Real World Likes – the Next Big Thing for Social Media in Events

What happens if I think that the ice sculpture and chocolate fountain at your event are off the hook? How do I tell my facebook friends and my twitter buddies?

I have to pull out my phone, take a picture, enter a short message and upload it. I miss valuable networking time at your event – plus my iphone will probably autocorrect what I type into some gibberish.

In my opinion, the greatest challenge to spreading the use of social media at events is getting people to express themselves digitally without having to use a laptop or handheld device.

What would happen if you could give people a simple way to “like” something in the real world without having to use a laptop or mobile device?

Here are three videos of how events are using RFID and Social Media to allow attendees to express themselves digitally.

Coca-Cola and the Like Machine


Liking Renault at the NLRAI Autoshow


Rock Concert in Belgium


Why is this the next big thing?

There are four reasons why I think this technology will be the next big thing for social media in events.

(1) Ease of Use for Attendees – It is so simple to swipe a wristband or badge against a touchpoint that automatically updates your status. You take the technology complexity out of the experience.

(2) Awareness – If your brand or event is new and lacking widspread awareness, this is the perfect way to tap into the Digital word of mouth power of social media.

(3) Data – You get data about what people like at your event.  Plus, you can collect data on what was shared with others and clicked on. When you combine this data with other landing page, registration for newsletters, etc. data to see how it contributed to driving people into your marketing funnel.

(4) Widespread application – This technology will work for the galas, weddings, conferences, tradeshows, national sales meetings, association conferences, parties, etc.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, allowing people to express themselves digitally without the need for a device is the next evolution in the integration of social media in events.

Now you know where I stand. What do you think?  What’s the next big thing for social media in events – if this isn’t it?

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Are You Multiplying The Value of Your Meetings?

When you get ready to start planning your next meeting, is your plan to make an incremental change or take a giant leap?

My guess is incremental change. And, I bet you then go look for new ideas that you can include in your event. Right now you might be excited about QR codes, mobile apps. and social media.

I have a question for you.

What would it mean to your organization if you could multiply the value of your meetings and events?

Think about that question for a minute.

How would your attendees feel if you sent them home with 3X the educational value for the same cost/effort? How would your leadership teams feel if you could generate 3X the output from annual top management meetings for the same cost/effort? How would your sponsors feel if you could send them home with 3X the qualified leads for the same cost/effort? How would your employees feel if you included them in 3X the important decisions affecting the future of your company?

I bet your stakeholders would be ecstatic, if you delivered a giant leap in meeting performance. And I bet they would throw you a ticker tape parade and put your name in lights.

The Big Question

Here’s the big question: How do you do it? Which part of your meetings need rethinking in order to multiply the value?

This is a tough one. If you talk to 1,000 people, you will get 1,000 different answers.

Some Answers

Maarten Vanneste, author of Meeting Architecture, created a tool called the Meeting Support Matrix that offers a super-simple way to look at what you are doing in your event, identify gaps and make adjustments in your strategy. This 3X3 matrix allows you to look at your event across time and by “core” objective. (Download)

At BizBash’s Rethink Forum, Mary Boone and Flemming Fog talked about starting with objectives and then using group processes with technology to deliver results. They shared several examples. (Learn More)

Bottom Line

Ask yourself these questions: (A) what would it mean to your organization, if you could multiply the value of events? (B) How would you measure it? (C) Where would you invest time and energy in rethinking your meetings? (D) For those of you that are already doing this – what is working and where are you running into challenges?

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How GMIC is Using Gaming to Transform its Learning Platform

Next week’s Green Meetings Industry Council Annual conference (Feb 20-23, 2011) sounds like it will be really cool.  They are complimenting the traditional lecture model with an interactive and collaborative games model. From what I understand – the idea is to send attendees home prepared to think strategically about building sustainable events.

To execute this vision the GMIC team is getting everyone to work together to solve problems rather than just listen to speakers talk. The idea behind the event is that you will go home having looked at building sustainable events from several different perspectives. Not only will you have heard about the strategies – but you will have been able to practice them.

