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Empty Rooms to Packed Dance Floors: Grow Your Community with Lessons from Live Music.

By Laura Craft

This talk will tell the story of how ProntoForms developed and maintain a Community Advisory Board, how to work with them to launch a community, and how to continue to work with them to grow a community once it’s live,

Take aways from this presentation will include:

  • The risks you run when you make assumptions.
  • A solid understanding of the value of you listening to your customers/members.
  • How to create and maintain your own Community Advisory Board.
  • How to be agile and iterative in your process for developing and maintaining your community programs.

The ProntoForms Community was launched just over 2 years ago. To minimize the number of assumptions being made about how the community was going to work and what kind of content it was going to offer a Community Advisory Board was created. The CAB’s purpose is to listen to members and to use that input and feedback to build a community that would deliver the value they were looking for.

Like a Customer Advisory Board, a Community Advisory Board is made up of members selected by the community management team. Having a CAB will make it easier to understand:

  • How your members are currently learning about our software/service/organization/association and identify the gaps your community can fill.
  • How your members prefer to engage with and be kept up to date with new community content, recognizing that many of your members have other responsibilities beyond engaging with your community, so they will likely have different preferences in terms of how they choose to engage with your community.
  • How your members prefer to consume content coming from the community (videos, events, articles, etc)

If you are working to launch a new community, or even relaunch an existing one, working with a CAB on decisions from vendor selections to content programming, can increase the likelihood that you will make the right decisions thanks to input and direction from the people who are using your community.

For existing communities, use your CAB to understand the health of your community, to brainstorm and beta test new content and programming ideas, and report back to them on how your community is doing. Providing a sense of ownership and letting your CAB take pride in the success their advice has provided is one way to encourage their continued involvement.

Build and maintain your CAB by setting expectations of what it means to be on the CAB when you ask a member to join (ex: how often does the CAB meet, what are the ongoing responsibilities outside of CAB meetings), providing exclusive SWAG and opportunities like “front of the line” access to your senior leadership team, and your product team if you have a community for a software company, and just having a stronger relationship with them personally in and outside of the community.

My background, education, and ongoing second life as a performing musician taught me ages ago that making assumptions about what the audience will connect with lead to empty dance floors and poor ticket sales. I only found success once I started to listen to my audience and learn about what they wanted to hear when they went out for a night of fun and dancing. Once I started to listen to my audience and understand what they were looking for, I began to see sell out shows and packed dance floors.

This lesson of not assuming what the audience wanted and tailoring my set lists to what they were telling me they were looking for is something I’ve taken with me as a community builder. I’m very passionate about listening to my members and working with our CAB to make the best decisions I can when it comes to continuing to build and grow the ProntoForms community.