Your Event App’s “In-App Actions” ARE NOT Audience Engagement

This morning I saw tweets claiming that a leading event agency created huge audience engagement because attendees completed “X” thousand “in app actions” in their event app.

So…you are telling me that clicking on the agenda button 14 times is audience engagement? Not in my world friends.

To me audience engagement looks like this:

–       Getting 40,000 likes and 900 comments from 600 attendee posting photos on Instagram about your brand.

–       Getting attendees to take 6,500 digital documents from your trade show.

–       Connecting attendees to content through games by getting them to answer 25,000 questions about your products and services.

–       Capturing 1,000 votes from employees on 20 potential initiatives that they created and prioritizing the top 5 initiatives.

–       Getting 1,500 virtual attendees to stay online for 6 hours per day for 3 consecutive days.

–       Collecting 300 reasons the CEO’s new strategy will succeed or 500 reasons it might fail.


At Interactive Meeting Technology – we want you to succeed at audience engagement by driving business results.

Your definition of success at audience engagement should change from event to event depending on the event type you are organizing and the audience (Think Millenials vs Boomers or Engineers vs Sales).

Bottom Line

There is not a single business leader that I know who would accept a statistic like “in-app ractions” from any event app as meaningful business results. You shouldn’t either.

Having said that – here are three free resources that will get you on the right track for thinking about audience engagement:

(1) Event Goals: If you want steak don’t order the chicken.

(2) Creating Interactive Meetings: How to Turn Attendees into Active Participants

(3) [Presentation] How to Succeed at Attendee Engagement


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How to Succeed At Attendee Engagement [Presentation]

What’s in the presentation?

You are most likely reading this post, because you want to succeed at audience engagement.

Maybe you are looking for ideas. Maybe you are looking help.

Think about the presentation above as a starter kit to help you succeed at audience engagement. Inside the presentation you will find the following:

  • Process for thinking about your attendees, their behaviors and designing successful experiences.
  • Questions that are designed to get you to think beyond technology and toward the people and process which is commonly missing in most failed audience engagement exercises.
  • Examples of audience engagement ideas some that you might have never considered.


Why should you pay attention to this presentation?

We are helping marketers, association executives, agencies and others succeed at attendee engagement across all of the events in their portfolio.

There are not many people who have successfully activated attendees in trade show booths, social events, galas, national sales meetings, customer events, dealer meetings, association meetings and internal conferences.

Luckily we are good at it!


Do you need more help?

It’s important to us that you are successful at attendee engagement in your events. There are three ways we can help you.

(1)   We can answer any questions that you might have and point you in the right direction. Call our office at 612-200-1010

(2)  We can provide consulting support over the phone or onsite production and design.

(3)  Provide digital solutions (

Whether you have an event with a few dozen people or a customer event with 10,000+ attendees. We can help.

Good Luck with your next event!


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IMT Mailbag – How Do I Engage the Audience at Virtual Meetings?

Recently a Manager of Sales Administration emailed us and asked us the following question:

Subject: How do you keep attendees engaged during virtual meetings?

Do you have any suggestions on articles, books, etc. that address Virtual Meetings regarding how to engage the audience, stop multitasking and keep them engaged?

Here’s how we answered his email:

Hi Gary,

We have been heavily involved in this topic for a long time. IMT led the research study for MPI (Meeting Professionals International) to develop a research base and a “How-To-Guide for Creating Hybrid Events.”  (Download it at We have been involved in creating several hybrid meetings applying those lessons.

Here are some things to look for in terms of engagement:

(1) Is the content appropriate to the audience? Most people try to do a 1 size-fits-all approach with their content. People lose interest much faster online. So, you need to do a better job with targeting.

(2) What does the content look and feel like? Most people’s reference point for online content is live television (Election results, live sports and talk shows.  Think Oprah.). Are you trying to emulate these formats for content delivery OR are you just recording subject matter expert lectures with boring PowerPoint slide shows?

If you think about how live television works – it moves very quickly from segment to segment and topic to topic. The content is much shorter than a live in-person meeting. Camera angles change as well.  In addition, reconsider the length of your virtual sessions and how you put them together.

(3) What are you doing to engage people?  I would look for two things: (1) What tactics are you using? and (2) How much time are you allocating to engagement?

