Is Your Mingle Stick Poken Attendees in the BeLinker

In his book Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky writes – “If you give them more of a reason to do something, they will do more of it, and if you make it easier to do more of something that they are already inclined to do, they will also do more of it.

Shirky came to mind when I heard that 3,000 attendees at an HR Block conference exchanged 153,000 digital business cards and 15,000 paperless brochures using the Busy Event BeLinker. (Case)

The BeLinker must be dead simple for attendees to understand and use. When I talked with Brian Slawin of Busy Event recently, I asked him – how did you get so many people to use it?

Brian emphasized three things:

  1. The organizer sent attendees emails telling them about the new technology.
  2. Attendees had a demonstration & short activity at the beginning to introduce people to the tech and let them try it.
  3. They had a support area for attendees with questions.

The Message: Simple is Good – but so is making sure that attendees feel comfortable with the technology.

Wait! Wait! There’s More!

While Busy Event has a great case – several similar technologies have entered the market in the past 15 months. Here are some examples:

> Poken – Originally designed for college kids, these are sponsorable take home versions of Busy Event. By touching your Poken to another attendee’s Poken, you can exchange social business cards that connect each other’s facebook, twitter and linkedin accounts together. By the looks of things – it is taking off at events. Read the BMW Case Study and IBM Case Study to see how this tool is being used.

> Mingle Stick – This little gadget works similarly to BusyEvent and Poken – except that it is not as robust as BusyEvent or as cool as Poken.

> Living TradeShow – The LivingTradeshow Crickit gives attendees a one button system for exchanging lead information. These little devices are tied to a powerful backend database and onsite network (like BusyEvent) to let exhibitors look at lead information in a live format. The cool thing about these CrickIt devices is that they can be custom molded for each tradeshow and serve as a take-home item.

A Word of Caution – About Mobile Devices

For those of you drinking the mobile-phone KoolAid, I think mobile has some work to do to become as-simple-for-attendees-to-use as these new gadgets.  With mobile, you run into all kinds of problems with different hardware models, software compatibility, compliance, etc.  At a recent event, I discovered that the attendees had many different types of phones and software applications. Trying to exchange mobile contact information was sometimes more effort than it was worth.

Bottom Line

These new simple gadgets are creating new ways for event attendees to connect and share leads, exchange contact information and connect their social world to the real world. By giving all attendees the same technology (Belinkers, Pokens, MingleSticks or CrickITs) you are making sure that they are all working with the same business productivity tools.

What do you think?

image: courtesy of Busy Event

Reminder: I don’t receive any form of compensation for product reviews.

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After 110 Pages of Tweets is Twitter Worth It?

On March 5, 2010 – I celebrated my first Twitterversary. It came and went without much fanfare as I forgot that it happened. However, I thought it was worth reviewing my progress over the past year.

In my first 365 days, I wrote 2,743 tweets – which is about 110 pages worth of tweeting. I have to admit that I was shocked that I had written so many pages of tweets. (For the math people this assumes that each tweet takes up 1 line in a page and there are 25 lines per page.) It made stop for a few minutes and reflect on what I had learned over the past year from using this new tool.

Below are some things that I have learned. Have a look and then let me know if you think all of this tweeting was really worth it? or was it a massive waste of time? Of course, if you have things to add from your own experiences – please do so. The more the merrier!

