If you’re a creature of habit and organisation (like me) you may have found yourself daydreaming about a more spontaneous, less structured life. One where no day, week or month is the same, and you cross whole continents in a van, making friends at every stop and eating your way through every local cuisine (just me?).
But in reality, most of us do actually thrive on routine. That’s one of the reasons why recurring events, when done well, can be so valuable for engagement and retention in communities of all sizes.
I know a few things about events and community — ahem — and belong to several communities that run brilliant recurring events (the kind that leaves you impatient for the next one!), so I thought it was about time I wrote up what I’ve learned so far, from experience and others. Take and try what you like, find what works for your community, and tell me about your wins!
What type of recurring community events can you host?
Goal Setting and Reflection
I have the serious pleasure of leading weekly goal setting and reflection sessions via Butter for the Leapers Pods — a monthly accountability programme for freelancers. All the sessions are optional, but people still log in (and switch their cameras on!) to share their intentions for the week ahead, and reflect on their progress at the end. This makes me a very happy and proud ‘Pod parent’ BUT it also tells me that many people find value in regularly sharing their goals and celebrating their wins.
What if I said you could attend a networking event with guaranteed good coffee, minimal commute time and wearing your slippers?! It’s no joke — online networking is still popular, even post-lockdowns, especially for those who may not find themselves near a ‘hub’ for their industry or discipline. If you’d like some specifics on hosting an online networking session, I wrote a whole article on it for the lovely people at Butter.
Community Socials / Coffee Clubs
If your community aren’t keen on ‘working the (virtual) room’ but still wants a place and time to hang out with other members, a more casual community social or virtual coffee break could be more appealing. They could be the equivalent of post-work Friday drinks, replicate that mid-afternoon linger in the kitchen on a Monday, or find their own unique rhythm entirely — whatever works!
Many hands make light work — even when they’re not working on the same project? The practice of virtual coworking may have passed you by, but it’s probably here to stay with the new future of work. Online freelance community Leapers has written up a few places you can check out for inspiration.
Some smart folks have realised that a) sitting inside all day, staring at a screen might not make for happy humans, and b) that said humans might need something to nudge them out of their seats and out the front door. One of those folks is Anise, who runs an Online Walking Club to get people out of their offices, away from their screens and reflect.
Webinars / Workshops
If you’ve got a community that leaps at opportunities to learn, and some savvy experts on hand that are happy to teach, why not try a programme of webinars and/or workshops? At Pip Decks, we have tied theirs into their product, with a monthly workshop on how best to use an individual card. If you’ve got your business hat on, have a think about whether you want to charge members for some of them, all of them, or none of them (as an extra juicy benefit of their loyalty).
How often should you host a recurring community event?
Annoying but truthful answer: as frequently as it makes sense for you and your community.
Reductive but practical answer: weekly, monthly or quarterly!
Weekly could work for most recurring events, especially Goal Setting and Reflection or Online Coworking, as members might find it offers structure and rhythm.
Monthly might be more manageable for recurring events like Webinars or Workshops that benefit from long-term planning and organisation. Depending on the vibe of your community, this might also be the right cadence for a Community Social (but if you’ve got a group of mostly extroverts, it could be too infrequent!)
Quarterly may lend itself better to recurring events like Networking to keep things fresh for regular attendees, and to let the introverts recover from the last one… The same goes for multi-day intensive events like Online Summits.
What are the benefits of recurring community events?
They become memorable
After they’ve been run (and promoted) a few times, members will be more likely to recall when the next one is coming up and what it will offer them. If they find themselves thinking about the ‘thing’ that your recurring event covers, it’s likely they’ll start their search with you.
They encourage habits
Remember when I said most of us thrive on routine? With recurring events, your community can build them into their own routines. For them, it can provide valuable structure and connection. For you, it helps boost loyalty, and referrals from happy members who want more people to benefit from their favourite event!
They get easier to organise each time
I think running recurring events is (probably) like learning to DJ. Each time you get a little more familiar with the tools and the techniques, and then you can turn your focus to the crowd and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. AND just like DJing, you can also automate some of the simple but repetitive tasks — like event reminders, post-event feedback forms, publishing event recordings — with tools like Zapier, eventbrite, lu.ma, Notion and Slack! (I think that analogy worked out, but I’ll issue an apology to DJs everywhere, just in case).
…and it gets easier to delegate them
Once you’ve got your ‘playlist’ down, you can create templates and checklists, so that members of your community can step up and guest host. One of my favourite examples of this is Sophie at Freelancer Magazine, who does just this for the community’s coworking sessions. Alternatively, you could hire an event host!
What are the realities of recurring community events?
- They can get repetitive — maintaining the novelty effect is a challenge for recurring events. If your networking event has the same people turning up every time, for example, it dilutes the goal of making new connections and members could lose interest. Here’s some things you could try if this happens:
- Organise it in seasons (like fashion, or TV shows), or just take a break e.g. The Marketing Meetup
- Have a theme for each session, so that members feel like they’ll get something a little different each time, even if the format stays the same. Let’s say you run a monthly Community Social event: TOO much structure probably isn’t necessary, but you could set everyone up with a topic that gets the conversation flowing and helps new members get involved, like food, travel, hobbies or movies.
- You can lose perspective — occasionally handing over the reigns to guest hosts has three key benefits: it switches things up for regular attendees, you get to play the role of observer, and you also get a break! The last two especially could help you return with a fresh pair of eyes to see where there are opportunities you hadn’t spotted before. I’d also recommend regularly asking your audience for feedback.
- Things can still go wrong — am I the ultimate, all-seeing community and events expert? No, BUT I have hosted over 100 events, so I’m getting pretty good at them now, and I can tell you that it’s always a good idea to have a contingency plan. Stand-in hosts, tech experts and alternative spaces/platforms on standby just in case means you’ll be able to maintain your event cycle and stay consistent for your members.
One final thing to remember:
It can be tricky to find the sweet spot! Don’t be disheartened if you don’t hit capacity for your first recurring event, or even the first few. Keep trying, play around with different activities and gather feedback from your community.
Got more questions, or want to tell me how your recurring community events are going? Come chat with me.