Episode 3

Published on:

21st Sep 2023

Community Engagement and the Future of Work & Events

In response to their conversation with Tara McMullin, Isaac and Nessa jump deeper into the human approach to work and event planning. From the importance of context and personal experiences to the need for a more qualitative measurement of success, they discuss how brands and events can adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Learn how a simple conversation can provide more valuable feedback than anonymous forms, and how community event planning can create memorable, impactful experiences.

Key Topics and Takeaways

0:03:34 - Healthy Communities Through Engagement and Support

We reflect on the conversation we had with Tara McMullin in the last episode and talk about self-reflection and how it informs the way we relate to and identify with others. We discuss the concept of community, and how it's built on mutual support and understanding. We explore the idea of taking someone's writing and engaging with it as a valid sense of community, and how this idea relates to the future of work. We also share some of the books that we've read and make recommendations for our listeners.

0:09:40 - Social Media Shifts and Pro-Human Events

We explore how the use of social media has changed the way people interact online. We discuss how people are becoming more aware of the effects that social media platforms have on our psyche and how people are becoming more skeptical and strict about how and where they engage. We also talk about how this shift is affecting event marketing and how brands find people online. Finally, we examine how events can support a more pro-human community, workplace and culture.

0:18:06 - The Importance of a Pro-Human Approach

We investigate the importance of a human approach to our work and how we can create deeper connections with our clients and audiences. We look at context and how our personal and social experiences are influencing our decisions. We also look at the need to measure success beyond just numbers, and the importance of qualitative data in understanding our audience. We discuss how brands and events need to adapt to changing contexts in order to be successful. Finally, we explore how having conversations with attendees can give us more valuable feedback than anonymous forms.

Want to dive deeper? Take our free 30 minute training, Community Event Mastery. Access it here.

Additional Resources

Next episode: Crafting an Authentic Learning Experience with Breanne Dyck of Visionary CEO Academy

This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Welcome to Make it Kickass, where we help leaders of growing communities bring their people together with purpose and lasting impact. Join us as we explore how to make events engaging, exciting, energizing and profitable so that you can build a healthy, sustainable community. I'm Isaac Watson, founder and lead strategist at Kick Ass Conferences.


And I'm Nessa Jimenez, operations Manager, at Kickass Conferences.


Now let's make it kick ass together. Hey everyone, welcome back to Make it Kickass. I'm Isaac and Nessa's here with us. How you doing, Nessa?


I'm doing great. How are you?


Pretty good. It's been a good week, can't complain. I am still kind of floored by this conversation we had with Tara McMullin in the last episode and listeners. We stopped recording after that episode and then continued to talk with Tara for like 30 more minutes and we were talking about therapy.

We were talking about books we've read and anyway it was really good. Sorry you missed out, but if you ever happen to corner Tara at a conference or something, she's a gem. We like her a lot. So we're going to take a little bit of time to kind of reflect on the conversations that we had with Tara a little bit and talk about some of the stuff that came up for us in this episode is kind of a response.

a conference for her back in:

And I knew that she would bring this kind of bigger picture, mindset, culture of work aspect to what we're doing, and I think that that's important because it really, in my mind, it sets the stage for where we're trying to go with the work that we do, where the event industry is headed and where the people that we do this for are going, and it's core, I think, it has to do with understanding ourselves and using that understanding of ourselves to better understand others.

Those are the key elements to building a healthy community. It comes from this mutual support. I mean, we'll talk about it a little bit, but how we define community is really important and I think that, through the self-reflection that Tara talked about going through, as she was kind of hitting this wall of who am I anymore? That helped inform how she identified and related to others and how she was creating a business around that. I think that the same is true for what we do for the attendees that go to the events that we produce for the clients. We do this for that, that self-identity, and that that relationship that they have with other people, is really the foundation for creating something spectacular.


Yeah, and the conversation with her is really about the context of the future of work and how we identify with work and how we work together and how we're finding community and all those things. So I'm really glad that we're starting the season off with this question.


Yeah, it reminds me of some of the very early community work that I was doing back before.

I was an event producer, I was really involved in the DIY and craft communities and I was still I was coming out of college and I was that young like hungry for knowledge kind of person and I read the Gift by Lewis Hyde, which was this like instrumental piece in my education and the way that I viewed how artworks, how community is built, and this kind of altruistic edification that people seek, that creates a strong community.

And so talking to Tara about that stuff just kind of brought up all of that original thirst that I had for becoming part of a community and, you know, cultivating it and helping other people share that joy in the context of business too, which I think is really interesting, because Lewis Hyde's book was not about business whatsoever. It was about why art exists right and how cultures across history have exchanged in this, this creativity and this creative process as a means to connect with each other. So I really liked Tara's approach to thinking about community in the sense of you know how her business could better serve her and the people that she was doing it for, because I think if we're constantly thinking about that human element that you know serves us better in the long run.