Since, I am not really doing this event justice – here are snippets of Paul Salinger and Midori Connolly talking about Game On.


How You Can Participate

[Register here] Obviously you can attend in person. The event is in Portland. For those of you that want to save your carbon footprint (and your greenbacks) there is a FREE virtual pass available. Since, this conference fits with my innovation wishes – I plan to attend online.

I will be looking at  how the organizers are integrating the games, ipad applications and case studies into the event design. I will be happy to share what I learn with all of you.

Tell me about your own experiences (positive or negative) using games in learning. Are other conferences doing this? What is the reaction from the attendees – near term and long term?

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Meeting Innovation: PCMA’s Learning Lounge

What comes to mind when someone says – Learning Lounge?

For me, I think of a sterile library-like-space with few people, little noise and empty chairs. I’m extremely pleased to tell you that PCMA‘s Learning Lounge was anything but. It was noisy, engaging and full of life!

This experimental idea gave us a glimpse into the Future of Meetings. It showed us new ways to include and engage a large number of attendees. And, showed us how we could incorporate the back of stage into our event experiences.

Luckily I brought my Flip Camera and made a short video. Have a look.


5 things that I liked about the Learning Lounge:

  1. The format gave approximately 100 additional attendees an opportunity to share ideas and expertise with their peers.
  2. The open space allowed you to “sample” a bunch of ideas and move between theaters very quickly.
  3. The interview studio sessions were recorded and broadcast on the internet allowing people at home to participate as well.
  4. The use of 3D structures and décor created intimate spaces out of a huge open space.
  5. Having the Learning Lounge right next to the general session helped people arrive early, network, learn and get excited before the general session started.

Bottom Line

PCMA’s Learning Lounge was a high-energy, high traffic space that gave a bunch of attendees an opportunity to participate in the event. This is an idea that you should consider for your next meeting or event.

Have you experienced anything like PCMA’s Learning Lounge before? Have you tried anything similar in your own events? And, if you were at PCMA last week – what did you think of the Learning Lounge?

PS. This is a perfect example of Wish #2 coming to life!

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Five Wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011

It’s January. It’s that time of year, when all of us prognosticators and pundits look into our crystal balls and make big and bold predictions about the future.

Last year, I wrote an article called 10 Ways Social Media Will Transform Events. I talked about the way Social Media will transform communication at events. The article is still relevant today.

For 2011, I have five wishes for the meetings industry. With your help, these wishes could become reality. Have a look and let me know what you think.

1.  I wish we would stop stuffing people in chairs in rows and making them listen to speakers for 5 hours.

Seriously people. Friends don’t let friends stuff attendees into chairs to mindlessly listen to speakers babble for 5 hours per day. Attendees brains can’t absorb the 400-500 slides that you are throwing at them during the day. Plus, today’s attendees are smarter, more educated and have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before. Why don’t we do more to work on harnessing that capability?

Strangely, I feel like the reason meetings have not evolved more is that we don’t have enough good examples of what “different” looks like in meetings.There are many people talking about making events “different.” Yet, there are very few public examples of different approaches. It seems like we need to round up these meeting mavericks that are innovating and get them to share all of their examples and case studies with others.

Here is an example from my 2010 work that was recently written about in PCMA Convene: 5,000 Points of View. Please share yours as well.

2.  I wish that the meetings industry would invest more to create conversations and experiences that resemble the future of meetings.

We need to do more to create “safe” spaces for people to try out new and innovative event concepts.  The Event Camp Series, Engage365, BizBash’s Rethink Forum are a good start. Velvet Chainsaw Consulting’s Learning Lounge at PCMA’s upcoming Annual Conference could be another good example.

I think that we can still do a lot more. Would you be willing to sponsor (or work on) an innovation lab project in 2011/2012? If so, email me.

3. I wish hotels and venues made conference WIFI and LAN services more affordable for meeting organizers.

To me the venue Wifi discussion is like the wart on the wicked witches’ nose. It’s big, ugly and in your face – yet, you can’t do a darn thing about it. Help may be on the way.

