Event Design

How Online Communities Can Ignite Live Events

People at a conference sitting on low cubes

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Vibrant online event communities may be difficult to build, but many can help create successful in-person events. They can help drive content, tap into new audiences, and keep conversations real. 

In less than a year, the AVIXA Xchange online community has grown to over 11,000 registered users and over 150,000 visitors engaging with the content.

AVIXA Xchange is the online community of AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, producer of InfoComm trade shows worldwide, co-owner of Integrated Systems Europe, and the international trade association representing the audiovisual industry.

It connects thought leaders, industry-leading solution providers, and innovative manufacturers with audiovisual buyers. It’s also a vital part of the company’s in-person events helping drive content, tapping into new audiences, and keeping the conversations real.

A Home for the Community

Conferencing and collaboration, content production and streaming, digital signage, and learning solutions are some of the themes of the online platform. They also are the inspiration for the in-person events.

Public rooms focus on specific topics, including the Technology Manager’s Forum, A Culture of Inclusion, and Sustainable Audiovisual. Private and hidden rooms also exist for subgroups to chat in.

“It was so important for us to build a place exclusively for the pro-audiovisual community,” said Rochelle Richardson, senior vice president of exposition and event services at AVIXA InfoComm USA. “It has provided us the opportunity to bring together buyers and sellers and create a 360, 24/7 community where a lot of things happen, and that extends beyond the in-person event.”

The Xchange is also designed to be a “soft landing space for adjacent audiences,” said Samantha Minish, vice president of content delivery for AVIXA. “There’s a lot of overlap with enterprise IT, live events, and learning, among others. Audiovisual might be just part of their role, so the Xchange allows them to learn about the industry.” 

One of the critical goals for the team is to develop these audiences into potential new attendees for live events and help them engage with the company’s other products. “We focus on our usership and visibility because there’s so much value in this,” said Richardson. “It’s a great connection point, and it really has the ability to extend the life of our shows.” 

Real-Time Market Intelligence

While the platform provides a space for ongoing interaction, it also helps the organizers identify new industry trends and growing focus areas, influencing the programming and other live events and online community decisions.

“While these areas are the top ones today, in another year or two, they may change because we follow what’s happening in the trends within our industry,” Richardson said. With events back in full swing, she expects a significant increase in live events and entertainment. 

All event stakeholders also benefit from the interaction and insight shared in rooms dedicated to specific in-person events, Richardson noted, where conversations center around what’s happening at those events and help organizers stay on top of key topics for their audiences. 

From Virtual to In-Person Community

The vibrant online community has translated into AVIXA Xchange Live, an in-person activation during Avixa’s in-person events, including InfoComm in the U.S. and ISE in Barcelona, Spain. Preserving the same community feel, it focuses on audience interaction and open discussion through brainstorming, pass-the-mic programs, and fireside chats. The programming doesn’t compete with the educational sessions or the presentations on the Innovation Stage. It brings some of those “stickier” conversations from the digital realm to the physical space and then back again on the platform after the event.

“We want this to be a safe space for different voices from different perspectives,” Minish said. The organizers tap the people leading the discussions online to do so in real life. 

Lessons Learned

After the first two iterations of AVIXA Xchange Live, several modifications have made it more effective. For one, the seating arrangements have been changed to more cube-like individual spaces that are easily configurable and can be moved around. Attendees tend to join in the back and gradually move up front. 

The organizers also discovered that recording sessions didn’t capture their interactive nature. So for the next event, one of the staff writers will note the key points and post them online. 

Getting an emcee who has a great personality and is knowledgeable about the technology, and can continue to drive the conversation into late afternoons was an absolute must.

Next steps? Embedding a live stream from the physical event directly into the Xchange so users can watch and interact with the event personalities and industry leaders straight from the platform.