MicroConf is a conference for self-funded and indie-funded software startups. So selling the idea of a conference slack to their attendees wasn't too hard. But with Slack's recent announcement surpassing 10+ million daily active users, the chances that your attendees already have Slack on their phones is pretty high.
This week we chat with Xander Castro, the lead event producer at MicroConf. We dig into the nitty-gritty of how they set up their Slack channels, how long they keep them live and why their attendees are so engaged with each other.
The following has been edited for length and clarity. Excerpt begins at 22:52.
Taylor McKnight: As somebody who's been doing the Slack channel for their audience for events for a while now, how do you structure the channels?
Xander Castro: We established four primary channels.
- #Announcements: A private channel that only the administrators are able to use. That is how we send out updates about schedule changes, room changes, any unique things that folks may need to know. Or it, it can be as simple as, "Come to our evening reception," "Thanks to our sponsor who is supporting this event". It really does give us an interesting opportunity to leverage a little bit more sponsor recognition and direct sponsor plugging as well.
- #Meetup: For people to connect, to go grab dinner, things like that.
- #HallwayTrack: General random conversations. Whatever you guys wanna talk about, dig into it with this channel.
- #SpecificIntroductions: Everybody can introduce themselves and let the rest of the attendees know what it is they're looking for. What problems they're facing or what solutions they potentially have for other people's problems.
TM: I love that, those focused channels. That kind of loose structure, but it's enough structure to drive people to do those things in those four areas.
XC: And we do create the opportunity for folks to create private channels. We have a specific list that is pinned to the top of our announcements channel that includes all of the different private channels that have been created. The reason that we keep them private is because we want to avoid a huge list of channels that are available to the attendees to join.
TM: Less is more.
XC: Because that's when it starts getting overwhelming. It starts getting to be a little bit high pressure. You start receiving a lot more notifications when you end up joining 15 to 16 different channels based on specific interests.
We want our attendees to feel empowered to choose to receive that information as opposed to, basically making it so that everybody is subject to everything.
TM: Is that something you learned over time?
XC: That was something that was at the forefront of the process just because of the content that's being put out about Slack, about it being just so potentially overwhelming. It was just something that we wanted to curb.
TM: And I know that you're closing the Slack channel?
XC: Yeah. We did close the channel down on Friday last week.
TM: We talked about setting up Slack ahead of the event to create the community and let people introduce themselves and have these chats and all of those kind of networking opportunities. Why does it make sense to close down that Slack room a couple weeks, or a month after your event?
XC: So what we have found is that the usership of the Slack channel goes from your 60, 70, 80% engagement during the event itself, to basically zero the day after. When it comes to actual attendee engagement, that completely drops off once the event is completed.
The value of the Slack channel is an opportunity to meet people ahead of the event, get to know them. And then come into the event as a tool to keep people connected, to make announcements around what is happening at the event.
TM: As an event attendee myself, it was nice that it was a limited window where I could hop in, network, meet other people, and could have these conversations. And then, you know, follow the people I met on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram - and not feel like I'm committing to yet another channel. Everyone's Slack sidebars are already out of control, right? And it's actually more encouraging knowing that this is kind of a month or two month long community around the event itself.
XC: Yes! And that's what I'll specifically highlight- that it's around the event itself.