Community Building

2 quick fixes to a failed community event

2 quick fixes to a failed community event

Failures are great

Sad to see that only successful events are discussed on most occasions. Boasting about our achievements is great, then again, the pitfalls in the process teach us much more than our entire experience. While most work towards winning the game, which is completely natural, failed community events are as important too. Be it large or small, failures are encountered at every step. Most of the time, we choose to avoid it and sometimes we choose to deal with it.
It is the same whether we talk about community events, marketing campaigns, or community engagement efforts. An identical question to a vivid audience can bring about different reactions and responses which could be indicators that could eventually lead to better understanding of the stakeholders of the conversation.

How to make the best of it

Let’s take an example. Say we have planned an online webinar or offline event where we have scheduled subject matter experts (SMEs) to speak and address our community members with clarifications about the topic. However, due to lack of followup and clarity of the agenda, have miserably failed. Maybe we have canceled the event in the last minute, or had no replacement for the speakers who have skipped the session planned or only responded when it was too late to do anything about it. It certainly hasn’t attracted any brownie points. It’s important to address the issues promised to the members before we ask them to trust us again. So, what should we do in such a situation?

Should we, as organizers of the community event, shrug our shoulders and blame it on the speakers/sponsors of the failed event? Or should we assume the probabilities and address the community members with whatever we feel could be relevant and take the chance to turn the failed event into something manageable?

Experts suggest these two approaches to mitigate the trouble at hand:

1. Open apology

When events fail (or any other campaign for that matter) and things do not work out at the nth moment, instead of blaming anyone else involved or the situation, it’s best to accept the blame ourselves and apologize (like Reddit did a while back about its lack of involvement with its members). Everyone understands that there are times, when in spite of detailed planning and meticulous execution, there are some dependencies that slip away from our attention and cause well laid out community events to go wrong.

The moment we give ego a miss and make efforts to reconcile, the failed event gets easier to handle. Apologizing in front of all our community members for not thinking about a Plan B will start making our mind accept and learn from our mistakes. Let’s call this the first step to making good on our mistake.

2. Involvement of community members

Then again, just an open “Sorry” will not help much. The best foot forward is to include the members in planning the alternate. We will have to acknowledge our mistake and detail out the approach that we took for planning our failed community event. Each piece of the plan would then be broken down by both the members and us and solutions for bettering the process should be invited. And we would need to do all this openly and shamelessly and come up with the solution along with the members attending.

If avoiding the embarrassment is something we would want to stick with, then the other alternative could be to identify veterans among the members who have worked and been through similar experiences as the speaker and invite them over for a panel discussion. However, this requires us organizers and community managers to know our members very well and to think on our feet, to make it seem like the attempt was not to sweep our mistake under the carpet but to add greater value and be inclusive.

The inference

The second most important part of organizing any online or offline event, after meticulously planning and executing it, is to cerebrate the alternatives and keep them ready, just in case the primary agenda bombs.

It’s also very important to include key stakeholders of the community and hold seasoned professionals in confidence to better plan the outcome, so that our mistakes do not result in the total disappointment of the community and the disrespect for the convener thereby.