Your attendees are one click away from doing ANYTHING else on the Internet and you only control a small window for their attention. Most online events are Subject Matter Experts talking to people for 56 minutes with 4 minutes allotted for Q&A.

If the attendee has nothing to contribute (ideas, comments, etc.), then you are “betting” that your speaker is strong enough that they will resist the temptation to click away. In my opinion, that is a big ask!  I don’t know any speakers that can keep 100% of the audience’s attention.

The person responded and thanked me for our help. Then, he told us that his virtual meetings concentrated on the following:

  • Product info
  • Shipping concerns
  • New policies/processes
  • Info such as upcoming training or meeting

This is boring stuff, especially when you can’t see people face-to-face. His situation sounded similar to a challenge that Ebay Europe faced with its internal team briefings.  So, if you find yourself in a situation where your content is capital “B” boring, I would recommend that you read the following Case Study:

Have a virtual meeting or interactive technology question?  E-mail us at: or visit our site for more information about our digital solutions.

Event Goals: If You Want Steak Don’t Order Chicken

You get what you ask for.  (Well, at least you typically get what you pay for.)  Sounds simple enough.  There shouldn’t be a lot of room for interpretation there, right?  Wrong.

It’s funny to me how many people tell me that they want “steak” at their event, then go on and order “chicken.”  It’s a strange alignment of goals and objectives with event execution.

Have you ever been to a networking event where there was no actual networking?  Or maybe there were a few minutes set aside for networking during the 2 hour event, but that was it.  What if you are shy and it takes you awhile to warm up?  What if you didn’t read “1,001 Conversation Starters” before the event?  You would probably think the networking (which was supposed to be the whole point of the event) was terrible.

Think about this:  If your event’s top two objectives are 1) Education and 2) Networking, how much time/space and budget are you allocating to achieving these objectives?  If you spend the majority of your resources on paying a speaker to speak and force attendees to sit in chairs rather than interact with each other, what do you think the result is going to be?

Maybe it’s because I’m a huge foodie, but for some reason, most analogies seem to make more sense to me when they are put in terms of ordering at a restaurant.  One of my favorite such analogies comes up quite frequently when discussing the importance of clearly identifying goals and objectives with clients before an event to improve the chances of getting desired results.

The example goes a little something like this:

“If you go to a restaurant and order the chicken, but you really wanted the steak, don’t be upset with the waiter because he brought you…the CHICKEN!”

You got what you asked for, not what you wanted.  This seems obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many times the critical step of identifying event goals and objectives and then matching them up with execution is missed or not handled thoroughly. The result is always unmet expectations, disappointment and confusion when actual attendee behaviors and take-aways don’t match up with goals.

Even though there is an entire menu of options for how to effectively run an event that obtains the desired results, the event planner or ultimate decision maker often makes it impossible to get what they want because they don’t align execution with goals.  It isn’t until the event is over and they are forced to sit down and calculate the ROI or report on the effectiveness of their marketing efforts that they realize:

1)  They got exactly what they asked for, but it wasn’t really what they wanted.

2)   Their metrics for measurement don’t line up with their event objectives and provide little useful data.

3)   They didn’t spend enough time on the planning phase and had to make a last minute decision so they just went with what they always get.  (The same event format – the chicken.)

Nobody likes to feel like they waste their time and money on an event that produces disappointing results.  Here are my 5 Tips for Effectively Setting Event Goals & Objectives that produce real, measurable results:

