I’m all about connecting with peers, but in a world where digital reigns supreme, opportunities to meet face-to-face with like-minded individuals can be few and far between. That’s why happy hours, summits, conferences and networking opportunities are vital to individuals working within the ecommerce space. And there’s no shortage of these events to attend!
Any day of the week I can find a top-notch e-commerce event with panels led by high-level executives from well-known companies, a massive turnout, and a day full of brushing shoulders and handing out business cards. It’s a great way to scope out vendors and potential clients for Hawke. These events are also great for individuals looking to break into the industry.
[To read more of Erik Huberman’s thought leadership click here]
But I struggled to find anything geared toward those of us already secure in our positions. Where are the events that cater to the established executive looking to build out his or her community and collaborate with like-minded individuals?
National and global conferences are great, but localized events often have two key themes that these larger events lack: community and collaboration.
The 2 Cs
I’ve been in this industry for long enough and, over the years, I’ve noticed there aren’t too many events where top executives can get together and learn from each other. I struggled to find a space where we could all come and be honest, open, and ready to collaborate.
Why Community Is Important
A lot of time the rat race of starting a business can cause people to view their peers as direct competition. In reality, it’s incredibly important to surround yourself with a community of like-minded individuals that you view as friends and confidants–not threats to your success.
These people understand your trials and tribulations because they most likely went through it themselves or are currently in a similar situation. They can tell you what worked for them and what didn’t, inspire you to try something new, and be the emotional support you need when things don’t go exactly according to plan.
Community Leads to Collaboration
It may sound counterintuitive to help out your competition, but it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. Becoming part of an entrepreneurial community has helped me stay up-to-date on trends, given me a built-in support system, and has even led to new partnership opportunities.
In an industry that’s constantly changing, staying current can be difficult. Exchanging ideas and thoughts about industry changes with the members in your community can help you anticipate change and proactively adjust.
The Key: Localized Events
What I Saw
E-commerce events that focus on fostering that sense of community, rather than just getting the biggest names from Google or Amazon, are incredibly valuable when it comes helping entrepreneurs build and expand their network.
There are tons of industry events that are almost tradeshow-like in nature–with tons of vendors, attendees can walk the floor to connect with featured businesses and then funnel into large conference halls to listen to speakers. But I found myself having more fun at mastermind events and CEO summits. I wanted to create an event that embodied that spirit, where people came to make lasting business partnerships, find or become advisors and mentors, and, most importantly, learn together.
By prioritizing the value of community and collaboration, e-commerce conferences could become a breeding ground for revolutionary ideas, partnerships, and success stories.
What I Did
My team at Hawke created our own conference for this purpose. I noticed a gap in the industry–a lack of local e-commerce events designed to appeal to established executives looking to collaborate–and decided to do something about it.
And so, Hawkefest was born. My team and I created this annual e-commerce summit to provide ample opportunities for attendees to work and learn together in a hands-on environment filled with fun, peer-generated content. We created a space for executives to come together and learn from each other.
How You Can Do It Too
- Carefully curate your audience.
At Hawkefest, we require all attendees to fill out an application, which then goes through a meticulous vetting process. While that might sound a bit pretentious and time-consuming, it ensures that the people who actually attend aren’t just job-seekers and vendors, but legitimate movers and shakers in the e-commerce industry. Our Hawkefest attendees don’t have to worry about getting hounded by sales pitches or buried under a stack of business cards.
In order to attract high-level minds and get them to drop their guard, your event should have an intimate feel. And that comes from a curated guest list.
By doing some of the grunt work up-front, you’re able to know exactly who is in attendance. This allows for your event to be a place filled with valuable conversations and meaningful interactions. Establish base requirements for attendees so that you can keep a pulse on the type of individuals who are planning to attend, making sure that list aligns with your overall goals.
- Emphasize peer-to-peer collaboration.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. And same goes for people at networking events. Just because they are all in the same place, does not mean that they’ll automatically be inclined to talk, mingle, and exchange ideas.
At Hawkefest, we encourage peer-to-peer conversations in a variety of ways. Hawkefest isn’t just a bunch of speakers one after the other with a “networking mixer” slapped in the middle. There are breakout sessions, roundtable discussions, fireside chats, team-building workshops, panels, and more.
By creating opportunities where communication, teamwork, and participation are encouraged, Hawkefest’s event structure helps foster collaboration. You can take your time when configuring your event schedule and make sure that the types of interactions are conducive to what you’re trying to accomplish.
- Focus on your community.
With Hawkefest, we target companies and professionals in our Southern California community. By doing so, we’re able to bring together executives that are operating in similar conditions–be it a new tax law, consumer attitudes, or even the weather. Attendees are also much more likely to be able to follow-up with their newly made connections due to their close proximity. In fact, even a handful of even the speakers participating at Hawkefest have their businesses just down the road from the event space.
Additionally, becoming the centerpoint of the community you’re looking to create has long-lasting brand benefits. So, while it may be tempting to expand invitations to your event to a national or even global audience, consider focusing your reach to your immediate community.
It may seem daunting to try to execute your own e-commerce or digital marketing event since that space seems so saturated. But if you adjust your scope to focus on the community around you, you may find that there is a need for localized networking event. I know it worked for us at Hawke Media, so it can also work for you.
If you’re in the SoCal area and want to check out what Hawkefest is all about, we’d love to have you! Apply to attend here.