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Event experience | 25 August 2016

How To Build Engaging Event Communities With Slack

Stephanie Schutz

For those who may not know, Slack is a messaging app that allows for friendly collaboration through instant messages. The tool integrates with multiple third-party services, meaning that it is a flexible platform that can meet the many needs of event organizers. Slack has grown exponentially over the past year, and currently 3 million people use the platform each day.

In short, Slack is an instant messaging platform for professionals that combines the delightful experience of sending messages with friends, with productivity boosting features that have lead many to proclaim Slack to be an “email killer.”

Since it’s such a great messaging platform, Slack can be used to enhance attendee networking and community building. This article will explain how event organizers can use Slack to create rich digital communities.

Slack Basics

For those who still aren’t quite sure what Slack is, take a look at the screenshot below.

Slack_Basics.png

Channels (The Red Box): Slack users (especially event organizers and community managers) can create dedicated channels related to various topics. In the example above, the creators of “Launch” (a networking group for entrepreneurs) decided to have a channel for coding, a channel for design and so on. Channels can be used by event organizers to create structured digital networking zones for attendees with specific interests.

Direct Messages (The Yellow Box): Direct messages allow Slack users to send 1-1 messages. Direct messages are initiated by Slack users themselves and are a great way for attendees to schedule meetings, or to share thoughts that might not be relevant for everyone in a channel.

Chat Window (The Green Box): All chats whether they happen in a Channel or as a Direct Message are sent through a chat window. Here, Slack will show the most recent part of a conversation, and users can scroll up to see older posts. Active Slack groups will have long discussion threads that get bigger with time.

Before, During & After Event Use Cases

Now that you have a basic sense of what Slack is, it’s time to talk about how event organizers like you can use it to improve the networking experience of attendees.

Before The Event: Prior to an event, organizers can invite already registered attendees to Slack and can create an “introduce yourself” channel. There, event goers can introduce themselves and what they are hoping to get out of the event. Other members following the channel may choose to engage with new members via a direct message or in the channel directly.

Organizers can also use Slack prior to an event to quickly poll members of the Slack community about planned activities. Slack integrates with free polling tools that make it easy to quickly gather member sentiment.

Additionally, Slack can be used as a great value-added feature to encourage those who are on the fence about attending to actually sign up for your event. Consider inviting non-registrants to join the Slack community, once they get a feel for who is in the group, they may decide to register just because of the great conversations they’re having online.

During The Event: For organizers on a tight budget, Slack can be used to facilitate attendee communication, since it is accessible on desktop, and on mobile, attendees can network with one another while they are at your event via Slack’s easy to use smatphone app.

Thanks to easy to create Channels and one on one messaging, Slack makes it easy for attendees to coordinate meet ups and to plan post-event activities with other attendees.

After The Event: Creating a digital community can be a great tactic for event organizers to take because it helps to extend the life cycle of your event. The event becomes more valuable for attendees if people are still accessible via an online forum. Slack can be used to create this online forum – meaning that your event brand will be more relevant to attendees than it might otherwise be after the event.

Slack Hacks To Grow Your Community

If you’re interested in building and a thriving Slack community, here are a few “hacks” you might consider implementing to quickly build the ranks of the group. You can follow this link to create a Slack new team.

Invite Event Registrants: Slack requires that an admin invite others to the group, so it makes sense for you or a team member to invite those who have already registered to the event to your Slack community via the email address they already provided you when they used your event registration platform.

To prepare attendees for an email that will be sent to them from Slack (see below), it’s best that you communicate with them before-hand to explain why they should join the community at all. 

To explain the value of your Slack community, you can segment your event registrants based on various parameters like the sessions they registered to, or based on their job title, and explain in a tailored email what value they can expect to gain by joining.

Attendees whom you choose to invite will receive an email from Slack similar to the one below.

Slack_Invite_Email.png

An attendee just needs to click the “Join Team” button and they will be prompted to build a profile.

Make Your Slack Group Public: For those who are interested in building large communities and are less concerned with keeping the group exclusive, it is possible to make a Slack Group public, though doing it will require some technical know how. 

Follow this link to see an open-source resource that can turn your Slack community from public to private, meaning you and your team won’t need to invite contacts in order for people to join the group.

Of course creating a public Slack group won’t be the right tactic for all organizers, but for those planning large-scale events it might be the right solution.

Share Community Guidelines: A common criticism of Slack communities is that at some point the quality of the interaction between members can degrade as new people join. In turn, the founding group members who made the Slack community worth joining in the first place leave, and eventually the community dies. 

To avoid this, it’s important to establish clear posting guidelines early on, and to make sure that these guidelines are enforced. This can be done by creating a “Welcome To The Group” channel where posting guidelines, and introductions are handled in the same place.

Screen_Shot_2016-08-25_at_4.22.52_PM.png

Organizers can also upload files to Slack and pin those files in specific channels (see above as an example), where a document outlining guidelines can always be accessed and referred to.

Next Steps

For event organizers interested in building thriving digital communities, Slack can be a great way to do just that. The messaging platform provides community members with a fluid and fun experience, and since it is such a fast-growing company, it’s likely that many event goers will have used the platform before.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of the platform, you can start growing it by inviting existing event registrants, or by creating a public Slack networking community if you want to turbocharge growth. Either way, planners should be sure to create and pin community guidelines in Slack in order to ensure that conversations remain consistent. 

Want to learn other community building best practices? Watch an on-demand webinar: “The Event Planner’s Guide To Building Digital Communities” by clicking the button below!

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