Bringing People Together with Events
Communities normally exist when people are united by a cause, want to celebrate a shared passion or to explore a particular theme or topic. But how do you go about bringing these people together? And how do you keep them connected?
Bringing people together can often be a challenge, especially when your group is spread out across the country, or even the world. Your community could be a group of investment bankers, web developers, animal welfare activists, young entrepreneurs or even urban farmers. Wherever there are shared interests, there is the potential to foster a community.
Creating an event where a community can regularly assemble could be the answer. In this guide, we share with you some ideas on how to bring people together and build lasting communities through events.
What are Convention Events?
A convention is normally an arranged meeting where a group of people gather in a venue to discuss or engage in conversation around a common interest. The most well- known conventions often explore or celebrate fandom. However, they can also refer to forums that mobilise members around a cause, provide support or information for people that are in the same profession or offer a place to share stories and explore new ideas.
Convention events offer many benefits for both the organiser and the community itself. Your motivations for starting a convention event can be wildly varied. It may be that you are a business trying to engage with a community or a passionate individual that wants to create something for likeminded people that doesn’t yet exist. Convention events could really help your community to grow, influence and thrive.
How can these events help your community grow
Growing a community can be tough, especially when members live in different locations and lead busy lives. Emails as well as Facebook and WhatsApp groups help to connect people digitally, but there really is no substitute for a physical meet up in the right environment.
Connecting with others that share similar passions, hobbies, professions or even problems can be incredibly empowering, motivating and is always useful.
Bringing business leaders or top industry minds together at an event can help organisations or corporate groups to grow through idea sharing and networking.
If you want your community to become a powerful agent of change around a particular cause or you want to connect important decision makers from different businesses or industries, getting together in the same room could be the first step.
Your role as the event organiser is to provide a space for healthy debate, knowledge sharing and judgement-free self-expression. If you can do this then your community will quickly attract other likeminded individuals or thinkers.
Put simply, if you want a community to grow organically, organise an event that brings people together. Meeting as a group will create a culture and atmosphere where individuals feel part of something bigger than themselves. Feeling included or invited can be extremely powerful. This is a great way to attract new members to your community – through word of mouth. If your community members feel valued they’ll naturally invite others to join too.
How your Attendees will Benefit from Coming to your Convention Event
It’s important that your convention event delivers for your community. Planning an engaging and valuable event for all attendees is your top priority. To help deliver this, it’s worth considering the different ways in which you can add value.
Convention events are a great opportunity to network or make genuine connections with influential or interesting people that share an interest. These types of event should allow time for networking – make sure you plan accordingly. You can also read our guide on how to encourage networking at events for more practical tips. Whether attendees are looking to find a creative partner to work with or a fellow enthusiast to share ideas with, make an environment where this can happen.
By helping establish these connections between your event attendees, you will help them feel more supported when they leave too.
Convention events need to inspire your attendees. Communities are often made up of different character types and you want to give them all a platform to shine. Your community will almost certainly have some enthusiastic and inspiring go-getters that will help motivate others.
Hearing about other people’s experiences can be very exciting if you’re feeling out of ideas. Connecting with successful achievers at an event is a sure-fire way to reignite your passion.
Get Insight, Skills & Ideas
As well as inspirational individuals, your community will also contain innovators and highly-skilled people. Being exposed to radical new ideas or approaches will help your attendees think differently about their area of interest.
They could learn new skills too. Training sessions hosted by experts are a great way for attendees to learn and put into practice new ideas and techniques. Organising a training event can be hugely beneficial for people that attend.
This cross pollination of ideas and skills is one of the main benefits of attending an event like this. Again, you should factor this into your event planning.
Influence the debate
A free-flowing debate can be very useful in tackling challenges faced or instigating change. It’s also a chance to contribute new ideas to the wider debate. These ideas can then evolve into exciting solutions that have a real life impact.
Give your attendees plenty of opportunity to explore and discuss topics with an idea-sharing platform. This could be an inclusive ‘round-table’ forum style conversation. A simple suggestion box can also work where submissions are discussed as a group. Individual ideas can shape a larger conversation and move an idea in interesting directions.
Celebrate the power of community
Meeting up with enthusiasts from complimentary areas can be a lot of fun too. Part of the power of community is spending time with other people that are similarly passionate. You can also open up the occasional event to the general public. Providing a safe space to celebrate your passion with others is a good idea.
