Online Communities for Small Seminars: Should You Have One?

Published by Steve Manicor | Topics: Social

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Just because you’re offering a small seminar doesn’t mean you can’t play big!

If you’re an association, for-profit or non-profit organization looking to add value to your smaller, one-day seminars or online courses, here’s an idea:

Create an online event community and invite your speakers/presenters and attendees to it. Provide them with a place where they can meet others online before the event and where they can continue the conversation afterward. In a nutshell, make learning social!

Why do I believe event communities work?

Events that create a sense of community bring long-lasting value to face-to-face, or virtual, experiences. They provide their attendees the opportunity to extend the education and networking that in the “old days” was only available on site.

Here are two examples from two different organizations, both whom I highly support. One offered a community, the other didn’t.

Juvenile Arthritis Family Day
No Community

I attended a one-day, face-to-face educational seminar offered by the Arthritis Foundation WI Chapter aimed at families who have children diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. This was a small seminar with about 60 attendees and a few presenters (doctors), but it was packed full of useful information. It was highly interactive and there were a few networking opportunities, but it by not having an event community or small social network we faced these challenges:

  • We didn’t know which families who have similar situations like our to interact with. This left us sitting at a table with people whose children had a different form of arthritis than our daughter.
  • We didn’t really know much about the panel of doctors before the meeting. Who were they? What was their expertise? We sent in a question via email to the event leaders, but it wasn’t refined enough and the panelists didn’t answer it well in person. We could have addressed this beforehand to get the answers we wanted.
  • There was no means for staying connected to other parents (attendees) and doctors after the meeting.

This isn’t to say the meeting wasn’t informative, but it could have been better.

Imagine if after registering we would have been invited to a private social network or event community to:

  • Provide information about ourselves so we could have planned to network with others with similar concerns.
  • Learn more about the doctors on the panel and even interacted with them online.
  • See what others might be talking about, and perhaps join in a conversation before even setting foot at the meeting.
  • Asked the community those “forgotten questions” after the meeting.
  • Provided answers to those asking questions and not just leaving it up to the panelists.

Marketingprofs University (MPU) – Content Marketing Crash Course
Facebook Community

MPU offered a series of 17 webinars over 3 weeks on content marketing. Each webinar offered a different topic and presenter. It was a crash course indeed, but what made this seminar series different is they invited all attendees to join a “closed” Facebook group. To date, there are 141 members including the 17 presenters themselves. By providing this community:

  • Attendees can ask questions about the content marketing topics to a pool of other marketing professionals.
  • Either attendees or the presenters could respond and share resources with others.
  • Attendees feel connected with others and begin forming new relationships.

Not only that, but as a marketing professional, I can see that “MarketingProfs and their presenters are continuing to stay in front of their audience. Best of all the content shared in the group is driven by their community members.

Does this mean the Arthritis Foundation got it wrong and MPU got it right?

Absolutely not.

The point is that meeting organizers have to realize the learning has gone social. To have a network of 100+ members that I can turn to and ask questions after my seminars is extremely valuable to me as an attendee.

In what ways are you building community online for your events?



About Steve Manicor

Steve is Omnipress' Director of Business Development. He has over five years serving the meetings and training industry. He leads our product/service leadership and development teams. more

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