Event marketing: the fundamentals of community building

By Kit Watts

2 mins

How to build community within the events industry

Shane Feldman is CEO and Founder of the world’s largest youth-led movement, Count Me In which has impacted 10 million young people in 100 countries.

Feldman's movement was spurred by his experience eating lunch on his first day at high school: sitting on his own with no idea how to reach out and connect despite being surrounded by 1,500 people. Motivated to get involved in the community, he planned an event for newcomers and set himself a target of 50 kids. 

When 400 came through the door Count Me In, the community that has since touched the lives of 10 million young people around the globe, was born.

Community is something you create

Feldman discovered a blinding truth that has served him well ever since: Community is not something you find, it’s something you create.

“The more I got involved the more I felt like I was part of something. I put myself on the inside. Nothing about school had changed but I had plugged myself into the community and from there everything changed,” he explained.

The five fundamentals of community building 

These are the five fundamentals of successful business and community-building as shared by Shane Feldman:

1. Foster effective relationships 

Relationships make us human, and business is about serving other people. 

Whether you’re in software sales, an Uber driver, an apple farmer, a hotel manager, a golf course owner or a cruise ship company director, your business success hinges on your ability to form strong relationships with your suppliers, partners, staff and customers.

2. Eye contact sparks real connection 

Look into another person’s eyes. This is where honest connection starts.

Shane Feldman on stage at IMEX America

3. Listen more than you speak

Take a listening-first approach. Feldman’s team plan their events by ‘starting backwards’. They amass feedback, surveys, questionnaires…soaking up ideas, suggestions and comments from their community first before any planning gets underway.

4. Empower people around you

Give ownership to the person on your team who came up with a great idea. Celebrate them. Involve them. Show them and your community they matter and their ideas count. Give them a voice and make them visible. If they suggested a speaker for an event, let them introduce that speaker onstage.

5. Scale impact

Focus on how to scale impact. Make sure there’s always something new happening tomorrow, next week, next month. Feldman calls this ‘a mindset switch’. In the case of Count Me In, this meant shifting from an event-planning mentality to a focus on the long-term effect he could have as a social entrepreneur.

People will often find common ground around shared interests or topics but communities thrive when united around a common purpose. 

In Feldman's own words, “as humans we are social animals and people who build communities bring the most value.”

Be part of the conversation on event marketing at IMEX - where the global meetings and events industry comes together to connect, learn and do great business.

About the author

Kit Watts has worked with the IMEX team in several guises, including PR and content, since the first IMEX Frankfurt in 2003.

Kit Watts

Communications Strategist