Getting people in the room

One of the best parts about being a community member is the sense of belonging you feel after meeting up in person.

One of the hardest parts about being a community organizer is figuring out how to physically get people in the room.

This, in a nutshell, is the paradox we experience so often in the programming we offer to employees across our portfolio. For those who “show up” at an event — either an all-day summit, a management training, a speaker series, or more — we often hear that they walk away having felt it was time well spent. But showing up is often the hardest part.

If you’re in the middle of a product launch, a hiring frenzy, or another unexpected fire in the office, stepping away from a startup even for a few hours can feel like a herculean feat. When everyone around you is running 100 miles an hour, even the thought of taking a break might seem impossible. And, despite your best intentions, things come up. All. The. Time.

Maybe that’s why, in cities like San Francisco, our “no show” rate for events (even ones where people RSVP less than one week out) can be as high as 40%.

I like to think the USV Network is here for those “break from the silo” moments that help add a little perspective. This is certainly how I used it when I used to attend all-day summits while I worked on the marketing team at Stack Overflow. For me, meeting up with a collection of folks from other companies helped remind me that there were other ways to think about a problem.

There’s something really special that happens when you go around the room and one by one, strangers admit to feeling certain questions or doubts or uncertainties that you’ve been thinking in your head all along. Suddenly, the room gets a hell of a lot smaller. And rather than everyone keep all of their cards to their chests, they start to lay them out on the table.

“Wait, you feel like that? I do too.”

“Same here. We have the exact same issue.”

“I know it seems weird, but it just makes me feel good to know I’m not alone.”

This might be the single greatest thing that we can offer to anyone: Proof that they aren’t alone. And maybe that’s enough.

So what’s the right way to message the value out of belonging? How do you market the utility of an event that won’t just get people to sign up, but also to show up? How do you communicate this to a first-timer?

It’s easier said than done. But if you have any ideas, I’m all ears.


Originally published at Dry Erase.