Yeah, and speaking to community like that was the part of the conversation that really impacted me. Like there's a couple of quotes in there. One of the things she said is that she liked the definition of community when we're talking about community as mutual concern for each other, and I thought that was really interesting. I'd never heard it phrase that way. It's true, like I agree with it, but you know, her putting it in those, in those words, was super interesting to me. She also said that for her, and it surprised me when she said this, because she talked about not really needing community and that's where she comes from, like that's where she gets that definition right, like that's why she says she doesn't need it. She also said that for her, community is actually about engaging with other people's work and it's sort of, in a way I don't like the word passive, but it's the appropriate word right Like she engages by reading people's books, and she gave us a couple of great recommendations which I'm looking forward to getting started Like I'm adding it to the list.

I have a long list of books, but I added it there. And yeah, and how she, how for her community is taking somebody's writing and reading and engaging with that, but not necessarily, like in the moment, live, exchange, right, right, so for her that is still like a valid sense of community. What did you think about that? Because it surprised me when, when she explained it that way, it did.


And it kind of twisted or at least it didn't twist it. It made me stop and think a little bit about how I define community, because she's talking about how she immerses herself and other people's work as a way to support them, and which is fantastic. Like I think that that is a really interesting, really interesting thing and I think that that, like we talked in the episode about how there is no like one be all and all definition for community, right, and I think that that that curiosity and that desire to kind of embed yourself within someone's work or creativity or process can actually be a really great way of supporting them and helping them achieve their goals, which in and of itself is a form of community. The thing that stuck with me was that she found, she finds community in different ways. It's the close friends, the couple of close friends, that have this like low stakes, you know, no expectations, or low expectation communication kind of infrequent, as we're able kind of meet you where you are, I guess, kind of an attitude.

I think it's really important. You know, I have I have friends like that I think a lot of people do where these are kind of our core circle. But we're not necessarily meeting on a weekly basis, we're not necessarily, you know, planning trips together, but we still care about each other and we're still interested in what each other is doing. But, like, this idea of kind of absorbing oneself in another person's work is really really fascinating. I think someone like her and to some extent, someone like me I don't know if the same is true for you is that by like we are, we are people who thrive off of helping others. Yes, and and you know whether it's a nurturing personality or a caregiving personality trait that that is one way to manifest that, to express that by by supporting someone else through consumption of their work beyond just, you know, kind of superficial cheerleading or things like that.


So I think that's a role that that that's not appreciated enough, to be honest, the supporter role. Because as I, as I look at social media and like the, the popular, like thought leadership out there, it's always very much focused on Be the thought leader, be the person that's saying something, do this, do that, be on stage, right, but at no point are we looking at okay, and who? Who is who is listening, supporting all this content, who is who is part of the team and not the, the alpha dog. So I love that she brought that up, because I'm seeing all those slides. I'm starting to see that shift in conversation where people are starting to realize like, yeah, like we can't all be the leader. Somebody actually has to read, somebody has to think, somebody has to respond. And I'm definitely like that as well. I'm happy to be a supporter, I'm happy to consume the content and like react, respond, but it's not an appreciated role in life and in business and in anything really. But we're getting to a point where it's just Thought leadership, like over saturation, so people are starting to go wait a minute. There has to be like listeners as well. So, yeah, that that was fantastic and related. She also mentioned so the way that she consumes content is more of a passive way, and she talks about how she is changing the way that she is using social media and that she's responding to interacting with social media. And she's not alone, because this is also something that I've been tracking and I've been thinking about as well for a long time. Like, personally, I'm not a fan of social media. I'm not really on almost anything, but even the people that are regular users, like we're starting to see people are interacting less. They're engaging less. They're pulling away from social media. They are not having an account on every single new thing that comes out.

So our conversation with her it brought to mind a couple of articles that I've read in the last couple of weeks and I'll add links in the show notes. We're talking about the future of social media being less social. So the first article is from the New York Times and it. It brings up the fact that you know Facebook, tiktok, twitter, all these bigger ones their primary goal is to connect people with brands, right, and users are starting to respond to that because they don't. That's not the point that they're there, right, like they're not there, just about the brands they actually want to connect with people. So what we're seeing is a trend where people are actually moving towards smaller social networks, where there is like way less people and very little brands and like really limiting the types of accounts that they engage with, simply because like one it's, it's it's just way too much Like, it's just too much man Like there's so much content out there constantly being pumped out, but also it's not actually social, it's just commercials, right? Yeah, so that that's one article I thought was fascinating.