Since October, I have been using Verizon’s MIFI card. It is a private wireless hotspot that allows me to connect 5 devices to the internet via Verizon’s cell network. It saves my bacon anywhere AT&T doesn’t work (like the entire state of Wisconsin). I use it rather than hotel or venue wifi while I am traveling. It makes life so much easier.

Hopefully, in 2011, we will start to see more competitive products like Verizon’s MIFI Cards and Tradeshow Internet that will put pressure on suppliers to improve their pricing and performance.  In the interim, I strongly encourage you to negotiate Wifi and LAN service levels and access into your venue contracts. This way, you can save yourself money and make the connectivity more affordable right out of the gate.

4. I wish that your event website was social media friendly and designed for mobile devices

With so many people accessing the internet from mobile devices, I don’t understand why your event website doesn’t have a mobile version. I get so mad when I have to look at a “browser” based website on my mobile phone. The text is too small, your flash graphics don’t work and it gives me a bad experience with your organization.

In the next two years, the number of people accessing content from their mobile devices is going to outnumber those that access content via PC.  It’s time to talk to your IT guy about setting up a mobile version of your site – it’s dead simple and will make your growing audience of mobile users happy.

While you are working on the website, go ahead and make your event website social media friendly, as well.  Please add some social sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter and Email. These butttons should be put on each of the key pages of your website, so that attendees and fans can tell their “likeminded” social media friends about your event.  If you want people to talk about you in Social Media, you need to make it simple to do. A “tweet” button and a “like” button are about as simple as it gets. It amazes me how many of you miss this valuable opportunity.  (Need an example? See the buttons at the bottom of this post and every post on this site.)

5. I wish that I could transfer all of the crazy ideas for interaction and collaboration in my brain to your boss’s brain.

Imagine what would happen if there were like 10,000 leaders talking to meeting planners about getting people to collaborate and work together in large groups at meetings. I think that would be awesome!

What would it take to do that? Should we create some cards like the IDEO Method Cards to give away? Or is it enough to show leadership the TED examples and then let their imaginations start running wild?

Bottom Line

Those are my five wishes for the Meetings Industry in 2011. I don’t think it’s asking for the world. In fact, if I can get you and five of your friends to join in – we should be able to turn these wishes into dreams come true in a year from now.

What do you say? What should we tackle first?

Image Credit: krkdesigns
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Mission Possible: Why Volcanos, Floods and Snowstorms Can’t Stop Us From Meeting

While natural disasters throw an “unplanned” monkey wrench into the normal rhythm of our events, they don’t have to stop us from meeting.

I have been impressed with the role that event technology and social media have played in events during natural disasters like snowstorms, volcanos and floods this year. Some inspiring and innovative people, like Lindy Dryer from Social Fish, proved that we could create opportunities out of the madness.

Last week at EIBTM in Barcelona, Ruud Janssen and I highlighted a few of these examples and shared some advice with the audience on what they could learn from these events and take back to their own events.

Take a look at the slide deck:

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Social Media In Natural Disasters

While our presentation concentrated on the events angle, we discovered an amazing open source crowdsourcing platform called Ushahidi in our research. The developers designed a full portfolio of technology to help crisis teams collect, filter and process real time communications from text and Twitter. Then, turn those messages into actionable information that could be used for rescue missions, etc.

In addition, the Ushahidi platform allows people thousands of miles of way to volunteer their time to help in the rescue and recovery efforts. Pretty cool – if you ask me! (Read More)

Bottom Line

We don’t have to let a crisis stop us from meeting. There is a way to create opportunities despite the madness.

What is the most interesting use of event technology or social media use that you have seen to help an event during a natural disaster in the past two years?

Shameless Plug: The slides above were picked by Slideshare editors to be one of 14 featured presentations of the day on Friday, December 4, 2010. Yes, Ruud and I did feel cool!

Disclosure: My Trip to Barcelona was Sponsored by EIBTM.

Event Camp East Coast: Unplugged

This weekend, I attended Event Camp East Coast. It was organized as a structured unconference and followed the Conferences that Work model. Conferences That Work is one of many group processes that put the participants at the center of the event to establish common ground, build community and create something together.

