How to Host a Great Sharing Event

Reading about exciting things happening in the sharing arena can be inspiring, but the real fun is getting out and connecting with people in-person. Time and time again, members of Shareable's community have expressed an interest in hosting and attending sharing events, so we decided to ask sharing community leaders for their top event organizing tips.

Whether your event includes guest speakers, a swap, a Jelly, a mixer, a brainstorm, a group meal or anything else, our panel has valuable tips and tools to help make your sharing event great.

Note: Pro tips are tips that were repeatedly mentioned as important.

PLANNING STAGE

Pro Tips: Encourage participation in the design of the event, find partners and sponsors, take photos and video, get good volunteers, offer food and drink, make it fun and interactive, have someone in charge of audio and video.

Melissa O’Young - Founder of Let’s Collaborate!  - Great volunteers are people that are reliable, enthusiastic about the sharing economy, and friendly. This helps when new people are at the event and they can make them feel welcome.

Milicent Johnson - Community Organizer and Sharing Evangelist - Everyone has something to contribute to the greater good. Set-up the event in a way that breaks down hierarchy and tries to capitalize on the wealth of wisdom in the room by creating moments for everyone to talk about their experience. [Milicent mentions Fishbowls and breakout sessions as good ways to involve everyone.] Ask the people you would want to come to the event what they want and make them part of the planning process, then ask for their help in organizing it.

Cristóbal Gracia - Ouishare Barcelona Connector - We follow two main principles: 1) Fun: People should enjoy the event. 2) Adding value: People should go home with some new knowledge, contacts, ideas and thoughts.

Benita Matofska - Chief Sharer of The People Who Share - We use a format devised by the Art of Hosting. It's a very Sharing Economy approach and uses the collective knowledge and intelligence of the group. People respond to participation. People want to co-create and be part of the design of the event itself. We often use the World Cafe format or Open Space where people get to call sessions and create the agenda themselves.

Anni Roolf - Founder of Jellyweek - As Jellyweek is a collaboration event following the philosophy of Open Space Technology, the general organization is not influencing any of the programs of the local events. The programming of the local event (Jelly) is totally the responsibility of the Jelly host and the participants on the local level. This self-organization on the local level, and therefore in the frame of Jellyweek on the global level, ensures a huge variety of content and a lot of serendipity.

Adriann Saslow - Share Exchange - Not excluding anyone has been key. It doesn't matter if someone doesn't have any of the Swap items to bring, they can come. Share! There is more than enough to go around. Keep it simple. Have a swap focused on an item type, promote it, and know what you're doing next. Stay flexible. Don't worry about throwing the best party ever, just have fun.

Kelley Rajala - Cofounder of Share Exchange - We start the planning process by engaging the key stakeholders to collaboratively participate in the planning process from beginning to end. We use google documents or collaborative web platforms like Weebly to lay out our plans, to-do lists and community contacts. We hold a series of meetings and work backwards from the date of the mapping event.

Unconference participants. Creative Commons photo by terri_brown

PROGRAMMING

Pro Tips: Find out what the community wants, invite speakers from different backgrounds, include experts as well as people with a real-world understanding of sharing, show how sharing can be beneficial.

Melissa O’Young - I talk to people to see what issues and themes they are interested in and want to hear more about. I also decide on themes related to New York. For example, fashion collaborative consumption startups are more prevalent here than other cities so I will be doing a fashion-themed event soon. I'm still testing out my event formats but events with a focused theme generally work better than a broad theme.

Milicent Johnson - I don't want to hear the same information I can get from Mashable or TED. I want stories, I want honesty and truth, and I want to be inspired. I try to have a mix of a couple of big names and people who are about to really change things, but for whatever reason are flying under the radar, because their stories are the most relatable and interesting.

Cristóbal Gracia - Elevator pitch sessions are good because entrepreneurs always like to have a place to explain their project: Ten projects get two minutes each. We also avoid repeating the same kind of event at least for a few months.

