Incorporating Community into In-Person Events

Kara Vanilla Ice Cream

Hello Community Managers - I wanted to ask this during a CommuniTEA Time chat, but have had too many conflicting obligations on Fridays lately! (@Adrian - my schedule opens back up in September!) So...

How do you incorporate your online community into your in-person events/meetings/conferences? We are starting to plan for our large user group "summit" being held in Memphis next April and I'm looking for inspiration!

I'd like to:

  • remind attendees that the community is a year round resource for them
  • encourage them to register on-the-spot
  • encourage posts/discussion before, during and after the event
  • recognize/highlight super users
  • create visual representations of our most popular badges (as stickers or pins?) for attendees to wear throughout the event
  • hold a community scavenger hunt or some sort of other contest on-site with swag giveaways?

I also have two session slots reserved for online community presentations. I was thinking one might be informative/how-to and the other might be to gather some user feedback or hold a mini focus group. What would you do with two session time slots?

Looking forward to your ideas, or hearing what has/hasn't worked for you in the past!


  • Adrian
    Adrian HLV Staff Alumni

    Hey @Kara these are great questions and I think a lot of us are still trying to figure it out. I always try to place the community in all the communication to ask and connect before the event. Use it a hub for questions about the event, to connect around topics and things they hope to learn or people they hope to meet. I love the scavenger hunt idea, which is reminiscent about the Mural Bingo.

    For your two slots, I really like your ideas. Especially the second one to have an in-person conversation about the community and use it for a mini-focus group. You can bet yourself if Super Forums was in person I would have a session with all of you :)

    Also I found it fun in the past, especially if it's in person to create a space for connections. I know when my wife and I went on a cruise, we found a forum thread for a roll call. People share their tips and tricks and then we all met up on the cruise ship for a fun event, and also collectively playing in the casino. It was a hoot. Considering this is in Memphis, maybe there is a way to create a special community event to connect in this way or even have Memphis natives share their best tips for travel to the city and things to do.

    I hope that helps get the juices flowing - certainly I am sure others here have some suggestions :)

  • Kara
    Kara Vanilla Ice Cream

    Thanks @Adrian! I think we'll definitely have a designated category in the community for the event, where attendees can coordinate shared rides and rooms, activities, etc. We have an employee based in Memphis who is already excited to share her local recommendations.

    We haven't decided on the conference "theme" yet, so that will influence some of what we do, but I'd love to hear more about ideas like Mural Bingo and similar activities!

  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Vanilla Bean
    edited August 2021 #4

    The blog the Vanilla team did on our Bingo that features my coworker is great! I worked with quite a few people on bringing events into community.

    The bare minimum? Community call outs on all presentations, including QR codes. These are best if they are specific to the session people are attending.

    Extra credit? A booth in the exhibitor hall with community swag, QR code to community, photo booth/headshot booth, community happy hours, featured members etc. A special meet and greet with the most important person you can think of for your top 25 community members.

    Beyond this, I find the answer depends on the momentum you have.

    Not a lot of people in community yet? Use this as an opp to intro community. Make sure it is in each one of the presenter's slides, consider doing a contest like bingo highlighting community basics that runs concurrently. Extra credit: If a question has come up in the community that the presentation addresses, highlight the question in the presentation and make sure OP knows!

    More people who are active in community coming to the conference? Use this to drive more engagement. Consider giving the headliners AMAs/happy hour time in community or post a tell us your questions in advance so we can make sure we get to them. Gear contests towards deeper engagement. IE not your basic bingo, make the asks about replies, quotes etc. Host the fun networking sessions as the community.

    Established community? Have a conversation track per topic, post materials for the session, and gather questions before hand, do a member scavenger hunt that allows you to find the answers via search, ask your most active members to present sessions.

    So much stuff to do! My friend, Trish Borzon, does an amazing conf every year, and community boosted engagement is trackable long term.

    In general, @sbrijmohan and I chatted about this a couple of months ago, and I built out a loom and a mural chatting through options.

    Hope this is helpful! Excited to hear other people's thoughts!

  • Kara
    Kara Vanilla Ice Cream

    Yayyy this is so great @Amanda Petersen... I'm adding to my list. Thank you!

  • [Deleted User]

    Missed the meat of your question. Apologies.

    Ooh and for the two slots! I would give both to community members. It would be cool to take two conversations that happened in community and then bring the members in to talk about learning and what they decided on in the community.

  • Kara
    Kara Vanilla Ice Cream

    Thanks again for all these ideas! We're in the midst of our event planning and budgeting (even though the event isn't till April!). I know there are some new members here... anyone else have any cool examples or experience intertwining their online community with their in-person events?