Robb’s writing on a Saturday night again, with a rather tasty Red Hook Pilsner next to the keyboard. What else could explain that bizarre title?
Nah. (Though check back after the next one.)
What I mean is:
If you’re the leader of a community (whether a conference, association, club or any other assembly of people), you’ll tend to engage them most at the event, as well as immediately before and after. It’s a flurry of welcome emails, reminder emails, mid-day announcements, and cocktail face-time with as many of your constituents as you can find.
Your effort with the community follows a normal statistical distribution, meaning it’s centered around a point - your event’s moment in time. Guess what? That’s actually when your community needs you the least.
This is their time together to build stronger bonds, trade information and contacts, and generally affirm the worth of the community you’ve built. The entire point is to make a more cohesive group: they need to focus on one another.
The more you focus on the event as the sole point of communication with your community, the less cohesive your community will be and the less effective your event will become.
This is not to say that events are unimportant - they’re the critical points in the life of your community! - but you’ve got to set the stage all year, and let things happen in the magic of real-time without pestering everyone.
If no one hears from you all year, they don’t think about your community, either, and your frantic interventions at the event are just another annoyance at an event they weren’t really anticipating anyhow.
I’m not going to ask you to change your effort around community at events entirely. Just balance your engagement throughout the year so that you’re in touch at a low level frequently, and get out of the way when the hard work you’ve done to bring people together at your event is about to pay off.
Your outreach can still center around your event (and a flatter distribution is even technically “normal” too) but your event will seem extraordinary because of your poise and focus on attendee experience. It’s a perfect pitch very few community organizers hit.
(Though if you were feeling frisky you could try for a bimodal distribution, with great lead-in and follow-up to enhance the worth of the event.)