When was the last time you scrolled social media or the news and saw the word ‘community’? We’re willing to bet it was within the last hour.
As big believers in the power of community, we’re loving the attention communities are getting. It seems everyone is busy building, joining, promoting or celebrating communities and it’s just what the world needs in the aftermath of the isolation and distance we’ve experienced over the past two years.
Conferences have always played an important role in community-building, especially among professional associations, and here we unpack how this has become more relevant than ever.
For many associations, in-person conferences used to be a keystone, annual touch point. But beyond a handful of folks making a conscious effort to stay in touch and perhaps a survey, post-event ‘engagement’ was virtually non-existent. If you were really savvy, you’d create an online forum for participants to “continue the conversation”, but this rarely worked to build and maintain a true sense of community.
Because community building is not something you “set and forget”. It requires leadership and stewardship, and most important of all, your members need a compelling reason to keep in touch.
-> Enter virtual
Who would’ve thought the very format we used to shun would not only bring us closer than we could’ve imagined, but has taught us to stay close.
It’s safe to say most of us have mastered and now consider virtual meetings to be the norm so that’s a big barrier removed. Sure, Zoom fatigue is real – but now it’s reserved for poorly designed online experiences.
As your members seek meaningful connections with others in their industry, it’s time for your association to show how much you’ve learnt through the pandemic about why and how your members will gather, how often, and where.
Interweaving in-person gatherings with regular, purposeful, virtual touchpoints will show your prowess in community-building and care for your members.
Our tips for simple but effective virtual community gatherings:
- Take the time to design a program, better yet a roster, that delivers value to your members
- Create a schedule to prime participants and set expectations
- Focus on quality over quantity in the r(Z)oom – smaller groups of members online will work much better for meaningful connections over vast numbers of anonymous black boxes
- Keep the infrastructure simple and lean in to familiar tools - Zoom, Google docs etc. will suffice
- Share ground rules in advance and at the start of the session so participants have plenty of warning and can opt in: e.g. mics on, cameras on, energy ON
Perhaps you’ve already built a community, but struggling to maintain it – or you’re in the early days of building a community of and for your members; whichever camp you fall into, a properly researched, designed and implemented calendar of online and offline events will go a long way to achieving those goals.