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Can conferences build communities?

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When was the last time you scrolled social media or the news and saw the word ‘community’? We’re willing to bet it was within the last hour.

As big believers in the power of community, we’re loving the attention communities are getting. It seems everyone is busy building, joining, promoting or celebrating communities and it’s just what the world needs in the aftermath of the isolation and distance we’ve experienced over the past 20 months.

Conferences have always played an important role in community building and here we unpack how this has become more relevant than ever.

Conferences used to be an annual touch point, in real life. Beyond a couple of phone numbers being exchanged and perhaps a survey, post event ‘engagement’ was virtually non-existent. If you were really lucky, there was an online forum for participants to “continue the conversation”, but most people didn’t join.


Because community building is not something you can “set and forget”. It requires leadership and stewardship, and people need a compelling reason to keep in touch.

⏭ Enter virtual 💻

Who would’ve thought the very format we used to shun would not only bring us closer than we could have imagined, but has taught us to stay close.

Most people are now familiar (and dare we say comfortable) with Zoom and similar tools so that’s a big barrier to gathering online removed, even if we all know it’s not the same thing as meeting in person. Zoom fatigue is real, yes - but (we think) it’s reserved for poorly designed online experiences.

All these months of WFH have left people craving more meaningful connections.

Sure, ideally they’d be IRL, but until it’s safe to do so, virtual meet ups with like-minded individuals for a clear purpose are definitely better than nothing.

That was a long way of getting to our point.

Conferences have always been about community. And right now we have the opportunity to go deeper in helping to strengthen the bonds of a community through regular virtual touch-points as well.

What’s more, we’d argue conference hosts are natural leaders in this space!

🎁 Bonus time

Our tips for a simple virtual community gathering:

  • Build a program that delivers value (whatever that means to your community)

  • Create a schedule to prime participants and set expectations

  • Make the session engaging and preferably interactive to avoid participants multi-tasking

  • Keep the infrastructure simple and rely on familiar tools - Zoom, Google docs etc. will suffice

  • Lay ground rules so participants have plenty of warning and can opt in: e.g. mics on, cameras on, energy ON


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