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Everything event planners need to know about community building for events

VEI Co-Founder Sophie Ahmed explains how event planners can build and monetize communities.

One of the biggest – and most profitable – growth areas for events is community building.

Very simply, a community is an ecosystem your event serves, such as sponsors, exhibitors, delegates, speakers, stakeholders, and associations. Once you have identified who is in your ecosystem, you will need to bring them all under the umbrella of your event brand.

Community building was very relevant pre-pandemic, but the focus intensified with the rapid digitization of events over the past year. Ultimately, the more customer touch points you have with your community and, the more you nurture those relationships, the more value they’re going to get from their involvement with your event brand. And so, they'll be more likely to renew their spend – or increase it – and amplify the message to their contacts so that you leverage the network effect.

Community building is event building and it drives revenue growth.

The community feeds the event and the event feeds the community, and they can really play off of each other. Rather than a one-off explosion of activity around the annual event, there is a steady year-round presence. Create mini-events for your micro-communities through networking events or tailored content that addresses their specific pain points.

Also, subscriptions and a gated community behind a paywall can provide a recurring revenue stream.

Anything that’s going to give your audience greater value will drive revenue growth, but it will also put your event brand at the heart of the community and beat off the competition. If your brand is the one that’s giving value to your industry year-round, and at the event itself, it has the potential to become a market leader.

The core thing is understanding your community and data can help with this to really fuel community growth. Use data insights to launch your community softly and having some sort of softer value ads before transitioning to a gated community model.

Communities can be found on-site at an event – at the bar, or through conference streams that are created for different segments of an industry.

Who is in Theatre 1, 2, and 3? These will be your micro-communities.

A community manager can listen to your audiences daily, identify key trends, and launch new products – anything that drives your community back to listen to you – such as whitepapers, one-to-one sessions, or meet the speaker slots – all of which can be monetized.

Ideally, these activities will lead people to the physical event where they’ll spend even more money with you. The visitor list can be used for digital marketing and retargeting.

What are the key markers of success? If your inventory’s full, you’ve got a winner. On a softer level, look at the rules of engagement. The average rule is that 10% of your community will be engaged, 1% will be really active and 9% semi-active. You can then look to grow this to 15-20%, which is a sign of success.

Another way is to identify who your ambassadors will be, particularly within each micro-community. You will want senior people for the kudos and junior ones for volume and the largest following. This leads to amplification, the network effect, and organic growth.


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