And then the second one was it came out. It came out as a response to threads coming out earlier this month when you know, we're recording this in the summer of threads just opened up. So a lot of brands are not opening thread accounts. So there is a magazine, disrupt magazine. They did an article about like OK, why is this?

way, I think starting in like:

So so what's happening? We're seeing a we're transitioning into this time where everybody's Rethinking like, what are we doing on Social media? What are we doing online? Like, is this actually connecting with each other? Is this actually community? What does what does this stuff mean? And I think, going forward, we're just gonna have to keep having this conversation because People have just had enough. People are burnt out of what was supposed to be about connecting, and it's not about connecting anymore. It's just. It's just a stressful mess. So I Hearing it from Tara talking about how she is changing the way she uses social media. That that, yeah, I like hearing it from her, because she is someone that is, in a way, an influencer in in these conversations.


So I think a lot of online entrepreneurs Encountered this massive shift in social media I don't know what would have a six years ago or so, when you know the Facebook groups and pages. The algorithm changed, because it always does the same, as true for the ad ad campaigns and they realized that, you know, this unknown property that they were using to build their communities was unstable and they weren't reaching people in the same way. And and you know, people have been murmuring about the change of in social media for a long time and it really is like it is not social anymore. It's an ad platform with some conversation around it, and it's more about the data collection than it is anything else. And I think that seeing Someone like Tara talk about how she's shifted her practices and seeing how some of these brands are shifting their own you know we only have so much bandwidth.

The more we get, I think our, especially our generation, is becoming more and more aware of the effect that these social media platforms have on our psyche, on our mood, on our whatever, and we're starting to be a little more skeptical.

And you know strict about how and where we engage and you know whether that's ditching one particular platform Because it's going off the rails or scaling back entirely, and I think if I were to bring this back around to the event world, what's what I'm curious about is how this is going to affect event marketing, because it's so much about event marketing is focused on social media marketing, and if people are retracting from the most common platforms or, in some cases, like I found, a massive community, an actual community of people on Mastodon, which is this defederated, decentralized thing that doesn't have an algorithm, that doesn't have ads, etc.

Right? So if I'm spending most of my time over there, how's a brand gonna find me, right? Right, and so I think that'll that'll be. That'll be a question for our guests later this season on social media marketing, for sure, but it it requires a lot more thought about how to make human connections with the people that we're trying to reach and do them in a way that's higher quality than it is quantity right, and if our intention, with the events that we produce, is to strengthen connections between people, a strength and community between people, how we use social media can add to that or it can harm that.


Yep, and so we really have to think about what we're doing via social media.


Yeah. So, on that note, let's talk about the kind of the final piece of discussion we have with Tara, which is about going from anti-human to pro-human, and I specifically want to talk about events. So how can events support a more pro-human Community, a more pro-human workplace, pro-human Culture? I think that's gonna be a running theme throughout all the conversations that we have throughout this season. But what are, what are some of the things that stand out for you Based on what we talked about with Tara? I know you had some aha moments toward the end. They were, like you know, preach.


Yeah, first of all, I'm like capitalism's a bitch, like it's really like it's. It's scary the direction that we're going in. But if we want to be pro-human, then we have to Accept humans holistically. You know, a human outcomes, human approach of looking at people as people, as three-dimensional, complicated beings. Right, we're not machines, we're not wallets. We are people and we have needs and and, and I think that I think that has been lost, especially, I mean, with the marketing being the central driver of so much. People have been reduced to this is the profile and these are the numbers. Right, and how do we manipulate, how do we mess around with and? But we reject that by coming back to the table and going OK, these are people Like you, know what, what, what are their needs, wants, aspirations, desires, right, and how can we? How can we serve these people first without thinking about what can I get out of them?


Right, yeah, yeah, I think this notion of, like an ideal attendee avatar, customer avatar, whatever you want to call it is, you know, a helpful exercise.

But at the end of the day, I think it's better to think about the different types of actual people in your audience or in your community that you're building, that you're doing this for.

Like, can you actually picture a real individual that you are creating this for and identify what their needs are? I think I love the terracet about kind of distancing ourselves from this language around productivity and output and these kind of machine oriented metrics, right, and focusing on our more human qualities and coming like, as we work with our clients on strategy work, we're always starting from an outcome perspective. Right, what skills are we trying to build? What things are we trying to teach them? What are we? What do we want them to walk away with? And I think if we can continue to focus that line of questioning on the more human aspects of building their community, deeper connections with their peers, maybe it's mentorship, sure, maybe there are skills involved, but it's not necessarily to the end of, you know, being a more productive cog in their corporate machine at their work or, or, you know, generating more output for their company. We need to think about what their goals and what their personal human wishes are, out of attending something.


