A community manager takes on a wide variety of responsibilities in the name of building community, not least of which is event planning. Events bring people together for a sole purpose and knowing what to do when attendees show up is just as important as getting them there to attend in the first place. It can be daunting, but fear not! We discussed the before, during and after extensively in last month’s community manager breakfast.

Before the event After setting a goal for the event to accomplish, a community manager will have to ask themselves whether the event should be private or public. During breakfast we decided that the right answer depends on what kind of event you’re throwing. As with most things, there are pros and cons for both.

For instance, several of our attendees pointed out that a public event (especially with alcohol) could attract the wrong type of people - specifically people who aren’t invested in your company but your booze. At the same time, you make several more impressions at a public event and that comes with increased recognition. Private events on the other hand may bring already-passionate people together for more focused discussions but risks walling off your community. In the end we decided that it depends on the event you’re trying to throw. A launch party should more public than private and a roundtable should probably be a little more private and focused.

So how do you let people know you’re throwing an event in the first place? The group was a little split on this one because there are simply so many options. Meetup and Eventbrite may be perfect for a paid or recurring event but Facebook events may be best for a more casual public event. Regardless it’s vital to communicate your event effectively from the get-go. This will set the tone of the event far before anyone shows up.

During the event We all seemed to agree that the hardest part of any event doesn’t happen during the event. It happens before and after. That being said we had to answer the question, “But what if they don’t show up!?” An event that has 200 registered attendees may only yield 75 actual bodies in a room. The answer for fixing this problem lies in what you do before the event occurs. First you have to know your audience. People in San Francisco may be more likely to flake than people in other places. Additionally, in our attendees’ experience, a paid event will have a higher turnout rate than a free event. No matter what, the best worst case to be in is that you planned for too many people rather than too few. Over-ordering will make your job a lot easier than under-ordering.

After the event To wrap up our discussion on no-shows, it was brilliantly pointed out that you should follow up with the people who didn’t come instead of just letting them go. But that’s not the only communication you’re responsible for after an event. How do you distribute content that informs the people who care without bothering the people who don’t? We had three ideas on how to do that: Focus on the people who were at the event. “Keep it special.” Don’t obsess over the people who weren’t there. For instance, email them, but don’t ask why people weren’t there on your Twitter account. Content should reflect the big takeaways that are applicable to everyone, not just the people who were there.

And, as with anything, you’re going to be asked to provide some ROI on how your event turned out. This report should answer the very first question you asked yourself, “What goal will this event accomplish?” That makes calculating ROI a little less daunting since the event was designed to achieve something from the beginning. From there it depends on the event. Were you trying to make a certain number of sales? Impressions? Are you attempting to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field?

In the end it’s this ROI that determines whether or not your event was a success. What factors do you use to calculate return on investment and what are tips and tricks you took before, during and after the event to assure it was a success?

We hope to see you at the next breakfast and, as always, we hope you found these notes helpful :)