There was no agenda. There were no powerpoints. No overhead projectors. And no presentations. There were no speakers. There was no looking at the back of anyone’s head in sessions.

Are you still with me?

There was no production equipment. No stages. No livestream. And only a light twitter stream. The most advanced technology at the event was EventMobi from Bob Vaez.

The event was unplugged. Yet, we were so plugged in.

Identifying Our Talents and Strengths

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There were two key processes that helped us get started. The first was a process called the “round table.”  In that process, we went around the room and answered three questions:

> Who are you

> What do you want out of the event

> What can you offer

Two scribes then took notes on flip charts and posted those around the room.

Out of that process, I learned about the hidden talents of the other attendees that were in the room. So, when it was my turn to go – I could say – “I want to learn about Design from Deb Roth, Improv from Jenise Fryatt, Advanced Social Media from Kiki L’Italien and talk about Brain learning with anyone that wants to talk about it.” (@brainstrength – identified herself as an expert on brain research when it was her turn.)

This process was lengthy and tiring, but it helped me get to know some key facts about the other attendees. This came in handy once we cracked open the wine.

Tapping Into Our Wisdom

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While consuming wine and getting to know each other better, we started to build an agenda. This was the second step.

We created the agenda by coming up with discussion topics and then writing our name down beside each topic. If we had expertise and willingness to lead a session – we could indicate that with a letter code.

Then, while the rest of us continued to talk and network – a group of 6 people went into the “serious room” and sorted everything out. What emerged in the morning was a 14 session program that tapped into the collective wisdom and talents of the people that we had at the event.

For some people, this step was too unstructured and too slow for their tastes. For me, it gave me plenty of time to have productive and engaging conversations with a bunch of different people – including some who were skeptical.

I liked that.

We The People

The next morning was a lot of fun! The session rooms were setup with chairs organized in a circle with 1 flip chart. The session leader would kick off the session with a few points and then a dialogue would take place.

Each room had a circular seating arrangement. This made sure that we were all equal. We all had an opportunity to ask questions or make comments when we wanted. Since, we knew each other – the dialogue flowed much smoother than if we were unknowns in the session.

While we didn’t get a powerpoint deck with 62 slides from each presentation to take home – what we did get was a bunch of new resources for answers, help and support.

Those resources were our fellow attendees. The people.

A Group Unites

The final sessions gave us an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what we had seen, experienced and learned. Then we could choose to share those insights with our colleagues around the room. (We had moved from “fellow attendees” to colleagues at this point). Since each of us came from a different place we took away something different.

Final Thoughts

  1. I have never been to a conference where I felt like I got to know so many new people so well. We shared together, learned together and established common ground.
  2. I thought it was remarkably empowering to get to know the people around me and then say “I want to learn from you” and then go have a discussion with 10-18 other people that feel the same.
  3. This isn’t the type of event format that lends itself to webcasting. A video stream here would have failed – badly. It would have been like watching the Ann Arbor City Council on public access television – people would have left after 3 minutes. Then, they would have complained that the livestream was no good.
  4. It takes courage to put on event like this. It takes courage to register and pay for an event like this. Yet, I would attend again – because the networking and collaboration were so powerful.

Bottom Line

We have a bunch of different formats and technologies that we can use in our events. Your selection of event format should depend on your objectives.  Not all formats are good for learning. Not all conference formats are good for engagement. Not all conference formats are right for livestreaming.

Event Camp East Coast was great for building a peer-to-peer community.

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Are You Thinking Outside the Room?

Bruce MacMillan wants MPI members to look at their meetings and events in a new way. He wants them to look at new ways of connecting people to ideas and content. He wants them to start thinking outside the room.

That’s the message that he brought to MPI Members from Minnesota and Wisconsin at the Midwest Regional Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, today. I hope that he continue to share this same message with all chapters around the world.

Bruce brought more than theory. He brought three “A” list events that would inspire anyone.  I have summarized each event below – so you can be inspired too.