Benita Matofska - Our Crowdshare events feature Food Share which is a giant picnic; a share table where people bring unwanted items and find things they like; skills swap, clothes swap, art share, and toy hacking where old toys are remade and upcycled. We feature all the local sharing services in the area where we hold the event -- everything from the local landshare project to car sharing, clothes swap, and freecycling projects. We've also had some really lively discussions. We ran one session at the House of Commons with the UK's first Green MP, Caroline Lucas, about how best to engage people in the Sharing Economy and how to mainstream it.

Adriann Saslow - We've started having the Swaps once a month. We've got a variety of different kinds of swaps: clothing, media, gardening supplies, so there is something to appeal to everyone. Keeping each individual swap limited to a type of item keeps people from feeling overwhelmed or burned out. Knowing which swap is next lets you advertise it at the swap you are hosting.

Kelley Rajala - One type of sharing event we like to facilitate is "community mapping.” This is where a group of people share information on a general topic in order to better organize the resources that already exist, identify what is needed for the desired project or outcome, and prioritize the next steps. The biggest and most successful sharing event that we have held was the Share Fair in downtown Santa Rosa. It was a street fair with a purpose. The idea was to organize a major event in front of the Share Exchange that promoted kids, art, sharing and other 5th Street businesses. By linking these elements together, we had a great turnout.

Open Space gathering. Creative Commons photo by edmittance

PROMOTING THE EVENT

Pro Tips: Use your email list, Facebook, Eventbrite, Twitter and blog. Engage local sharing groups and coworking spaces. Post announcements on the venue’s and sponsor’s social media platforms, start early, have volunteers promote the event via their social media pages, ask influencers to tweet the event, ask people to spread the word, list events on local event calendars.

Milicent Johnson - Seeing who's doing great work, both in clearly Sharing Economy work and also in things that could be related to the Sharing Economy, like Design for Social Innovation, urban planning, and economic development, and engaging them around your event will make them evangelists of the event so you can reach their circles. If you plan it with the very people you want to attend, they will come and bring their friends!

Cristóbal Gracia - We promote the event three to four weeks in advance through publishing a OuiShare.net event post, creating an event in Eventbrite (if needed because capacity of attendees is limited), creating an event on Facebook, promoting it in the OuiShare Facebook city/region group, promoting it on the Consumo Colaborativo Facebook page, and also using the venue and sponsor communication channels. The last week we use private Facebook and Twitter messages.

Benita Matofska - Ideally, we would have a project manager and a full time team but we don't. We have volunteers and we just go all out on social media. It always works well -- our events are always over subscribed. We have a community who get involved in The People Who Share's events and they spread the word through tweets, retweets, etc. It's viral.

Anni Roolf - The 255-plus events of this year's Jellyweek were promoted by the hosts themselves. The Jellyweek as the frame event is promoted mainly via social media and based on the communication with the existing, but broadening community. It works well to provide the Jellyweek visuals for the community so it's possible to distribute the brand and spirit of Jellyweek organically by sharing. The most important key for mobilization is appreciative, inspiring, surprising and constant communication on the main social media channels.

UTILIZING SHARING SERVICES

Pro Tips: Enlist the help of sharing companies and services. Task Rabbit can help with deliverables, ride sharing services can help people carpool to the event, coworking spaces or sharing companies may provide the venue. These services may be interested in partnerships and sponsorships as well.

Jelly participants. Creative Commons photo by MikeSchinkel

AT THE EVENT

Pro Tips: Have people introduce themselves, meet as many people as possible, find out what people are interested in, make sure volunteers know their roles, document the event.

Melissa O’Young - Even if your event turns out to be big, try to meet and talk to as many people as you can as you want to find out how they heard about your event and may have a lot they can share and offer to build up the movement.

