Community engagement events are developed to bring together the local community. Assisting attendees to form closer bonds, foster new relationships and develop a sense of belonging. They tend to target the local area and can have economic, social and cultural benefits. If you are looking to truly engage the local community, your events need careful consideration and proper targeting.
We plan a large number of community engagement events for our clients each year. We have experienced first hand what’s required to plan an engaging community event. Here are a few tips to consider before planning your next event. They will ensure your event is meeting and exceeding your expectations.
1. Research the community
It is difficult to know what types of events will work for your audience if you know nothing about your audience! This is the most important step of the planning process yet it is often missed. When we begin with a new community events client, our first step is to research the community. This is done through surveys, debriefs of previous events/activations, statistical data on the community as well as information gained through a previous sales process. We like to add an extra step to this where possible – people watching! Visiting the community and simply watching their interactions can provide great insights.
2. Think local & sustainable
There has been a large movement in the past few years to support local and we couldn’t love this more. There has been a rise in small businesses who provide a service to their local area. It is a great opportunity to not only provide an event for the community but to also support the local economy. It is also fantastic to showcase the local suppliers and produce to the local community. They themselves may be looking for alternate ways to support local. Finally, we aim to make our community events sustainable where possible. We need to consider how we can reduce our footprint on the local area and engage more sustainable options.
3. Create interactive experiences
Many community events are planned with the idea to get the greatest number of attendees through the door as possible. But is this the right approach when we are building engaging community events? This is where we need to consider the event objectives. If your goal is to create awareness around a particular place, brand or activity then perhaps the larger numbers work with that goal. But, if your goal is to create a sense of community and build new relationships then more interactive experiences are required. Think a group class learning a new skill, tending to a community garden or a meet your neighbours style event. Often done on a smaller scale, these events allow the participants to engage more in the activity. They provide an environment more conducive to relationship building.
4. Allow attendees to connect before the event
There may be members of your community who are yet to meet anyone in the area. Potential attendees may have questions about the event and the answers would be helpful for others. Allowing attendees the chance to connect before the event helps attendees to feel more comfortable. It can also bring up potential talking points/ideas/options for future events. We recommend that this platform be monitored by someone from your team. This allows them to not only answer any questions which may arise but also allows them to weed out any unfavorable behaviour.
5. Follow up
When the event finishes, many community event organisers breathe a sigh of relief and move on to the next project. This is a big mistake. Conducting a detailed debrief following your event not only allows you to identify the elements that were successful. It also identifies the areas for improvement. Following our community events we send our attendees a survey via Survey Monkey. The survey asks the attendees to rate their experience of the various elements of the event. But more importantly, it asks them to identify potential areas for improvement. Ideas on what they would like included in future events. As with all feedback you need to weigh up which elements are worth implementing. But this data can be invaluable in ascertaining what your audience want to see.
Community engagement events don’t need to be big and lavish to be successful. Before planning your next community event, ensure you take the time to sit down and outline the event objectives. Research your audience and then plan an event that delivers on your objectives. Make sure it is tailored to the interests of your local community. If you aren’t sure how to do this (or you need a little help and some creative event ideas) – please reach out to Events Outsourced. For some further ideas on creating a thriving community, please check out our previous post 4 Tips for building a thriving community.