Ignite participation: 7 powerful events' methods for engaging your community

Have you been struggling to engage your community members?
Are you designing your community activities and looking for more ideas?
Looking for a way to facilitate a new experience for your members?

We can use creative ways in designing community participant-driven gatherings such as conferences, lectures, and workshops.

In this blog post you’ll find some helpful ideas and methodologies to implement in your content calendar. They will encourage your members to take a step forward and share their knowledge, learn new skills in a more active way, and network with other members.

Why does engaging your members matter?

Your members are the heart of your community. When you started your community, you probably had a vision in your mind of what the community would be about and what its values would be. Engaged members mean that you’ve successfully implemented the community’s values and culture. It helps make sure the community is thriving and achieve the community goals.

Creative events methods
We can use creative ways in designing community participant-driven gatherings | Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

1. World Cafe

Think about the last time you met someone for a coffee. You probably did that to meet a friend, or get to know a colleague better. Maybe to gossip a bit about your organization politics or a personal concern. You chose a coffee place because it has a friendly environment and it’s more casual than the office.

That’s the idea behind the World Cafe concept, developed by Juanita Brown and David Isaacs. The friend or colleague are the participants, gossip is knowledge, and the environment is still friendly so everyone will feel relaxed and open to being involved.

There are different ways to run the World Cafe, but usually participants sit in small groups around tables. Each table has a specific topic where participants can have an honest conversation and share their ideas. When participants are moving from one table to another, it is similar to the Roundtables concept. Participants can contribute to multiple topic discussions and network with different members during each round.

Following the small group discussions, the participants usually gather back as a large group, sharing their insights and what they’ve learned.

Looking to get insights from your community members or find solutions? Then consider hosting such a World Cafe event. Spark questions related to the community or topic, track the discussions and write yourself notes, and make decisions based on the insights you gained.

Looking specifically for an engaging way to open the year in your community?

Find ideas here

2. Design thinking

Initially a methodology used by designers to solve designing problems and create better products, the design methodology is widely used today in business, education, bridging disciplines, strategy’s development, and innovation processes.

The design-thinking framework includes strategic thinking, practical procedures, and tools over six phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement.

In communities, applying design-thinking practices can help you develop your community and create engagement. Using this methodology’s tools, you can gather your community members to address community challenges, better identify internal needs, and collaborate to build projects. Communities who seek to generate a change, can use this method to develop new solutions.

Design thinking phases
The design-thinking framework includes six phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and implement | Photo: Hidden Brains

3. Appreciative Inquiry

Based on the positive psychology approach and change creation, the Appreciative Inquiry methodology supports leaders, organizations, teams, and communities in their growth and transformation processes.

Instead of embracing old approaches such as looking at what’s not working or what are our weaknesses, this methodology encourages us to discover the strengths and together co-create the desired outcomes.

During the process, we engage participants by sharing their best skills, strengths, traits, and past successes. Together, they envision the positive future they would like to see and understand the necessary changes they should make in the present in order to achieve it.

This methodology is recommended for you if you are looking to create a more inclusive environment, build capacity among your community or your team, engage both members and stakeholders, and foster innovative solutions.

4. Games

Games are a great way to engage people. Why? Because they usually have a goal, timeframe, and clear instructions. And they are fun (or are supposed to be!).

You can introduce common, fun games to your community’s gatherings such as bingo, treasure hunt, or relay baton. You can use online platforms such as Kahoot and Wordwall to test knowledge about the members or the community. Or you can develop your own game, an in-person or online one.

Looking for ideas to engage employees remotely?

Here are 12 online ways

5. Unconference

The traditional conference concept is very familiar to you: there are keynote speakers who talk to the participants, while they passively listen. The unconference methodology suggests the opposite.

Instead of coming to the conference with a ready-made setting of space and agenda, the participants are responsible for these. They might choose the event’s topics, engagement type, and the experience they are willing to bring.
Moreover, the unconference disrupts the familiar conferences’ roles. This methodology assumes that the participants have valuable knowledge to share, not less than the podium speaker. That way, a participant can be a speaker who teaches the knowledge, and in the next session turn into the student.

Open Space Technology (OST) or BarCamps are specific forms of unconference.
Participants are arriving at the event and creating it from scratch. There is no schedule and no allocated rooms. They have to collaborate to create the event by suggesting topics, planning, holding the sessions and evaluating them. Once the agenda is set, participants attend sessions based on their interests.

This methodology is usually more informal and promotes active participation and knowledge sharing.

No schedule, no traditional roles of speakers and audience, no allocated rooms — The unconference | Photo: Matheus Bertelli

6. TED-style talk

You have probably heard about TED Talks, but have you considered organizing such an event?

In TED talks, experienced keynote speakers are delivering short presentations on specific topics. You can apply these to your next community event. Your members will share their expertise, insights, or a project they are working on, over a strict limit time that you’ll set in advance. It will give them the chance to share their knowledge. For the members who’ll be the audience, they can learn something new and might be encouraged to be the next ones on stage in future community events.

7. Hackathon

While initially designed to develop new software products over a short period of time, hackathons are nowadays organized in many fields and for various purposes.

The hackathon is usually organized around a challenge in order to create solutions in a competitive way. It brings together experts from different industries, such as engineers, designers, business development professionals, marketers, and so on. Participants are mixed into teams and each team is focused on finding a way to solve the challenge by the end of the event. Usually lasting around 24 hours (more or less), the positive stress to accomplish the mission quickly brings energy. And once the time is over, often the winning team receives resources to continue developing its idea.

Through a hackathon you can gather your members to solve a crucial challenge of your community’s topic, or even find solutions to internal community challenges. Your members will have the chance to take an active part and get to know others in a fun way. You might collaborate with strategic partners to create the necessary environment, and offer prizes or perks for the team who’ll bring the best solution. Please note that your members don’t have to be experts. They simply can contribute with their own experience and knowledge.

You chose the methodology that fits best. What’s next?

These are just a few examples of methodologies that can engage participants in events and communities. They are built to create a meaningful and useful interaction between the participants. Each approach has its own unique characteristics and can be adapted to suit different contexts and objectives.

Once you have chosen the methodology that fits your community gathering, you should organize it well. Choose the right settings for the activity such as space and date, and explain to the participants what they are expected to do.

You’ll have to facilitate the activity in order to achieve the engagement you are looking for. Since most of the methodologies require collaboration, take the extra step when inviting your members to attend and participate. Also make sure the environment and space will be welcoming, inclusive, and foster this collaboration. That way, participants will be active and they’ll feel comfortable with sharing knowledge and asking questions.
Organizing a virtual gathering? You may use these digital tools as part of your engaging concept.
And lastly, I recommend sharing the outputs to encourage a further discourse in your community.

Looking to brainstorm together the methodology that fits your community and design a meaningful experience for your event? Let’s talk.



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