SAP’s Sapphire Now

Luca Favetta and his team outdid themselves with this event. They built a hybrid event that linked two hub cities of Frankfurt and Orlando and integrated thousands of people online. They used TV studios to create additional content and connect people to a broader audience.


Cisco GSX

In 2009, Cisco’s Global sales event was in danger of being cancelled. Instead of cancelling the event, they created a virtual event. They pulled together over 19,000 people and created a remarkable case study in the process. They created interactive games, like the Threshold, to get thousands of people involved and participating.



TED does four things to connect people to ideas and content outside the room. First, they use an 18 minute format for their presentations. Second, they regularly publish videos on their websites. Three, they have TEDActive which is a simulcast event for people that could not attend the real TED event (See Interview). Fourth, they have the TEDx series of self organized events that help connect people to the content.

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Bottom Line

We have the tools to connect people and ideas to larger audiences around the world. The events above show you what you can do with gazillions of dollars. There’s a big secret that most people don’t know about. You don’t need a gazillion dollars to create innovative and engaging experiences for remote attendees. At Event Camp Twin Cities we proved that you can create engaging experiences with a lot less money. A lot less. (if you don’t believe me checkout the case study: Watch)

Are you thinking outside the room?

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Talking TEDActive with Sarah Shewey

What comes to mind when someone mentions the TED Conferences?

Do you think about a specific presentation – like Bill Gates presentation on malaria?

You know the one – where he opened up a jar of mosquitos in the auditorium. Then he said – malaria doesn’t need to be a poor person’s problem (watch video).  Or do you think about an endless supply of smart people sharing great ideas? Or do you think of cool, inspiring videos that are free to watch and easy to share?

Regardless of what comes to mind first – you eventually draw the conclusion that TED is awesome!

Have you ever wondered how they create this magic? Have you ever wondered what they are doing that you aren’t?

Recently, Mike McAllen and I got a glimpse inside of TEDActive from Sarah Shewey of Pink Cloud Events (pictured above).  Sarah joined Mike and I on a recent installment of Meetings Podcast Going Digital to talk about what they are doing to make the TEDActive Simulcast an awesome experience.

(Listen to the podcast)

For those of you that want the highlights from our conversation – Read on.

TEDActive is Much More than Watching TV

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TedActive is the simulcast event that is tied to the main TED Conference. TEDActive attracts people that are ready to create action around the ideas at TED. This event is much more than watching TV. They weave real talks (that are given by real people), social activities and collaborative activites into the experience. These activities help TEDActive participants establish community and create a unique experience of their own – beyond watching the simulcast.

The main conference room has a ton of different seating options.  There are beds, bean bag chairs, lounge chairs, and tons of screens all over to watch the TED Talks. The environment is designed to breakup the big room into smaller groups of 4, 8, 20 or 60 people. If you get a bed – your simulcast screens are on the ceiling (Pictures). The event attracts more than 500 people.

It’s a simulcast and a real event at the same time. Pretty cool, huh?

Participants Create Something Together

The attendees at TEDActive get to determine 1/3 of the content and workshops. In 2010, the attendees and a group of musicians created a music video during the event. Attendees were given a piece of paper and asked to make drawings that matched the event’s theme – What the World Needs Now. Then, a group of singers on the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus took recorded a track to go with the pictures and a production team created the video. You can watch that video here:


Why are TED Videos So Engaging?

TED works with speakers to create awesome presentations and to have stage presence. Then, they use about 8 different cameras to film the videos. The shots are positioned so that they will be engaging to people watching online. Sarah makes a point of saying that they use closer shots to make things more intimate. They rarely use the long shots.

Why does the Simulcast Event Work?

We asked Sarah why the simulcast worked. She shared the following reasons:

  1. Live host is the glue for the simulcast.
  2. Localize the event with other activities/experiences and create community.
  3. Coach the Speakers on their delivery.
  4. Video Production (see above).
  5. Broadcast the Video and the slides.
  6. Treat the simulcast as a special event.

Of course, she didn’t talk in bullet points – she elaborated on most of these points in detail. You should go listen to the podcast to hear what she had to say.

Bottom Line

TED rocks! But, you knew that already.

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