One of my favourite things about this time of year is reflecting on the last 12 months, cataloguing everything we tried, failed at, and accomplished. I recently posted CMX 2021: A Year in Review, and shared everything we learned at CMX this year. This post looks specifically at the CMX Connect Program, our community-led distributed events program.
CMX Connect is run by a team of incredible volunteers, who we call CMX Connect Hosts. Our Hosts are passionate community leaders, who are building their own CMX sub-communities, and giving local community professionals an opportunity to learn, grow, and connect.
The Impact of Going Virtual
In 2020, our once solely in person event program, CMX Connect, turned 100% virtual. Our CMX Connect Hosts around the world brought their local communities online, to meet virtually. We saw some of our chapters grow – more people could attend these virtual events – and we some chapters close down. The pandemic affected the CMX Connect community in a big way, and it continues to colour the program. With the new virtual setting, we saw the launch of a handful of topic-specific chapters, not tied to a specific location.
The CMX AMAs led by Tom Norman, features a new industry expert at each event, and attendees have the chance to ask them anything! The Community Cafe led by Katie Ray, gives CMX’ers a chance to have casual conversations about real challenges they may be facing – oh, and bringing a drink is encouraged! Jamie Johnston launched the CMX Book Club which features Q&As with authors in the community industry. Tali Vasilevsky and Eli van der Giessen host the Chapter and UG Programs chapter, where they bring together community professionals who are specifically building chapter programs, and distributed events communities (I’m a frequent flyer at these events).
The Reintroduction of In-Person
The virtual trend continued into much of 2021, but in the summer months we started to see in person CMX Connect events popping up here and there. Following local restrictions, and listening closely to local health authorities, a handful of CMX Connect Chapters met in person again for the first time in over a year.
Our Connect Hosts were kept on their toes with constantly changing restrictions, and a handful of in person events had to be cancelled – this has been a big challenge for us. It’s also been challenging to make sure that when an event is in person, it’s made clear, so that folks in other countries don’t RSVP thinking it’s virtual. This means Hosts have had to navigate low turnout at events. There has also been a challenge with venues. The program has traditionally relied on partnerships and using office space offered up by companies, but most of these spaces are still not open for external events.
As we move into 2022, we are working with the Hosts to build a budget for venues, build out a better giveaway program to entice attendees to show up, and working to better align our local chapters with our topic-specific chapters.
CMX Connect 2021: By the numbers
The three goals of CMX Connect continue to be:
- Connect: Meet awesome people, and get to know your peers in the industry
- Learn: Walk away with an actionable strategy you can implement into your work today
- Advocate: Grow the community industry.
This year, the CMX Connect program hosts hit these goals out of the park! We now have 47 active CMX Connect Chapters in 21 countries, and in 2021 we welcomed a lot of new CMX’ers to our events. These numbers do not include any CMX HQ events, like CMX Summit or CMX Global.
Overall our CMX Connect Hosts:
- Hosted 189 events — that’s almost 4 per week!
- Had 4,786 community professionals RSVP to their events
- Checked in 2,308 people to their events
- That’s 2,308 people who had a chance to connect, learn, and grow with each other. When I say the CMX Connect program is life-changing, I mean it.
Highlights from Hosts
When I asked the CMX Connect Hosts what their highlights were from this year, they had a lot of stories to share.
CMX Connect Denver, USA
“While CMX Summit remained virtual this year, members of CMX Connect Denver gathered al fresco on the final day to debrief and chat all things community! From social networks and CRM softwares, to book publishing and media, attendees represented communities in different industries; however, it’s always remarkable to see we’re facing similar challenges. This year has been full of uncertainty and we’ve bounced between virtual and in-person events. While the virtual events are great, I find that I leave the IRL gatherings with the most energy and excitement after meeting my fellow Mile High community builders.”
– Cassie Perez, CMX Connect Host Denver Chapter, USA
CMX Connect London, UK
“CMX London keeps delivering – bringing together community professionals in the London area and beyond! We worked tirelessly to run an event every month in 2021, with the exception of October (when the Delta variant of COVID-19 was at its peak). We hosted 11 events and connected over 325 professionals, discussing everything from community digital gardens to cross-cultural humility to NFTs and the creator economy. For most of the year, we delivered online events and saw professionals join from India, Canada, Central Europe, USA and ‘just a hop across the channel’ in Paris, as well as bringing together community pros in the UK and the London area.
We have two favourite moments to reflect our online and offline event program. In August we took advantage of the warmer weather to host our first in-person ‘peers with beers’ gathering at a traditional British pub. We kept things casual and friendly – no preparation, no agendas, just peer support. It was such a special time for us – we brought together CMX London regulars, and welcomed new CMX Londoners including people new to community management and experienced veterans in the profession.
We were thrilled to see an interest in our online events and were able to secure time with some of the community profession’s leading voices including David Spinks and Rosie Sherry. A highlight for us was welcoming the legendary Richard Millington to deliver a workshop on taking engagement to the next level. We broke all CMX Connect records, with 233 people registering for the event and 109 people joining us on the day!
At the end of the year, we’re planning a small informal gathering in a Central London pub to celebrate our resilience and our win moments. As 2022 draws near, we’ll continue to deliver meetups that you can’t wait to attend – creating a space to share experience, make connections and get advice from others in a relaxed and positive setting. After the year we’ve had, we recognise the value of community like never before.”
– Serena Snoad, CMX Connect Host London Chapter, UK
CMX Connect Recife, Brasil
“This year we made a hands-on meeting, focused on building something for the community and with the community. We gathered community members to use the Community Canvas in order to review what could be improved in Recife CMX Connect, after learning about this framework we built an action plan for the Connect and discussed how to improve each others communities. This was a great moment because everybody got to contribute to CMX and also learn new things for their own communities.”
– Anne Durey, CMX Connect Host Recife Chapter, Brasil
CMX Connect Istanbul, Turkey
“Aside from celebrating its first birthday as a connect chapter with Beth, CMX Istanbul’s best point was to host community supremo Jono Bacon as part of a collaboration with CMX Book Club to talk about his latest book, People Powered, at one of their events”
– Ilker Akansel, CMX Connect Host Istanbul chapter, Turkey
CMX Connect Lagos, Nigeria
“One of the most exciting parts of 2021 for us is being able to come together for in-person events after a series of virtual meetups due to the pandemic. Our end of the year hangout provided opportunities for each member of the community to contribute to our retrospective conversation on how to make the community even better in the coming year.
We are excited for 2022!!!”
– Alimi Eyitayo, CMX Connect Host Lagos Chapter, Nigeria
What’s next for CMX Connect?
Nobody knows what’s around the corner right now. But if 2021 taught me anything, it’s that we need to continue to be adaptable, listen to our community, and go with the flow. I know that the resilience and creativity of the CMX Connect Hosts will continue into 2022, and I can’t wait to see how we grow.