What Is Clubhouse, and How Should Meeting Pros Be Using It?

Find out whether the iPhone-only app is a legitimate tool for knowledge and networking—or just another passing fad.

iPhone and Laptop

If you're anything like us, you've been seeing conversations about the voice chat-based social media app Clubhouse popping up everywhere lately—but you may have no idea what it is. The self-described "drop-in audio app” is currently still in beta mode, meaning it requires an invite to join and it's only available for iPhone users—but that hasn't stopped more than 600,000 people from registering since its launch last April. And many of those people are members of the meeting, event, association and entrepreneurship worlds, who have been using the free app to make connections, engage with members, and share knowledge and resources.

So, is it worth trying to get an invite? We chatted with some active users to answer your burning questions.

How exactly does it work? 
Once you get an invite from an existing member, you can set up your profile and use a search function to find people to connect with and clubs that are relevant to your interests. When those people and clubs are hosting a conversation—a virtual panel, basically—you’ll see a notification in your main feed (or “hallway,” as Clubhouse calls it). You can choose to pop in as a listener and see who else is there, learn about or connect with the speakers, and listen as long as you'd like; you can also choose to “raise your hand” to join the virtual stage if moderators allow it.

The conversations are not recorded, so are only available in real time—which gives it the feel of peeking in on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes chat with experts in your field. There are also options to start your own clubs and host your own recurring conversations, and each member is given a number of invites to get their own friends and colleagues involved.

Why should a meeting pro consider joining? 
The app has a large and growing community of meeting and event professionals, who are drawn to the networking aspects as well as the chance to exchange ideas. A number of clubs have popped up that focus specifically on event production, virtual events, associations, marketing strategies, diversity in the industry and more; several of them already boast thousands of members, and host daily or weekly conversations with a variety of experts.

One of those clubs was started by Olamide Awofeso, the founder of E.K.O Consulting LLC and the marketing and event manager for the Blacks In Technology Foundation. She was an early adopter of Clubhouse, joining back in October and quickly deciding to establish a space where event planners and producers could come together. “With last year being such a crucial time for many in the events industry, I thought it would be a great way to help," she explains. The club, called Event Planners & Producers United, now has more than 2,500 members.

Awofeso hosts twice-weekly conversations—moderated by herself and Ashley Hamilton, program and event producer for Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and founder of Behind the Experience—that cover topics such as meeting trends; virtual, live and hybrid events; contracts and sponsorships; and branding and marketing. Awofeso and Hamilton come up with the topics together, and also invite members to suggest their own. “I have been able to grow the club by giving event professionals a chance to speak in rooms and share their expertise, tips, advice and resources no matter their years of event experience,” says Awofeso. “Since the start of the club, the response has been incredible.”

How else are meeting and event pros using it?
Alexa Carlin, the founder and CEO of Women Empower X—a community for women leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners—joined Clubhouse in late December, and within one week her club had grown to more than 3,000 members. “I was drawn from the start after seeing the potential for connection, speaking and shared knowledge with a diverse array of people from all over the world—all backgrounds, all industries and all ages.”

After seeing the interest in her club, Carlin has decided to host a full-day virtual event on the platform. Called “WEX Virtual: Clubhouse Edition,” the one-day, free event on Feb. 12 will feature an eclectic lineup of female speakers, all focused on helping women entrepreneurs grow their businesses and brands. “The Clubhouse room will act as our venue. Throughout the day, we will have a number of panels and speakers up on the stage in this Clubhouse room," she explains. "We will have a curated schedule published on our website beforehand … and every two hours a new panel of speakers will come on the stage and speak on a different topic, just like they would at our in-person events.” 

Speakers will display unique graphics on their profile photos to signify they’re appearing at the event, and Carlin will utilize Clubhouse’s hand-raising feature for audience Q&As.

“To me, Clubhouse is like a 24/7 conference with people from all walks of life,” Carlin says, noting that she wants to continue using event-based strategies to grow her club. In the future, she says, “Selected members will be able to host their own rooms under our club to the public, which is essentially the same concept as a breakout room with a moderator, speakers and an audience. When someone goes live with a room under our club name, every member gets notified so instantly, they have a large audience tuning in to what they are talking about and have the opportunity to even engage with the speakers.”

But do I really need another social media platform?
The real-time, audio-only nature of Clubhouse certainly isn’t for everyone (and it's unclear when the app will expand beyond iPhones). The vast amount of clubs can be confusing to navigate, and the conversations are not available on-demand, making it tricky for people in different time zones. It’s also easy for conversations to get side-tracked during Q&A portions, so strong moderation is necessary, just like on an IRL panel.

But Awofeso thinks the app can be a great resource for event and meeting professionals—particularly when the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of the industry, forcing event producers to quickly adapt and expand their skill sets. “Experts are sharing insights for free and answering questions in real time on Clubhouse,” she explains, adding, “It also allows people to connect with various industry experts they may never have had the chance to meet before. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people."

For her part, Carlin thinks that Clubhouse is the first social platform that actually gets authentic networking right. “We love events because of the connections you build—and those connections are now being made on Clubhouse," she says. "It's changing the way we connect, collaborate and consume information. That, to me, is a huge opportunity for the events industry to tap into.”

Photo: Jessica Lewis/Pexels

This story originally appeared on Connect's sister site, BizBash.com, here.