Today sees my re-emergence back in to the real world after spending two days submerged in the elaborate halls and lecture rooms of the beautiful Royal Institute of Great Britain. A really fitting venue for community management gurus FeverBee’s European SPRINT conference for community professionals.
Firstly a brief note on the venue: what a stunning building, with wall-to-wall books in every room, oil paintings and busts of (in)famous scholars and scientists; cabinets of experiments of a by-gone era and a truly wonderful lecture theatre that evoked a real feeling of learning some awesome things in an arena where so much theory and learning occurred that shaped all of our lives in some way.
Anyway – onto the event. I was lucky enough to be attending both days of this event, with the first day being split into two half day workshops; the tricky part being deciding which ones to take.
The first half of the day for me was spent with FeverBee’s head of training, the lovely Caty Kobe and the organisation’s charismatic founder Richard Millington. Caty kicked things off by talking about how to use influencing skills and charisma to drive community success. Being likeable and friendly, reciprocity and using your expertise were all strategies for building influence within your community, with most people probably using one over the others. The tie that bound all of them together, however, was the rule of being always being authentic. Don’t say things in your community if you don’t mean it. Probably better not to say it at all.
Charisma was identified as being a skill you can work on to help with those awkward internal conversations, trying to sell the concept of Community to stakeholders, with confidence, presence and developing a charisma mindset being key to owning the room. How you put your case across and are able to confidently speak with authority about your community is a great way to begin winning those conversations.
Richard’s session was around developing your Community’s story, starting out with making sure that you had an interesting name, rather than simply “brand-name community” (I wonder how many do fall in to that category), and whether or not it passed the -ers test (a current example being the Beliebers phenom). This also led to funny conversation with Dan Spicer the following evening about why HootSuite users should/n’t be referred to as Hooters!
Richard also talked about proving the group’s efficacy by highlighting successes from across your community, press coverage and doing things that change your industries, and finally about having rituals and traditions that really bound people together in community. The workshop was consolidated by having some great activities to bring this to life, one of which was to take our own Communities and look at applying these theories to it. We had a great example around our table of taking the story of Yannick Porter from Greenpeace and his fledgeling community, GreenWire. There is a great story behind it but Yannick now had so many more ideas about changing the name, rituals to keep people coming back and ways to help members celebrate each other’s successes. A story I’ll be sure to follow after this event.
In the afternoon I encountered the brilliant Jennifer Sable Lopez from Moz as she guided us through a session on SEO. I wasn’t too sure how relevant I was going to find it, as our community is a closed community and we have our own SEO people, but as we went through the afternoon I found myself having quite a few “A-ha” moments about how I could use some of these dark arts within our own community’s internal search engine, and be able to think about tailoring the Community’s content to help people in their searches there. Jenn is a great speaker; entertaining, knowledgeable and full of everything you need to keep you engaged after a good lunch. She brought with her such a toolbar of tips, tricks, tools and resources, all of which she shared, that you couldn’t fail to be in the session and take plenty away with you. In fact several people were fixing their own site’s SEO during the session!
At the end of the day we had a great opportunity to network a little and solidify some of the connection we’d been making through the day, with a few drinks at a nearby pub, the Burlington Arms, organised by the lovely Christie Fidura, with some money behind the bar, some lovely food, scotch eggs and lots of great conversation, it was a great end to the day. you could already see the new connections, friendships and networks being built as the day and evening went on, all preparing us for day two.