Milicent Johnson - Invite people under a shared umbrella by showing them how sharing relates to what they do and are interested in. Let them know you want to know about them and meet them where they are. Show how sharing can be beneficial to them in a way they might have been skeptical of. Let everyone have a chance to tell you what they want or need. Let people interact with each other and let people experience the power of sharing through storytelling and sharing in the experience together.

Anni Roolf - Providing open space on a large scale sets enormous creativity free. It's about giving permission to the people to do what they want. Jellyweek sets a few simple limits: all events should be for free and they should be connected with an open invitation. These limits force the people to work with limited resources and to invite their communities. The natural result is sharing.

Kelley Rajala - To help get the creative juices flowing, we like to start our events with "human mapping". We ask simple questions like "where do you live?" and people have to self organize around the room, interacting with each other to find their place in relation to other participants. We also like short visual presentations to set the context for the mapping process and to share inspiring examples from other communities who have found innovative solutions to the issue at hand. We have found that showing and sharing creative new models helps participants feel that a better way is possible.

EVENT FOLLOW-UP AND KEEPING THE COMMUNITY CONNECTED

Pro Tips: Set up a Facebook group, schedule Meetups, Tweet, write a follow-up blog post, include an event re-cap in a newsletter, post photos and video, schedule Google hangouts, have a follow-up meeting to see what worked and what needs improvement, ask the community to help keep the momentum going.

Melissa O’Young - I try to meet as many people as I can at the event, and afterwards, try to connect them with people who can help them with their projects/ideas. For example, after my event, I met up for tea with a woman who is starting a baby boomer sharing platform and connected her with someone who did research on baby boomers and collaborative consumption

Cristóbal Gracia - After the event is finished we write a blog post. We encourage the attendees to participate in the Facebook groups and we keep sharing ideas, posts, etc.

Benita Matofska - We've recently started building up the Global Sharing Economy Network Meetup Group as before we would gather in different places but now we're starting to gather there. We have regular newsletters announcing events, photos and updates from events etc. to keep people inspired.

Anni Roolf - Because Jellyweek is often a very special milestone for the local community (eg. opening of a coworking space), people continue to take part because it's creating the feeling of being part of a bigger history. Then Jellyweek is connected to different movements and is taking an active role in the debates during the year. This creates a continuity as well as a personal connection to a lot of people in the coworking, sharing, changemaker and related scenes.

Adriann Saslow - Regular swaps keep people connected and coming back. We're creating a community here. Facebook connections help with becoming friends with people we've met at the Swaps and making sure we'll see them at the next one.

Kelley Rajala - After a successful sharing event, there will be a group of motivated people who want to further engage and work on a specific project. We like to convene a follow-up meeting with these folks to build on the outcomes or findings of the event. Usually this will take the form of a working group comprised of self-motivated people that are naturally good at collaboration.

Clothing swap participants. Creative Commons photo by SharonaGott

BIG PICTURE

Milicent Johnson - Events are a wonderful opportunity to help people feel the values, culture, and promise of sharing. It's one thing to read it and know that it's great, it's another thing to walk into a room full of people who are just as interested, and wanting to make a more shareable world. It's important to feel like you're part of something larger than yourself, and events do that.

Cristóbal Gracia - Without the offline part I don’t think it's possible to build a real community. People who organise the event should enjoy this. They must be very sociable and passionate about the sharing economy.

Anni Roolf - It's necessary today to think of on- and offline events as a continuity. It's absolutely necessary to think about the whole process if you want to avoid producing events as a temporary glowing in the dark. This great happening should not end with the event. There have to be ways to carry on the torch and to develop existing relationships.

Benita Matofska - We've had great events -- all very participatory. That's the key, to walk the talk. If people don't feel part of it, why should they come?

What tips can you offer for hosting a great sharing event? What makes an event valuable and engaging for you? What kind of tools have you used to keep an event community connected? Please let us know in the comments.

And for more event resources, check out Shareable's How to Share guide and our sharing event calendar.
 

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