-to-peer roundtables and open source meetings that allow members to engage in conversations.
Conference organizers, it’s your job to see yourselves as more than logistic coordinators, room layout managers, food and beverage planners, coffee cup counters, signage placers, lodging directors, decor designers, foot traffic controllers, and speaker schedulers. See yourselves as relationship builders, connectors, communicators, conduits with your responsibility to immerse the attendees into a world of engagement and interactivity…the real reason attendees choose to come…and choose to return.
If this scares you. If you’re reading this and thinking of all the reasons it won’t work. Stop now. Find an easier battle to engage. Focus on guaranteed wins, the status quo, the safe path, what you’ve always done at your past conferences. It will continue to give you job security as long as your attendees are willing to pay for mediocrity.
But for the rest, why not us? Why not now? Why not here?
What other ways should conference organizers be like community managers? What do you think? Share them with us.