How Crowdsourcing Can Improve Your Events?
Crowdsourcing is the process of collecting information, content, and ideas by asking for contributions from a large group of people. You can use it in many ways – selecting speakers and panel session content topics as well as choosing attendee activities at your event. Crowdsourcing can be a great way to delegate some of your event work to attendees, find innovative solutions to problems, produce new ideas and generate excitement for and personal investment in your event.
A co-creation process
Before starting the crowdsourcing, you need to understand crowdsourcing an event is a co-creation process between you and your crowdsourcing participants. It involves letting go of some of your control over every aspect of your event. Deciding if, and how much of your event content you want to crowdsource will depend largely upon your willingness to share some of the responsibility of your event planning with others.
If you are okay with sharing your authority with others over decision making process, then you should find the answers of some important questions before you begin implementation, such as;
What kind of information will you collect and for what purpose (ideas, topics of discussion or speaker suggestions)?
Who do you plan to ask these questions? What type of demographic characteristics they have?
Are you going to let your participants decide upon all or are you going to draw some red lines and limit crowdsourcing?
What feedback have you already received from past attendees and stakeholders?
How will you collect ideas and suggestions, evaluate them, and make the final selection?
How will you promote your crowdsourcing to your target audience and interested participants?
Setting the Framework
Once you decide to apply crowdsourcing as a part of your event, make it easy for your audience and stakeholders to suggest ideas by utilizing your digital and social media resources. Then implement an evaluation and selection process and do plenty of promotion to reach people.
Every event has a theme providing a framework within which topics and speakers relevant to the theme are created and eventually selected. Using your framework, you can plan your thematic messages and topic strands that are going to be delivered at your event. But do not determine everything by yourself, and include your crowdsourcing participants in the process. Let them choose what topics they want to learn about or speakers they want to hear from too. Someone might come up with a new and fresh speaker or topic that you have never even heard of.
Methods and tools for crowdsourcing
As an event professional, you can provide topic strands within the event program that appeal to your intended audiences and encourage their participation in the decision-making. You can do this in various ways. Probably the easiest is to ask them in person or online what topics or keynote or panel speakers they want to include within your thematic framework. You also can provide topics or speakers and get feedback from them. Exploring the feedback will give you a better idea of what is in demand and important to them.
Some other tools for crowdsourcing include surveys, questionnaires, social media or blogs which illicit suggestions. Use a unique event crowdsourcing hashtag or a contest where you reward the winners with something valuable such as; a free pass to your event, an opportunity to introduce a speaker or chair a session etc. Write a blog post about your event and solicit comments and suggestions. E-mail a survey to your mailing list.
Evaluating and Selecting
Evaluating and selecting can range from opening this process to all interested people in your audience to "vote" on suggestions made orestablishing a smaller group of "judges" to make the final determinations on topics and speakers.
If you decide on an open process, you need to determine who gets to be a "voter" – the entire public or only registered attendees. Most events that use crowdsourcing require that "voters" be registered as they have more of a stake in ensuring a quality lineup at the event they are attending. One of the big trade-offs of this type of democratic process is that final selections can delay your overall event programming and cause last minute time crunches as you finalize topics and speakers. To avoid this, voting deadlines need to be established.
On the other hand, just because you are involving the outside talent of your audience and stakeholders with crowdsourcing doesn't mean you have to be totally democratic in your evaluation and selection process. There needs to be some limits or restrictions here to avoid the whims of fancy. Also setting some safeguards for evaluating and selecting topics and speakers can maintain your event focus and theme as well as ensure a certain level of content and speaker quality.
Here is where creating an advisory board or committee and using their expertise to help curate the most relevant content and speakers is beneficial. Adding such boards or committees help you with the evaluation and selection process in some way lightens the burden and responsibility for you to make these decisions alone.Using the advisory committee or board to do the initial screening of topics and speakers before opening the process to voting by the public or registered attendees can be a good course to follow. It can be easier and more effective for those who participate in the selection to have a refined list of possibilities rather than an endless, and perhaps confusing, list. It also helps you with the quality control.
Promoting Your Efforts
Don't forget to promote the opportunity to get involved in your crowdsourcing efforts. Whether you are crowdsourcing ideas before your current event or during a previous event, make sure everyone knows they are invited to contribute and how to do it.
As with soliciting suggestions input, use your email list of current and previous attendees and other stakeholders; actively engage with your target audiences on your most active social media accounts and hangouts; and don't forget in-app push notifications to get the word out. Your website and blogs are also great promotional tools to let people know what you are doing.
Whatever methods you use to promote your event crowdsourcing efforts, it is important to reach as broad and diverse a segment of your targeted audience as possible. It provides you a great pool of talent and ideas which you alone may never have thought of or even considered. It also engages them as potential attendees to your event and provides them an opportunity to engage with you and your brand.
The benefits of crowdsourcing are clear – not only do you gain ideas from a diverse group of people and get more interesting results for your event but it also allows you to actively engage your attendees and ensures you are covering what they really want to discuss and learn at your event. The potential for a richer attendee experience is greatly increased by involving them. They will be much more engaged with your event and more likely attend if you include them in the decision-making process. Eventually, you will get a satisfying result from your event and your participants will feel the pleasure of being a part of the team.