Building Community With $1.50 Beer

How to achieve the next level of engagement at your event.

By Beth Surmont CAE, CMP

Events are made up of individuals who happen to gather in the same place. Each person comes with their own objectives, ROI and career aspirations (to name a few). There might be overlap in areas of interest, but we have not yet built a community where people put the needs of the group over their own; this is the next level of engagement. It goes beyond finding your people and increases loyalty to the event. It raises the stakes and creates interdependence to accomplish collective goals, and therefore raises the value proposition for your event.

There’s a bar in College Park, MD that has $1.50 beer night. That price holds until someone goes to the bathroom. After that, the cost goes back to normal. So, everyone does their best to “hold it,” because no one wants to be that person who caused the special pricing to end. With cheap beer, this bar managed to achieve what I’ve been looking for—creating a way for the benefit to the whole to outweigh the benefit to the individual.

If cheap beer isn’t quite your style, here are some other ideas to create this at your event:

  • A reverse registration fee structure—the more people who register, the less it costs. People can buy “shares” of registration to drive down costs further. Incent it by providing perks. For example, if you buy ten shares, you get to come to the VIP reception. It would encourage people to get their colleagues to attend because every person who registers makes the overall cost less to the individuals.
  • Have attendees contribute ideas with the goal of publishing a book or a white paper after the event. The item can only be published if enough material is collected, urging people to contribute. Celebrate the publication with press, so everyone gets a resume boost.
  • Create a collective engagement score for the event. Determine metrics like the number of questions asked, the number of votes in the app, the number of people at the early morning awards breakfast, etc. Assign milestones for points collected, and for each one passed something happens like a charitable donation. Keep the metrics reasonable and aligned with your ideal engaged attendee. Set the milestone thresholds in a way that requires 99% participation from the audience.

2019 is the time to start thinking about group ROI over individual outcomes and how it can benefit your event.

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Beth Surmont, the Director of Experience Design for 360 Live Media, has nearly 20 years of professional planning experience. A Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) since 2008 and Certified Association Executive (CAE) since 2016, Beth has worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors and has a wide range of knowledge, with experience in almost every aspect of meeting planning from registration, to logistics, to program management and production.