Creating an event cycle that drives content and community

Many media owners are branching out into live events – either putting forward their experts as speakers or organising their own paid events, conferences, seminars and networking sessions.  Events complement online content well, especially on controversial topics where the gurus disagree, and the audience has specific questions.  Participants also love to meet each other in person even if they have already made contact online.  But the greatest value in events is created by planning the entire event cycle to maximise the event’s ability to create lasting content and stimulate discussion in the community well beyond the time and place of the physical event.  Here are my tips on creating an event cycle:

1. Build interest and shape the agenda

Weeks before the event, start to PR the speakers and the topics.  Encourage speakers to promote the event to their own contacts.  Initiate discussions in your own media channels or on social media groups to test the topics and solicit questions and suggestions to shape the agenda.  If speakers are happy to contribute some of their ideas publicly in advance this can spark extra interest in attending.  All the pre-event build up also provides marketing opportunities for your sponsors!

2. Manage live event to create content

Structure the event itself to create content – speaker papers and presentations, videos of debates and panels, live blogs of the discussion and Q&A, with an eye on what you can publish later in print and online.

3. Involve the non-participants

Plenty of people are interested in events that they can’t get to for diary or logistical reasons.  Providing a live blog allows them some vicarious involvement.  Business Zone have set this facility up on both third party events such as the pre-budget report, where they added expert comment and included public comments via twitter; and on seminars they have been hosting, where they include the speakers comments and Q&A using Cover it live.  If your event is a paid-for affair, then you do need to take some care that the paying guests feel they are getting extra value…

4. Publish event content

Have a plan for what content will be published after the event – in print or online – for free and for paying participants only.  Those who missed the event may be prepared to pay for the summaries – or they could be a value-add for subscribers.  Econsultancy includes event summaries in its reports archive, which you have to pay for to get unlimited access.

5. Stimulate discussion and build up to next event

Events prompt ideas and conversations that continue for days or weeks afterwards.  If as a media owner you can capture and host this debate you not only get great feedback on the topics you selected, you also get an opportunity to promote your next event to a receptive audience.  Forums, twitter hashtags, linked-in groups can all be used to get those who attended and those who watched vicariously to contribute their thoughts.

If you have experience of using live events to drive new content and build your online community, I’d be interested to hear more.  Please comment below, or join the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in to swap ideas with over 200 other specialist media owners.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, a consultancy creating practical digital media and marketing strategies, with particular expertise with media owners.  If you’d like to discuss how you might develop your own event cycle, please contact us for a chat.  Carolyn is also Content Director for the Specialist Media Show – a new event bringing together consumer and b2b specialist media owners across print, events and digital media to learn, share and network.