Yeah, and going back to what we were talking about in the beginning, about context, because I mean talking about it to human like, and I'll speak to America, because that's where we are. But you know, income inequality is just getting bigger, the wealth gap is just getting bigger. The climate catastrophe, you know, every day everybody's like in a heat warning and there's tornadoes and there's like hurricanes and more and more of these things happening. If you want a human approach, then you have to think of context as well, and a pro human approach cannot exist without the context of, like, all of these things that are happening. These social movements, right, and then the echo chambers that we're seeing in culture and in communities where people are. They just want to hear this one, this one perspective, and that's it. You know, nothing exists or nothing is valid outside of that. So forcing ourselves to really look at the context of the things that we're doing, I think as well, will be a central tenant. Like we can't. We can't keep pretending like climate change isn't a thing, you know.


Yeah, I think to that end, as we look at metrics like, how do we measure success for an event? You know, one of our go tos is like, in all, with a lot of things as a net promoter score, how likely is somebody to recommend the event to a friend or a colleague? And that's an important metric. But I think that at its core, I'm actually I'm more and more interested these days in qualitative data over quantitative data. I think that we still have to have this baseline, especially as we're working within a capitalist context where we're trying to measure ROI and things like that. There's got to be statistics around it, but if we can also couple that with more human oriented questions and opportunities for feedback and context gathering right, then we can produce better events in the future.

One of the things that we put into practice several years ago was identifying attendees a handful of attendees through each event that we were doing and having follow up interviews with them. We were still sending out a post event survey, but having these 30 minute, 45 minute zoom calls with people to talk to them a little bit more deeply about like why did you come, what did you learn, what stood out for you, what could we do better Like that. Human connection gave us so much more valuable data and feedback than an anonymous form did, and we were able to respond to things better. We were able to build better strategy going into the next years with these particular people in mind.


Yeah, we're going to have a conversation with a guest about attend the experiences and all of that specifically.

But I will say that the brands and the events that will be successful going forward are the brands and events that understand that you have to look at the attendee experience beyond the numbers, and the brands that are willing to do that work will be successful. Where you'll see the brands that are still just looking at numbers, they're going to suffer and I think, particularly like in the context of now, we're seeing that with a lot of larger events, have really struggled to come back and I think that that's in my opinion. It's hard to have a very human, intimate experience at an event that's like 10, 20,000 people. Like that's really hard to do. And so you're seeing events that were fine before the pandemic are really struggling to come back because they're they're not getting it. The context, like things have changed, people have changed, they're not doing the homework of looking at the human perspective of like, yeah, people don't want that anymore. So you've got to evolve, adapt, grow or you know you're going to die.


Yeah, exactly so I think it tears. Our interview with Tara was a fantastic way to set the stage for this season. It was a little like big picture and kind of heady, but I feel like adopting this kind of pro-human mantra throughout the interviews that we're doing with other guests, through some of the conversations that we're having with our colleagues and the other people that are involved in the world that we work in, is going to be really helpful. It's going to help us build stronger events. It's going to help us create something that is special and that actually is kick-ass, because that's what we're here for, right, and if we can't do it for the people that are going to be attending, then why are we even doing this?


Thanks for listening to this episode of Make it Kick-Ass. We hope you found it entertaining and helpful. If hosting a community event is on your radar, visit GetEventLab.com to take our free 30-minute training called Community Event Mastery. That's GetEventLab.com, or use the link in the show notes. Make it Kick-Ass is hosted by Isaac Watson and Nessa Jimenez. Post-production audio by Chris Nelson at Mittens Media. Our theme song is Feel it by Dojo for Crooks. Make it Kick-Ass is a production of Kick-Ass Conferences, an event strategy and design agency serving leaders of growing communities.

Show artwork for Make It Kickass

About the Podcast

Make It Kickass
Community Event Mastery
Make It Kickass explores how leaders of growing communities can make conferences with impact, gatherings with purpose, and an attendee experience that knocks their socks off. We uncover the strategies, tactics, and tools we use every day to bring our clients’ conferences to life. If you've ever wanted to host a life-changing conference, this podcast is for you.

Find us at kickassconf.com or geteventlab.com

About your host

Profile picture for Isaac Watson

Isaac Watson

Isaac Watson is the founder and Executive Producer at Kickass Conferences, an event strategy and production studio based in the Pacific Northwest. Isaac helps community leaders develop and deliver transformative events for their audiences and inspire them to build a better world.

A maker and introvert at heart, when he’s not working his magic behind the scenes in event strategy and production, he’s usually at home in Vancouver, Washington working on remodeling projects, gardening, cooking, learning to sew, and building LEGO.