Building a community tips
If you are trying to build a community there are a few practical things to consider. To start with, finding the right people to invite to your event can be challenge. Here’s some tips on how to attract the most relevant people and how to bring them together:
* Use LinkedIn hashtags to find other users that have expressed an interest in your area. For example, searching for the term #urbanfarming will show you every post that relates to that term. You can then see who posted it and who liked/shared it. Follow and direct message them to build a connection.
* The same technique can be applied to Twitter hashtags too. Create lists of people that are tweeting, engaging with or sharing relevant content. Once you have created your list you can then contact them directly about joining a community.
* Searching for relevant Facebook groups/pages will help you to find the right groups that already exist. Join this group and start contributing to the conversation. They might already run events.
* Carry out a Google search using relevant terms to search for groups or organisations. Include a location qualifier in your search to identify who is near you. An example could be ‘South London urban farmers’.
* Once you have found people that want to join your community set up a group email. Mailchimp is a great platform for sending emails to small groups of people. You can also use Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack or Basecamp to communicate. Being able to talk to your community is vitally important in organising get-togethers.
Image via Flick – Mennonite Church USA
How can I make my Event Stand Out?
There are many conventions, business forum events, conferences and other community events that happen in the UK each year. If you plan to create your own event, first ask yourself two questions:
Does a similar event already exist? (if it does, try and partner up with the organisers)
What should I include in my event to make it useful to the attendees?
Creating your own unique event involves considering what will provide the most value for your community. Once you have identified what they would find valuable you can plan accordingly. Here are a few things that you could include in your event:
* Find a keynote speaker that has interesting ideas about your topic. Hire them to speak at your event.
* Set aside time for debates in small and large groups. Provide conversation starters to get things started. A suggestion box is another great way to instigate a discussion.
* An open mic session based on a common theme. This encourages people to share their experiences publicly.
* Panels of experts answering audience questions.
* Group challenges. Set the group a task. This could be building a new model or coming up with a solution to an emerging challenge.
* Ideas share. Several people present new things that they have learnt. This could then spark discussion.
* Interview an expert on stage – all you need is some comfy chairs, a stage and a microphone.
* A Screening. Show a relevant film / show / presentation – read our guide to organising film screenings
* Taster Session. Workshops where attendees can learn new skills and practice them with the help of instructors.
* Live video sessions. Connect with experts all over the world to discuss a topic via video streaming. Projecting your live video on to a screen at your event will connect your attendees to a virtual bank of knowledge.
* Networking and socialising sessions
* Problem solving sessions in which your attendees try to solve a theoretical question that is closely linked to your theme or subject.
* Exhibitions of work, collections or ideas.
* Get the food and drinks in. Be a good host and make sure your attendees are looked after.
* Provide a unique experience. Create an event that is unique enough to get people talking about it during and afterwards.
Examples of Convention Events
Conventions can connect many different types of communities – here are some real world examples that might provide inspiration:
1. Work & Care Together
Work and Care Together by One Stop Social, focusses on the importance of high-quality education within the social work profession, as well as the benefits that come from collaborating with different services. This convention was so popular last year, it moved from Manchester to a bigger venue in London.
The event is made up of two parts. The first is an exhibition with opportunities to network with top front-line services. The second is a series of training sessions.
2. Entrepreneur Thinktank
Aimed at CEOs and Directors of fast-growing companies, local start-ups, entrepreneurs, Innovators or Collaborators, this event is an opportunity to rub shoulders with others that are doing the same.
The event includes a panel debate with local business experts. The audience ask questions and eventually come up with fresh ideas, collaborations and different approaches to current projects they are working on.
3. Worldwide Association of Women Journalists & Writers Convention
This four-day event is run by the Women Journalists & Writers Association. Its focus is on the role of female journalists in mainstream journalism.
“With more women joining together to challenge norms of behaviour, it matters that women are amongst those telling the stories and deciding which stories and voices must be heard.” ammpeworld.com
This event has some high-profile partners (Google, the BBC) and includes seminars and a chance to meet professional journalists. The last meeting took place in Santiago in 2016 and was attended by around 700 people from across the world.
20 BEDFORD WAY – EVENT & NETWORKING VENUE IN LONDON
Looking for a venue for your next community event? Our flagship 930 seat venue Logan Hall has adjoining spaces that can be utilised for networking such as the Crush Hall interval bar with catering. We are highly affordable and conveniently located in Bloomsbury with unrivalled transport connections. Speak to us today about how we can facilitate your next convention event. Call us on 020 7612 6143.
Header image via Flickr – Group portrait at Government House via Provincial Archives of Alberta