  1. Know what you want your audience to do.  It is important to understand your audience and ultimately what you want them to do or take away from your event.  What is the behavior change that you are looking for? Know what you are trying to achieve and define it clearly.   This makes it easier for the whole team to focus their efforts accordingly.  If you want attendees to network, don’t keep them confined to chairs sitting on their hands for the majority of the event.
  1. Set SMART objectives.  Make sure your objectives are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  Spell it out.   If your goal is to increase your e-mail contact list, make it a more specific goal of increasing subscriptions to your newsletter by X%.
  1. Expect more, get more.  You aren’t doing anyone any favors by setting vague and easily attainable goals.  According to study by Dr. Edwin Locke, “90 percent of the time, specific and challenging (but not too challenging) goals led to higher performance than easy, or “do your best,” goals.”  The study went on to mention that working toward a goal is also a major source of motivation and that “the more difficult and specific a goal is, the harder people work to achieve it.”  If you are consistently satisfied with the same mediocre results and don’t ask for or expect anything more, you will keep getting the same mediocre results.
  1. Know your target audience.  Are you targeting all attendees with a broad branding campaign?  Or are you looking to reach key players within the organizations attending the event?  Each segment of your audience is unique.  Treat them like it and approach them in a way that appeals to their specific wants and needs.
  1. Track and measure.  How do you know if you got what you wanted?  One of the best ways to get feedback on the effectiveness of your event is to ask the right questions.  In the example of the networking event, ask questions like:  “Did you meet anybody new?”  “How are you going to follow up with them?,” in your post event surveys.  Make sure you change your evaluation metrics to measure against your objectives. If your goal is to measure increases in networking connections, don’t ask attendees questions about what they thought of the food!

Ultimately, I just want everyone to be happy with what they ordered.  At IMT we know that sometimes you need an expert to guide you and make recommendations based on their experience.  We have a whole team of digital strategists who are eager help you navigate the world of social media, hybrid events, trade shows and interactive meetings.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you effectively set event goals and objectives.  Don’t settle for chicken if you really want steak!  We’ll help you make sure you communicate your order clearly.

Creating Interactive Meetings: How to Turn Attendees Into Active Participants

When I look around me, I feel like the world is screaming for more interaction and dialog at meetings and events. (In fact, I’ve been noticing this for years as I mentioned in my first IMT blog post.)  There are too many events where attendees are stuffed in chairs, lined up in rows, and forced to listen to speakers talk for hours on end.  Doesn’t everyone realize that attendees stop paying attention after the first 10 minutes? If they do, then why-oh-WHY do our colleagues continue to tie attendees to chairs in rows for 4-6 hours per day?

(Ok. That might be a slight exaggeration. According to Andrea Sullivan, president of BrainStrength Systems, a company that provides corporate training and learning services using scientific research, “People can listen only so long at a time…After they’ve listened to a speaker/presenter for even 15 or 20 minutes, they need to make a shift to some kind of active participation…”)

The point is, sitting for hours on end is stupid and it needs to stop!

Last month, we helped an association merge their networking reception and general session for 3,000 people into a single event. We developed 10 different interactive experiences that were designed to influence networking, create conversations and connect people to content.  We turned attendees into active participants and helped them create a networking and social media buzz.

A few weeks earlier, we helped another association execute their first hybrid event and create conversations.

Every day, we help event organizers take the bold step of moving away from a world of attendees sitting in chairs in neatly organized rows toward a world where event attendees are active contributors.  We have worked with national sales meetings, all employee meeting, customer events, galas, road shows, trade show booths, expos and many other types of events.

Today, I want to share our proven formula with you so you too can join our army of people trying to change the world of meetings and events. Please take notes and share these tips with your colleagues. You can save us all.

How do we take an ordinary event from Snoozeville to engaging?

Step 1: Identify Goals and Objectives

We start by looking at the goals and objectives of the event. It is important to understand our client’s audience and ultimately what they want them to do or take away from the event.

How often do you ask yourself those questions when planning your events? It sounds simple, but if this crucial first step is missed, all other efforts are futile.

Step #2: Segment the Audience

When preparing for an event, it’s important to know who is expected to attend as well as future attendees who are not attending or are disengaged from the event. Once that is complete, we look at the audience by behavioral type.

This step involves doing some secondary research about trends and challenges. Sometimes we have to get other people involved to learn more about the attendee. Useful information includes your audience’s demographic makeup, learning needs, challenges and job tasks.

Step 3: Identify Constraints & Resources

Some clients have lots of volunteers and no budget. Some have budgets but no people. Some clients have a CEO that needs to speak for 90 minutes. Some have agendas that are “filled up and unchangeable.” Some have spaces that have challenges or vendors or technologies that we have to work with.

At the same time, we look at the resources. Did someone donate 47 monitors? Do you have as much carpet as you want? Is one of the sponsors a large format printer?

