Virtual events have become an integral part of community building strategies. While in-person events and online groups have been around for a while, virtual events offer unique advantages when it comes to engaging and connecting with people. When used in conjunction with in person events and online groups, virtual events can help build a stronger sense of community by providing additional opportunities for engagement, networking, and knowledge-sharing. A well-executed virtual event plan can help you build and nurture meaningful connections within your community.
Virtual Events Are a Supplement for In-Parson Events, Not a Substitute
While these events can undoubtedly bring people together in innovative ways, it’s important to recognize that they are not a substitute for in-person events. There is simply no replacement for the energy and connection that comes from being in the same physical space as others. In-person events allow for spontaneous interactions, shared experiences, and a sense of being fully immersed in the community.
Hybrid events, which make aspects of the in-person event available online, can expand the reach of in-person events by making them accessible to people who are unable to travel. But when we talk about virtual events in the context of community building efforts, we are not talking about hybrid events; we are talking about a series of online events that exist in addition to in-person events.
While they should not be relied upon as the sole means of community building, virtual events can certainly be helpful in keeping people connected and engaged in between in-person events.
One of the main advantages of hosting virtual events is the significant reduction in costs for both the organizers and attendees. With no need for physical venues or travel expenses, virtual events are a more accessible option for those on a tight budget.
Additionally, virtual events eliminate the need for attendees to spend time traveling, which means they can participate from anywhere and at any time. Finally, setting up a virtual event is much easier than a live event, making it a great choice for those who want to focus on content rather than logistics.
Virtual events provide a way to connect and engage without sacrificing convenience or quality. By recognizing the complementary roles of both live and online events, organizations can create a more robust and vibrant community that is better equipped to weather any challenges that may come their way.
Virtual Events vs. Online Groups
In today’s digital age, virtual events and online communities have become an integral part of how we interact and connect with others. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are some significant differences to consider. Virtual events involve synchronous communication, meaning that everyone is interacting in real time. This creates a sense of immediacy and engagement that can be vital for promoting particular discussions or ideas.
Online communities, such as Facebook or LinkedIn groups, offer a different approach with asynchronous communication. Members can post messages or comments at any time, which means that conversations can take place over a more extended period. Both play a valuable role in community building, as online groups provide an opportunity for participants to continue conversation and deepen relationships with people they meet at virtual events.
David Spinks, the Co-founder of CMX, a community of over 20,000 community managers, and the author of The Business of Belonging, puts it this way: “Asynchronous experiences provide breadth. Synchronous experiences provide depth.” (1)
When Are Virtual Events Most Effective in Building Communities?
When it comes to building communities, virtual events can be a game-changer, especially for geographically dispersed members. Instead of requiring everyone to travel long distances and spend money on transport and accommodation, virtual events allow a community to come together from all corners of the globe, with just a click of a button.
However, it’s important to note that virtual events may not be as crucial for communities whose members are located near each other. In such cases, regular face-to-face events may be the preferred option for building strong relationships and shared experiences. Sometimes, it’s simply better to gather at the local library or the neighborhood coffee shop. Ultimately, the effectiveness of virtual events will depend on the context and needs of each community.
Using Virtual Events to Capture Email Addresses
Hosting virtual events presents a unique opportunity to not only bring together like-minded individuals but also attract new members to the community. One of the key benefits of virtual events is the ability to capture email addresses, which can be used to create a strong ongoing connection with the members.
Unlike gating content behind a form, virtual events allow for a more natural and personable way to gather email addresses from people. This approach fosters a sense of trust and openness that is critical when building lasting relationships with community members.
Once an email list has been compiled, organizations can use it to keep members engaged through ongoing communications and relevant content. This is why virtual events have become such a popular way for businesses and organizations to cultivate their communities and grow their email lists.
Virtual Events as an Engagement Tool
Virtual events also offer a range of benefits when it comes to engaging existing community members. They provide a platform for educational opportunities that help members learn new skills and gain knowledge. Additionally, virtual events help to foster new connections among members, making it easier to build relationships and create new collaborations. This, in turn, helps them achieve the shared purpose of the community.
Virtual events also enable community organizers to identify emerging leaders within the community, providing them with opportunities to grow and develop as they take on leadership roles. The enables the organizers to grow and strengthen their community.
Webinars Are Not Community Building Virtual Events
When it comes to community building, one of the most important features of a successful virtual event is to provide attendees with an opportunity to interact with each other. After all, this interaction is the key factor that distinguishes a strong community from an audience.
It’s easy to assume that webinars are virtual events, but they fail to offer attendees an opportunity to communicate and connect with each other. Therefore, webinars should not be considered virtual events for the purpose of your community building efforts. Giving attendees the ability to connect with others and build relationships is what makes virtual events a powerful tool for community building.
