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By Erica Jones, Director of Institutional Advancement, Somerville Media Center
All images provided by Erica Jones
In my second post, I covered how to promote your event using social media and other platforms, as well as tips on how to reach a targeted audience for your event. The final step in this process is to retain those connections and grow your community. The truth is… free pizza! Ha, just kidding, there is definitely more to it than that but free things do help to incentivize engagement. Keep reading to find out more!
It's important to have a follow up system
You had an event. You met people. You collected their info. Now let's talk about strategies to stay in touch and bring them back. What happens after a networking or social mixer makes the difference between a productive evening and a complete waste of time.
Collect attendee information and create templates
Organizing events involves more than one person to be successful. Remember, post-event logistics are just as important, if not more important, than pre-event coordination.
One easy way to collect information is to have an attendee check-in station where there’s an option to leave a name and email address to receive post-event info. It’s also helpful to ask: “How did you learn about this event?” and “What do you hope to get out of attending?” This helps you examine and improve your outreach work in the future and stay in touch with attendees by sending them follow up resources after an event or talk.
Now you may be wondering, what’s the best solution for capturing attendee information as they sign in? Google Forms is a nice (and free) way to customize data collection. Everything is aggregated into one Google spreadsheet and that information can be imported into Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or some other email service. Mailchimp and Constant Contact both also have sign-up forms, but if you aren’t already familiar with them, Google Forms is user-friendly and gets the job done.
A smart way to ensure speedy follow up is by developing communication templates. I have created numerous types of email templates that can be copied and pasted with a bit of tweaking as necessary. It is a good starting point and allows you to not reinvent the wheel each time.You can send off your follow-up email via a group email or by using an email service. By using a service you have more creative control of your email design, which can make your content more enticing to potential readers!
Additionally, if you have savvy volunteers, interns, or eager board members, recruiting them to help with post-event outreach is a great way to engage them. Something else to consider: If you had a group of speakers present, or any special guests at your event, consider sending them handwritten notes. This is a nice gesture that everyone appreciates. Who gets physical mail anymore?!
If you are perplexed about the level of formality to use in your follow-up emails for different circumstances (e.g. addressing someone you met at a formal gala event versus someone you met at a networking event) this website provides a variety of email templates to help you choose the best way to address someone following an event.
Document the event and share away
We live in a world where we can easily see events happening anywhere in real time, but second best to that is to relive it the next day. A fast follow-up is also likely to impress event guests. What better way to grab people’s [self] interest and participation than to snap their picture or video while at the event— we all love selfies don’t we?! You can even use your smartphone to document (typically the most accessible, also the quality is superb these days). These pictures and videos will come in handy for future promotions of the event and to showcase the participation and energy. Plus, people will share this to their own social networks! Photos and videos can also be important when filling out grant applications or impact statements.
Pro Tip: If you plan on posting photos and videos of the event afterward, ask your attendees for a photo release.
Cover your social media basics so you can utilize their full potential
There are several different social media platforms to use and it is up to you to choose which ones are best suited for your audience (discover which social media is best for you here). For this conversation, we will only focus on Facebook, Eventbrite and Meetup. With any platform though it is important to plan ahead to deliver amazing social coverage that wows, keeps participants informed, and encourages engagement and conversation long after your event is over. Below are some ways to utilize these specific social media platforms for post-event engagement:
1. Facebook Event Page: You can upload the best photos to that Facebook event page you created. This keeps people interested and keeps the networking going post-event. Turn the video into a highlights reel to promote your next event and give folks a visual of your amazing event-hosting powers.
2. Eventbrite: This has a built-in auto-follow-up system that emails all the attendees who RSVP’d following the event. Plus, you can easily download the contact information for attendees and import it into your email service platform.
3. Meetup.com: Take advantage of following up with the attendees who confirmed through Meetup by sending personal messages and asking for feedback. You can use event comments or discussions to start conversations. It also doesn’t hurt to schedule the next event as well to keep the momentum alive!
The above list is by no means exhaustive, but it gets you started promoting your event and building an engaged community. The information you’re offering them in your follow-up is also a major factor in the chances of its success.
Finally, the next time you’re at an event, take note of what makes you smile or leaves a positive, lasting impression. Then see if you can work an element like it into your own events. Good luck & happy planning!
Erica Jones, Director of Outreach & Membership at Somerville Media Center, an award-winning community media center and maker space in Somerville, MA, the most densely populated city in New England. Erica is also the Board Chair of the Alliance for Community Media Northeast. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!