Step 4: Brainstorm Boogie

Finally, we get ready to brainstorm.  Our goal here is to come up with simple, fun and smart engagement solutions that match attendees’ needs and behavior style.  Also, we look for ways to pull together a theme that can be carried throughout the entire event.

In this process, we use a set of “engagement cards” that we helped MPI create for their meeting design curriculum.  There are about 50 cards that are extremely useful in getting everyone to contribute new ideas for their meetings and events.  We recommend allocating 2-4 hours for this step. The output of the step is several different ideas for solutions that hopefully map out to satisfy all of the attendee needs.

Step 5: Piece Together the Event Concept. Challenge Assumptions.

In this step, we pull together the event concept, challenge our assumptions and validate budgets.  It’s important that we make sure that our recommendations align with objectives, attendee segmentation and behavioral segmentation. IF YOU DON’T DO THIS THE PLAN WILL FAIL. (Yes, I shouted that!)

When you are compiling your recommendations, here are some important things to note:

  1. Incorporate notes about light, space, sound, digital and structure.  These things matter. For example, if you set the room with chairs in rows — then you are likely not creating space for conversations. In many respects, you literally “set the stage” for the type of engagement your event encourages.
  2. Recognize that not 100% of the attendees will do or be interested in everything that you are recommending.  Please be sure to recognize that and scale appropriately.  (For example, you might not need 1,000 buttons if only 100 people are going to collect buttons.)
  3. For what it’s worth, budgeting can be tricky here, because you are probably coming up with new to the world ideas.  How do you figure out how much a laser maze is going to cost?  Or, where do you get a custom art piece built? Who can make these concepts a reality?
  4. Do you need the 5 star version of everything or will the 2 star version be sufficient?  (Expect future posts on this, as I have plenty to say on the topic.)
  5. Technology is not the answer.  Ever.  Always start with people and process, then get to technology.

Note: For the budget conscious, we packaged our most popular games, interactive touch screens and social media executions into turnkey solutions under our SocialPoint® digital solutions brand. They plug into your event seamlessly and are budget friendly.

Step 6: Propose Solutions to Your Stakeholders

In this step, we find it much easier to get senior leaders to sign off on the concepts.  This works well when you remind them of the objectives and review how the concepts tie to their vision.

However, the individuals that are part of the execution on the stakeholder side are usually much more resistant…because you are asking them to change what they do.  It might be undefined, feel squishy and they might be just plain scared of change.

We get these individuals on board by scheduling smaller meetings with them to review the concept and get their alternative input.  In some cases, they approve the concepts-as-is.  In some cases, they have lots of creative ideas to make it better based on initiatives that they are doing that nobody on the core team knew about.

Step 7: Pre-production Phase

Sun-Tzu wrote that the battle is often won before you take the field.  In my opinion, the same thing is true when you are turning attendees into participants.  By completing the steps above you have already laid out your strategy and won the battle.

So, your goal in this phase is to make sure that nobody unwittingly sends you off course.

Here’s how it can happen.  You will have experienced people doing new things that they might not be good at, or totally understand.  Be sure to allocate extra time in your schedule and keep everyone reminded of your goals and objectives.  IF YOU DO NOT YOU MIGHT FAIL.

Also, beware of executives or other stakeholders that want to make late changes.  Usually a late addition means removing something and adding something the executive thinks is cool…like a chocolate fountain.

Step 8: Onsite Execution

Execution onsite should be similar to what you have seen in the past. Remember to double check that the pieces are coming together as you designed. Allow for extra time during your loading. When you are trying something new like this – be wary of the details – if your room for error is small, details matter.

Step 9: Measurement & Follow-up

We like to do follow-up surveys based on the goals and objectives of the event rather than the logistics.  For example, if our goal was to improve networking – how will we know if we achieved that goal? Setting specific metrics for measurement beforehand is key to evaluating the effectiveness of an event.

One smart person we met likes to ask the following questions: “Did you meet anyone new at this meeting? Yes or NO? If Yes, who was it and how will you do business together?”

Bottom Line

You can save us all from perpetuating the cycle of stuffing people in chairs for hours on end at meetings and events. I need your help!

The steps above outline our formula for turning passive event attendees into active participants.  Of course, there are more details and some secret sauce that we left out. You should be able to get pretty far by following these steps.

