Are events over? No — but they’re definitely different
It’s hard to write an introduction to a blog these days. Like everyone else, I miss a lot of the things I used to do. One of the main activities I miss is meeting new people at conferences and events.
But will we ever return to those times? Will it happen soon? Will we ever have fun again? Will trade shows, conferences, and meet ups happen again, or are they gone forever?
Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But either way, these events won’t be the same at least for the next few years, and maybe forever. Within this challenge also lies an opportunity: can we find some way to make online events as engaging and valuable as in-person ones?
The brands that figure out how to make digital events better, more connective experiences will come out of this year stronger than those who don’t. We’re excited to help brands do this with our latest feature for Communities: Events.
Introducing Events in Khoros Communities
Social glue and professional connection have been the key currency of online communities for decades. In-person events used to be a great way to make these same connections, but since they are gone (at least for now), communities are stepping up to fill the gap. We wanted to make that just a little bit easier by embedding events into Khoros Communities.
We announced Events at Khoros Engage, and it’s currently in an early access phase before general release in November. It’s a powerful feature that gives users the ability to create digital events at any level — category, group hub, or even the entire community. Aside from basic properties like time, date, and location, Events can also feature guest speakers, live video links, images, and rich-text discussion threads. Community managers can use the feature to manage a calendar, publish an agenda, send invitations, receive RSVPs, and control notifications. They can even embed live videos from social media directly into the event page.
Events in Atlas: Group Hub level example
Every event comes with threaded discussions where users can link products, mention others who might be interested, and suggest topics. These features stay live following the event so that the engagement and momentum doesn’t have to stop when cameras turn off.
How do we know this will work? Because some brands are already running very successful events programs through their Khoros communities! Fitbit, Splunk, Atlassian, Anaplan, Cisco, Qlik, and Microsoft already drive local meet ups and even large conferences through their customer communities. Here’s what Qlik’s events page looks like:
Want to learn more? Check out our recent Engage session with Qlik and Splunk.
How can your brand use Events?
Brand communities can use the Events feature in several ways. At Khoros, we put them in a Group Hub, which allows people to create their own events, blogs, forum posts, ideas and more around a shared purpose. In this case, the purpose might be meeting up to share some insights or simply having a chat with a colleague at another brand.
If putting an event in a Group Hub isn’t your thing, you can also create community-wide events to help build awareness in larger audiences — or you can create highly specific events at the category level. The tool offers the flexibility to invite everyone or only a few specific people. And it’s powerful enough to create almost any kind of event for your target audience, no matter if that is your entire community or only a subset based on role, location, rank, or status as a customer. For example, A car company might create an event just for people who subscribe to the “SUVs” category within the community, just for current SUV owners.
Scheduling virtual events is easy; you can use Events to schedule video meetings, keynotes, and live streams so that users never have to leave the community. But — as long as you’re being careful and making sure everyone stays safe — you can also include Google Maps integrations or virtual links to schedule in-person events.
Events don’t have to look or act as basic bulletin board notices! You can add your own flair by adding header images, live videos from Youtube, Facebook, or Vimeo, and images or other files in the description or discussion sections.
And finally, events should be easy to find. You can use labels or tags to help people filter the events that they want, and a calendar view to help line up events with times that work for anyone.
Want to learn how to use the Events feature in your own brand’s community? Read about it in Atlas.
Why integrate Events in your community? What problems can you solve?
The challenges of taking your events digital
I’ve attended quite a few online conferences this year. Some of them mirrored the format of in-person events with multiple simultaneous sessions, keynotes, and happy hours jammed into a one- or two-day event. Others spread all the content over a month. Still others took a hybrid approach with some content on demand and some live spread over a few weeks.
These are all reasonable, effective approaches to the content portion of events. From blogs to keynotes and more, going online has been a great way for brands to push their content to a wider audience.
But content alone can’t replace an in-person event. Most of the events I’ve attended this year — even the really good ones — haven’t had the impromptu lunch and breakfast conversations with people you had never met before. They haven’t given me the opportunity to sit next to a competitor or a new startup founder at a networking event, or to have a conversation with a few professionals you only see at the shows. I haven’t even been able to reconnect with former colleagues and partners at these events. These are the social glue that make these events worth the time and help produce new ideas across industries.
Events in Khoros Communities combine the best of in-person and digital
These weaknesses of standard digital events are exactly where Events in Khoros Communities succeed.
In-person events and especially conferences have always given me tremendous energy. After over a decade where I attended dozens of events across multiple industries, I have found that I always end up feeling like tradeshow season is probably my most productive time of year.
This is what is great about community events! Communities are full of people connecting and sharing ideas all the time! By hosting these high-energy events in a community, you can easily direct that energy into conversations that are continuous and visible for everyone else who is interested to contribute and carry the idea forward. Events often kick off the momentum, but conversations in communities help achieve bigger goals!
Humans are very creative, and we like to get together. Long term, we won’t stop finding creative ways to gather, share information, and build relationships in-person. For now, though, the challenge is to figure out ways to safely gather that engage rather than distract, and that help us build the networks we’ll need to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
To learn more about how you can use Events in Khoros Communities to plan your brand’s next big event, check out the discussion in Atlas.