Taking your social media efforts offline is a logical next step, especially if your goal is to create community and evangelists for a club or organization. Having a party, a meet-up, workshops or meetings on a face to face basis both empowers and rewards your loyal following. Some may step forward and want to create their own events. Let them. Give them the tools and help they need to succeed and the give them the reins.

Sometimes you may have to gently direct them in what the mission of your organization is and it’s a very good idea to have a clear idea of what that is before you start partying it up. On the other hand perhaps you could schedule a meeting or two with some loyal followers to help you define what their goals are and how you can all work together towards a bright future. Empower those early followers and you’ll find they are there in the clinch when you need them most.

Event planning is an art form many of us just don’t get, but there are some wonderful tools you can use to promote an event and even sell tickets.Here’s a quick start to online tools to make your event go more smoothly.

Getting started. Do some searches in the area you want to hold the event. Are you traveling to a distant city and want to schedule a meet up? Do some searches like “Dallas, Tx, Events” in Google and you’ll quickly see the most popular event announcement sites in that city.

Do a few searches on Twtvite and see if there are any tweetups or create your own. (A Tweetup is generally simply a get-together. Sometimes over beverages, coffee or a meal.) Find the person who is organizing Tweetups in that town and let them know you’d like to co-host or attend. Most Tweetup organizers are happy for a little help and some new faces.

Some other popular event announcement sites include:

All of these are national and you’ll need to do a local search to find what other opportunities are out there.

Ticketing
My personal favorite is Eventbrite. Start here to sell your tickets and then post the announcements everywhere you can find and point all of your announcements here to buy tickets. Why? Simple, although they do take a small percentage for transaction fees, in my opinion Eventbrite gives you some of the best tools to spread the word and reporting of all the sites I’ve seen.

You can create custom pages, promote with one click to an array of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, track attendance with spiffy charts, control how many tickets you sell (and create different levels of tickets) and pay for them through the site which means you don’t have to handle credit cards.

Oh, and on top of that, every time somebody registers for your event they have an opportunity to tell their friends about your event.

At the event
Social media can be hugely useful during the actual event as well. Create a Hashtag for your event. Make it short so people have lots of room to add their comments and encourage people to “live tweet” and upload pictures and video clips to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr with those tags. After the event this is a great way to see it through the eyes of the attendees and make the next one even better. Thank each and every poster with a personal thank you and an invitation for feedback.

Live streaming
This has been controversial of late with horror stories of the things people say in the chat area on some live-streaming sites. It can also be a great way to reach out to people who can’t attend for whatever reason. Either turn off the chat window or moderate it to toss out the jerks right away.

Live Friendfeed or Twitter streams
It can be a lot of fun to see what people are saying live right up on the wall at an event. It encourages people to post and at the same time encourages a bit of self moderation (they know the room is listening). Again, somebody should moderate. Not so much to squelch the unruly as to respond to issues or questions that come up and gently direct the flow of information.

Mobile devices
Use mobile devices or cameras like the Flip that can quickly upload video clips to share what’s going on. You can go back and annotate later and give the guests a card with the urls on it to go and add their comments and share with their friends.

Find a maven
I have to say¬† I am just not a maven at face to face events, but I have seen some brilliant ones in action and I genuinely admire them. In my opinion it’s an art form. A maven is a connector. She meets people, learns a few things about them and then makes introductions to the people who can help them in some way. Not only that, she remembers their names and pertinent information and is vital to your organization for getting back to attendees and planning your next event. Having a maven at your event can ensure it’s success even if you (like me) are deadly shy and fairly boring. She’ll pull it off and the event will be a smashing success. Make sure you thank her in a big way afterwards.

After the event

  • Take the time to thank the people you met. Follow up with answers to questions and connect on your networks.
  • Create a montage of photos from the event through Flickr or Animoto to commemorate the event and then send it out to the attendees to share with their friends.
  • Ask them to send you links to their own pictures and video clips so you can link them all up, perhaps with a re-cap blog post.
  • Follow up immediately with anyone who offered to assit with the next event or wants to organize their own.
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