Please do me a favor – give this process a try at your next event and share it with your customers and colleagues.  Call me if you need guidance.

Good Luck! We are counting on you!

Which Would You Choose: Four Hours of PowerPoint or an Adventure?

Let’s pretend that you are putting together an All-Employee Meeting. What do you think your attendees will prefer:  4 hours of PowerPoint or an Adventure?

I would go with adventure 10 times out of 10.

Boston Scientific chose adventure, too. They skipped the General Session that would have stuffed 5,000 employees into chairs to listen to PowerPoint presentations.  Instead, they created an Expo environment – in the spirit of the Shanghai Expo – where employees could engage with the company, its products and people in many different ways.

Watch the video to see how it turned out. Then, put your PowerPoint down and get started creating your own Adventure.

Creating Mad Event Science

Each year 3M spends over a billion dollars on R&D. One Billion dollars! They have thousands of people working on solutions to new problems, refining existing products and just creating mad science.

Event Camp Twin Cities is an innovation lab for the meetings industry. A tiny one. The event is about sharing ideas and building relationships first and foremost. We generate awareness for new ideas, create new product trials for our partners and showcase thought leaders – or crazy people that want to test new ideas!

[wpvideo vdCmPX4L] We don’t have a billion dollars or a million dollars or a hundred thousand dollars. Event Camp Twin Cities is put together with duct tape, bailing wire, a little inegnuity and a truck load of passion. Our financial and in-kind partners and volunteers are the backbone of this event.

When Ray Hansen and I created this event – our premise was simple. Let’s create a safe space for people to try things that they can’t (or won’t) try in their own events. Let’s find thought leaders that don’t know that they are thought leaders and give them space to share their ideas. Let’s use social media and hybrid technology in ways that most people dream about (or blog about). Let’s get as many people involved as possible. If we can do all of that – hopefully – we will inspire people to go try something that they learned about at our event.

The First Event

In 2010, we showed our attendees Learning Journals, Pecha-Kucha, Business Games, Mass Collaboration, Story Slam, Glenn Thayer’s New General Session Model, alternative seating, etc. Most people had never heard of these concepts. Then, we wrapped the event in a hybrid experience that was unlike anything most people had ever seen. We had 550 people online and they stayed all day.

The event was a wild success. Here are some press articles that do an excellent job of painting a picture of what happened in 2010 and what this event is about:

While all of that press was great and made me feel good, do you know what really got me excited?

It was the blog posts, emails and phone calls from people that said – “we are trying _________  because we learned about it at Event Camp Twin Cities. Thank you.”

The Next Event Camp Twin Cities (August 25-26, 2011)

Event Camp Twin Cities will be special again this year. We are putting together a great program with over 20 content sessions loaded with fresh ideas, strategies and case studies. The event will take place in nine physical sites – all at once and all integrated. Those locations are Minneapolis, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Toronto, St. Louis, Vancouver, Silicon Valley and two in the headquarters of two corporations. And, we are integrating a series of gaming challenges that are tied directly to the event content.

Never underestimate what a small group of committed people can do with duct tape, bailing wire, a little inegnuity and a truck load of passion. We are creating mad event science at Event Camp Twin Cities. It’s going to be a great event. It’s one that you won’t want to miss.

Reserve a spot for yourself today at

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First Impressions: IML Connector

IML Connector from MPI Minnesota April 2011 EventHave you heard about the new IML Connector? It was announced in February 2010 and has been repeatedly delayed in coming to market.

Well, it is almost here.

Last month, IML demonstrated the Connector at an MPI Minnesota chapter meeting. Luckily, I happen to be there.

What is the IML Connector?

The IML Connector is one of these one-size-fits-all super-whiz bangs for meetings and events. The centerpiece is a handheld device with a keyboard. It’s size and shape reminded me of the original Blackberry.

Here are list of things that it can do:

  1. Audience Response Voting
  2. Text to Screen Q&A via keyboard
  3. Microphone queue
  4. Simultaneous interpretation
  5. Portable PA
  6. Multiple Audio Channels
  7. Smart Card capability

I think that’s an impressive list of capabilities. When you consider that most of the other mobile guys are busy creating a more expensive way to show you an agenda on a 3 inch screen that people over 50 can’t read – I give these guys credit for going in a new direction.

