Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly what your attendees wanted from your event, even prior to your concept brainstorming session? How valuable would you find knowing beforehand, exactly which topics, speakers, decor inspiration, and technologies your audience resonated with? If you implement this super simple crowdsourcing process, you can use all this information and more to help plan attendee-centric events. But first, let’s define:
What Exactly Is Crowdsourcing?
Crowdsourcing is the process of collecting information, content, and ideas by asking for contributions from a large group of people. For event planners, that large group of people should consist of those who have attended similar events in the past, along with the members of your target market, potential vendors, speakers and talent. Crowdsourcing is a primarily (though not necessarily exclusively) online process, and has several benefits for the event planner.
Crowdsourcing is a great way to beta test ideas regarding your next event. Planners can easily and effectively engage with the relevant members of their target audience in order to delegate work they are unable or unwilling to do on their own, find innovative solutions to problems, produce new ideas, generate excitement for and personal investment in the event, reduce expenses and save time.
How To Do It
There is a simple, four-step process that can help you crowdsource content in an attempt to keep your attendees invested in your next event.
Step One: Get Clear On The Mission
Make sure you know, before you set out, what kind of information you are gathering and for what purpose. Do you want to make sure that your menu is perfect? Are you trying to generate new ideas and topics of discussion? Do you want to know what your audience would like to learn, or how they prefer to engage with information? Pick a question you want answered, and be clear about what you want to know and how you plan to implement the new information once you have it. The first step in any journey is to figure out where you’re headed.
Step Two: Identify Your Targets
Just as important as what you want to know, is who you plan to ask about it. Really take the time to hone in on your demographic. Who are you talking to? Why? What is their pain point? How will attending your event help to alleviate that pain for them?
Also take the time to identify the difference between your active audience and your passive audience. Your active audience are the people who have chosen to engage with you, your client, or your event. These are the people who have already heard of you, already interacted with you in some form or another, and have voluntarily given you access to their brain power. Your passive audience, on the other hand, are people who fall within your demographic, but who you haven’t engaged yet. Theoretically, these people can (and should) become your customers, but they need a little push.
Step Three: Launch To The Crowd
Now that you know exactly what question you’re asking, who you are talking to, and why, the next step is to get out and get asking. Event planners can engage their audiences both in person and online. Though digital methods move faster and extend further than their physical counterparts, be sure to take the time and consider both avenues for your crowdsourcing needs.
Head over to your email list and your most active social media accounts, and pose your question to your audiences. Be innovative and talk to your audience in the way that is most engaging to them and most relevant to your event. Maybe you need to come up with a hashtag, or a challenge/contest. Maybe you need to send a survey to your mailing list. Maybe you write a blog post about your event and invite comments. Head over to the places your people hang out online, (if you want to talk to vendors, other planners, and event techies, try Facebook and LinkedIn groups) meet them there, and ask them questions.
Don’t overlook opportunities to talk to your audience in person either. Chat with attendees of your other events and ask them what they like and what they don’t. Find some events that share core themes with the one you are trying to throw, and become an attendee. See for yourself what you like about the event, and think how you can implement the good and avoid the bad. Physical mailers are slower, and have a smaller return rate, but people tend to be more honest if they take the time to fill out and send back a physical questionnaire.
Step Four: Analyze and Implement
Now that you’ve got all the answers in front of you, it’s time to analyze what was said, and give the people what they want. You’ve asked one or more, very specific questions about anything from activity preferences to centerpieces. It is your duty, not only to determine which of the answers your attendees gave will “win out”, but you also must find some way to make them enthusiastic and excited about learning which answer you go with. An official announcement on your event/company website and social media is the bare minimum.
Attendees will be much more engaged with your event, and more likely to fall further into the purchasing funnel if you include them in the decision-making process. Crowdsourcing ideas for your next event is a surefire way to make sure it’s a hit.
Bethany Smith has spent the last 5 years specializing in using storytelling to plan events that strengthen the relationships between organizations and their publics. More recently, she has taken to utilizing her experience, in conjunction with extensive industry analysis to launch a blog [www.theplannersprocess.com] that aims to arm aspiring event planners with the tools they need in order to figure out how to get where they want to go. She looks to invest her various talents in any organization that can match her dedication to growth and adventure.