Virtual Event Ideas for Building Community
When planning an online event for your community, it’s important to consider what format will best engage your audience. While informative events can bring in new attendees, it’s important not to get bogged down in solely presenting content. Community interaction is the core of virtual events, and fostering meaningful relationships among attendees will provide the most value.
Sometimes, the best events involve showcasing the talents and work of different community members in attendance, rather than just a one-way dialogue with an expert. So, take the time to understand your audience and their interests, and select a format that promotes engagement and collaboration. With the right approach, virtual events can be just as rewarding and impactful as in-person gatherings.
Building Community By Providing An Opportunity For Interaction
When it comes to hosting virtual events, providing an opportunity for attendees to interact with each other is crucial. Online events can often feel impersonal and lack the sense of belonging that comes with in-person events.
Allowing attendees to connect with each other not only increases engagement and overall satisfaction, but also promotes a more memorable and enjoyable experience. Whether it’s through guided breakout discussions, speed networking sessions, or interactive games, facilitating interaction can help build relationships, foster collaboration, and ultimately enhance the overall success of the online event.
Choosing a Virtual Event Platform
Finding the right software platform for virtual events can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not entirely sure what factors to consider. One of the most crucial aspects to look out for is the platform’s ability to facilitate strong community interaction. After all, the whole point of virtual events is to connect with like-minded individuals, and it’s essential to have a platform that encourages this type of engagement.
Other important factors include cost, ease of use for both the organizer and attendees, API integration with other software, and reliable customer support. Taking these factors into account when searching for a software platform will help ensure that your next virtual event runs smoothly and meets all your expectations.
Rehearse Your Virtual Events
Being the host of a virtual event can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. You have put so much effort into planning the event, creating a schedule, and inviting guests. However, imagine being all set to kick-off your event, only to find out that your software is not working as it should, your microphone is not functioning correctly, or that you don’t have all the materials. This could easily derail your presentation and negatively impact the user experience.
This is why conducting a rehearsal before your online event starts is so crucial. It allows you to work out any kinks in your technology, make adjustments to your agenda, and ensure that everything runs smoothly once it’s showtime. Not only does a rehearsal help in avoiding technical difficulties, but it also helps build a sense of confidence, which will allow you to deliver your best performance to your community members.
Find Partners for Your Virtual Events
Finding an outside partner organization can be crucial for the success your community’s virtual events, particularly if your community is young. The right partner can help you promote the event to a new audience, boosting attendance and engaging new community members. By leveraging their email database or social media following, the partner can create buzz and excitement around your online event. The partner benefits by providing their audience with a valuable event without any additional effort on their part. When it comes to organizing virtual events, partnering up can make all the difference.
Follow Up Your Event With An Email campaign
After you host a successful virtual event, it’s important to keep the momentum going by following up with your attendees. One effective way to do this is by creating an email campaign that encourages attendees to stay engaged with your community.
Start by segmenting your list into two groups: those who attended the event and those who registered but did not attend. Craft a personalized message for each group, thanking them for their interest and providing relevant content based on their level of engagement. For those who attended, steer them towards continuing the conversation in an online group like Facebook or LinkedIn.
For those who didn’t attend, send them a recording of a presentation they missed, in addition to a gentle reminder of the benefits of joining your online community. With a well-planned email campaign, you can extend the life of your online event and increase attendee satisfaction.
Host Virtual Events Regularly As Part of Your Community Building Efforts
Hosting events at a regular cadence is a crucial aspect of community building strategy. Rather than viewing virtual events as special occasions, it’s beneficial to think of them as regular hangouts. David Spinks, the Co-founder of CMX, a community of community managers, explains:
“The key is repetition and consistency. When your members experience your community in a consistent, repetitive way, it will make it easier for them to develop a habit of coming back and they’ll know exactly what to expect and how to participate.” (2)
By scheduling them on a predictable recurring basis, your community members will develop a sense of familiarity and reliability, which can lead to stronger connections and a more engaged community. Consistency is key to building community, and hosting events on a regular basis can help build trust and create a reliable platform for future events, discussions, and collaborations.
When it comes to community building, virtual events have revolutionized the way we connect with others. This innovative platform allows people from all corners of the world to come together and participate in a shared experience. Thanks to technology, the virtual world is no longer a solitary one. We can now create communities that span across borders, cultures, and languages.
When used in conjunction with in-person events and online groups, virtual events can become a powerful tool for community building. The ability to engage with individuals in real time, share ideas, and build relationships, all from the comfort of your own home or office, has helped create a sense of connection like never before. Virtual events have transformed the community building efforts of organizations, and will undoubtedly continue to do so for years to come.
- David Spinks, The Business of Belonging, p. 11.
- David Spinks, The Business of Belonging, p. 117.