Here’s what impressed me

IML demonstration at MPI MN 2011 Event MicrophoneThe microphone on this device is really something else. Attendees were holding it 6-18 inches away from their mouth (see picture above) and it worked perfectly to pick up their voice and project it through the house sound. (Note this demonstration was for 200 people over lunch). I thought this piece was really cool.

Also, I liked how people could text in the comments. Attendees used the keyboard to type in questions. The questions/comments were shown to the panel on a confidence monitor. Then, the panel could answer the questions as they saw fit. This seemed to work really well. After a few questions were answered – more people caught on and started sending in questions.

What I didn’t see

I am really interested in seeing how the multiple audio channels executes. I have some projects where it would be cool to project presentations from multiple rooms in a single lounge. Then, we would want to give the attendees in the lounges these devices to “listen in” on what is happening in the other rooms. I think this would be an awesome application of the technology. We will have to wait and see on this one.

Here’s where they need to continue working

The microphone can give some wicked feedback if used incorrectly. Speakers and the A/V techs in the room will need to be trained on how to “coach attendees” to use these microphones. In our MPI session, it wasn’t until the 3rd person spoke that someone pointed out that they were holding the microphone to close to their mouth.

Is this product really available?

So far there are less than 100 of these devices in the US market. They are all being used for demos. IML is doing it’s first “paid” in May 2011. So, this is probably something to take a look at for late 2011 or 2012.

Bottom Line

While most of the mobile providers are zigging these guys are zagging. I liked how these guys are trying to combine the three most common interactive capabilities (ARS, Q&A, Text Q&A) into a single solution.

Have you seen this device in action? Do we want another device at our events? Or should we be striving to include all of these capabilities in our mobile phones?

Shifting to Digital: the MPI World Education Conference

If your annual education conference attracts only 20% of your members what are you doing for the other 80%? How do you create and deliver education for them? How do you bring your community together?

Meeting Professionals International is making some bold moves in 2011 to tackle some of these challenges. Have a look at what they are doing at their annual world education conference and let me know what you think.

Rolling Out the Hive

The Hive is designed to be the hub of digital buzz for MPI’s 2011 WEC (see sketch above). It’s a physical space in the global village. The Hive combines the cyber cafe, info desk, interview studio, device recharge point, twitter wall, social media aggregator, lounge and a stage (for quick tech lessons) all in one place. The idea is to give attendees multiple ways to connect to the people, content and ideas at WEC. Digital Rookies can connect with Digital Allstars. Groups can hold tweetups. It will be so much more than a cool place to recharge your phone and hangout.

Transforming MPI Website into a Virtual Hub

In another bold move, the MPI website will become a funnel for all social media during the conference. It will aggregate the tweets, photos, videos, blog posts, etc into a single place. In addition, sessions will be streamed live to the MPI website. Some content will be free and others will be available to members only. The rest will be uploaded into MPI’s on demand program. This is a major shift from 2009’s $300 virtual access pass experiment and a good evolution.

Crossing the Pond

The UK chapter (a large european chapter) is working on an initiative to run a parallel event. They will get UK members together and have a viewing party. Some of the sessions from Orlando will be streamed live to the UK chapter’s viewing headquarters. If this comes together – it will be a first for MPI and could open the doors for other viewing pods in other regions with heavy membership around the world.

Bottom Line

If 80% of your members are not attending your annual conference, consider other ways to connect them with the people, ideas and content from your event. Meeting Professionals International is shifting to digital with a multi-pronged approach.

What are you doing?

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Social Media in Events: Beyond Facebook & Twitter

Does it seem like every post about social media in events talks about Facebook and Twitter? Do you feel like your creativity is being constrained, because so many people are talking about the same 3-4 solutions?

I do.

In a followup to my last post (Real World Likes – The Next Big Thing in Social Media in Events), I want to show you two fresh examples that will help you open your mind to new possibilities for social media at your events.

New York City Marathon 2010


See how Asics used videos and location based tracking to help family and friends at home cheer on their marathoners. This is really cool stuff. Fans record videos and leave messages for runners. Then as the runners go past a checkpoint, the videos and messages play on large screens. 

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