Last week, I attended WordCamp Dallas, a meeting of bloggers and web professionals who are using the WordPress platform. WordCamp was phenomenal both in terms of the information delivered and the wonderful people who were there.
Seeing all the fabulous strategies used to make this event happen on a registration fee of just $30 per person, it got me to thinking, how could these strategies be applied to make heritage events more accessible and successful?
The are lots actually.
Invest folks who are already have an online audience
Advocates are important. For WordCamp, this was easy. Lorelle VanFossen, one of the web’s most noted bloggers, actively promotes WordCamp events on her personal site as well as several external sites and podcasts. While there are few wildly popular heritage bloggers, organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training frequently feature events that they don’t necessarily organize.
Additionally, there are web experts with strong heritage values. For example, the teenage social media titan Dave Moyer has worked with Laura Bush on the Preserve America initiative and even testified before Congress about heritage issues. While Moyer doesn’t publish exclusively on these issues, his interest and reach potentially makes him a strong ally.
Connect Your Participants Before the Event
When someone registered for WordCamp Dallas, their name, website and twitter handle went up on the event’s official site. This enabled folks to connect before the event and arrive with a sense of the networking possibilities.
Then Put Them to Work
With an e-mail required for each registration, the organizers and a ready-made pool of folks who were potential volunteers. They took advantage of the situation with calls for help for everything from setting up tables to running video cameras. This excited participants and invested them in the event.
Use Keywords to Track Buzz about Your Event
While the official WordCamp Dallas site served as a source of information on the technical details of the event, its organizers provided a special tag “wcdfw09” that participants could use for their communication about the topic across any social network.
Bottom Line: Stay Focused on Your Participants’ Needs
In a down economy, it’s tempting to try and make every part of your event a moneymaker. But the benefits of showing an interest in your audience and creating an experience that will enhance their lives and careers will create benefits for the long run. Personally, I’m still realizing benefits from the first WordCamp I attended in 2008. While my mind is still reeling from the 2009 event, I know there are still great things in store as a result. And it’s because the organizers of the event took into account the wants and needs of their audience.