Any tips for successful virtual events in a new community?

skmetz Vanilla Sprout

Hi! Our community is new (soft launch Oct. 2020 and then live to all customers & partners Jan. 2021) and we're starting to host a few community-only events. Our community is private - for our customers and partners only - so we only have ~150 members to-date.

I'm planning a virtual "Tea & Topics" roundtable discussion, focused on a specific topic - in hopes to bring people together to network and learn from each other's experiences. I'm also planning an "Ask Me Anything" with our CEO.

Any tips on getting people excited, registered, and to actually attend? I've limited the Tea & Topics to try and create a little FOMO and offered a $5 e-card for a tea/coffee. For both events, I've asked employees to remind our customers about these exclusive events, highlighted them in a monthly newsletter, and posted the events as discussions so people can leave questions ahead of time.




  • Adrian
    Adrian HLV Staff Alumni

    @Kara has been really creative with her community - maybe she has some ideas to share!

  • Kara
    Kara Vanilla Ice Cream
    edited January 2021 #3

    I'm trying, @Adrian! @skmetz - Next month we're holding an experimental "Compass Connect" virtual networking event (Compass is the name of Foundant's community). Since we're still in our first year of having a community, everything is still a bit of an experiment!

    The event will be held mid-afternoon to encompass the four major US timezones. Depending how many people register/join (so far only 25), we have have Zoom break out rooms, but I want to keep it very casual and just let people meet "face-to-face". I may do a random prize drawing too. If you have ideas for ice breakers and conversation starters for an event like this, I'm all ears!

    We do so many other webinars and coffee chats already, that it's difficult to recreate the wheel for a community event. I'd be interested to hear how others differentiate community events from their standard and familiar virtual offerings!

    Outside of that, our custom badges have been our most popular "fun" feature for community members. You can check them out here!

  • skmetz
    skmetz Vanilla Sprout

    Hi @Kara - how did your first "Compass Connect" go? Thanks for these ideas! Our first two Tea and Topics have actually gone pretty well! They have been small but there has been great discussion between our members, and we have also learned some of their pain points and hope to help them in their journey with us.

  • Kara
    Kara Vanilla Ice Cream

    @skmetz It was okay... It turned out people wanted to learn more about "how to use the community" (which wasn't the intended purpose of the networking event), so I'll likely be creating some short video tours soon!

    What's the format for your Tea and Topics? Is the topic/theme decided on ahead of time? How long is the chat? Do you use breakout rooms? Is there a presenter or moderator? I love hearing how others are doing virtual events!

  • skmetz
    skmetz Vanilla Sprout

    @Kara I see. My colleague in German actually did 2 sessions about "how to use the community" which were successful for him, and then I did one (I only had 4 attendees).

    For our Tea & Topics, they are 1 hour over Zoom Meeting - not recorded. We decide the topic ahead of time (2-3 week before). I also find 2 moderators and ask them to put together a list of talking points we can advertise ahead of time (what will be discussed/what will people learn) and for them to use throughout. We encourage people to come prepared with their camera on and ready to participate. We also do individual outreach to customers if we think they'd be interested in the specific topic.

    We haven't used breakout rooms because the attendance has been small - 9 and 5 customers, plus 3 of our employees. But this is the perfect size for small group discussion. If it was bigger I could see breakout rooms working well.

    I then follow-up the session by posting take-away notes and @ mentioning people, which usually gets a little engagement too.

  • Kara
    Kara Vanilla Ice Cream

    @skmetz I'm considering doing a once-a-month CommuniTEA similar to our Friday chats and just have an open Zoom during a designated hour for anyone who wants to pop-in for community networking and questions. I'm debating whether that would be worth the time (as I'm sure @Adrian does with us regularly too!), and how to communicate clearly that it's not a forum for product support questions. We also have to keep our grantmakers (funders) and grantseekers completely separate, so there would need to be some careful communication to only one group at a time!

    I like your follow-up steps! Tagging people always seems to help, and others might see that and experience some FOMO! I sent out Foundant water bottles and community stickers to the 18 people who attended ours, but I didn't post anything or tag anyone.

    Thanks for the ideas!