20 Things I Learned in My First Year of Tweeting

  1. Twitter is a super-simple way to publish messages. How hard is it to write one sentence and hit send? Not hard.
  2. When you have 1,000 followers it is impossible to listen to what everyone is saying with equal attention.
  3. Tools like TweetDeck and Hootsuite help me organize my Twitter “ears” and listen to the people and conversations that are most important to me.
  4. I choose the conversations to follow and dip my toe into other conversations of interest throughout the day.
  5. In some twitter groups – members find and share articles that would be impossible for 1 person to find on his own and in a timely manner.
  6. Twitter is a great way to spread content to like-minded individuals.
  7. Twitter isn’t for all people.
  8. Twitter is public – so it won’t work for any private or confidential corporate events.
  9. Many-to-Many conversations on Twitter are fast-moving, action packed and fully archived. Watch what you say!
  10. Conversations on Twitter can be archived at This is a great resource to go back and review what was said.
  11. I once summarized a full conversation of tweets with 1 tweet. Is that good or bad?
  12. I started this blog because of Twitter. I know 10 others that did the same.
  13. Twitter is a super-simple way to connect remote and virtual attendees.
  14. While the movers were packing boxes at my home, I participated in a conference via Twitter 4000 miles and nine time zones away.
  15. Luckily, not everyone is on Twitter.
  16. I never had any interest in following Shaq, Britney Oprah or Aston Kucher.
  17. The #eventprofs community on Twitter is awesome.
  18. I attended a conference in February because of the people that I met on Twitter. I had an awesome time! Some people think I was crazy.
  19. I attended a conference in March because someone tweeted that they were attending. Does that make me a stalker?
  20. Twitter introduced me to thousands of interesting people in the past year. If it weren’t for them – I would have left this technology long ago.

Bottom Line

While Twitter is a simple technology – it is a powerful communication tool. After 110 pages of tweets, I am very thankful for the people that I met on Twitter this past year. Without them – I probably would have abandoned the technology very quickly. Thank you Twitter friends!

image credit: @cdharrison
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Game Changer For Small Events: Zerista’s Mobile Community Platform

Did you hear that Zerista launched a new mobile community for events last week? It could be a game changer for small events – giving them access to event technology that was previously too expensive.

This new mobile platform is a mashup of Ning, Eventbrite, Twitter and Foursquare for small groups. Plus, it has a self-service setup AND they are making it free for groups with less than 250 people.

Said another way: Zerista can do schedules, messaging, backchannel, take payments, support checkin, send invites, maps and browse member lists and probably other stuff, too.

Watch the video from the DEMO Conference last week to get an overview:

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MTO Summit Chicago: The Wayne’s World For Event Technology

Last Thursday’s MTO Summit had the feel of the Saturday Night Live Skit – Wayne’s World. On one hand, we were in the basement of the Chicago O’Hare Hyatt with a stage that looked like it came from Wayne’s mom’s basement in Aurora. On the other hand, the sessions were highly entertaining – the topics perfect – and the discussions excellent.

If Chris Brogan and Stephen Nold had opened the event by saying “Wayne’s World. Wayne’s World. Party Time. Excellent.” – it would have set a perfect tone for the day. Maybe next time. Here are some of my notes from the event.

Chris Brogan & Stephan Nold @MTOSUMMIT Chicago 2010

Three Parts to Your Social Media Strategy

Social media guru Chris Brogan pointed out that he advises clients to have at least three elements in their social media program: Listening, Connecting and Publishing. Chris advises clients to spend 30-60 minutes on all three elements each day.

I asked some attendees if they were following Chris’ advice – most responded that they are only publishers. How do you stack up?

Community Building the Old Fashioned Way

Mark Ragan of Ragan Communications told the audience how he creates and builds communities around compelling content THEN he creates events. He told us that he did it the old fashioned way – via email. Mark uses Social Media as a brand building tool. Also, he pointed out that you don’t have to create all of the content yourself. You can find great articles, write an interesting summary and share it with your community.

Are you using content to build a strong community all year long?

Mobile Apps Need to Be Open & Integrated

Event organizers that launched iphone apps in 2009 quickly realized that their mobile apps need to be able to work on all phone types. While the iphone is sexy, most corporate attendees are still using the Blackberry. Nokia and Android have sizable installed base, too.

Also, mobile apps need to be integrated with other data and systems that you are using for the event. Most event organizers were exasperated with tech vendors that were not “partnering” with other vendors to create integrated solutions. (Vendors take note!)

Geo-positioning & Wayfinding

While many show organizers cringed at the thought of looking at a venue map on a tiny mobile phone screen, most agreed that “you are here” and “wayfinding” should become part of mobile solutions for events in the future. Wayfinding is the name for giving people directions from point A to point B.

There was a lot of talk about social tools Foursquare and Gowalla and how these type of “checkin” services could be useful for traffic flow, navigating an event experience or encouraging people to visit event sites.

Where Were the Virtual & Hybrid Events?

Virtual & Hybrid events were like Claudia Schiffer on a date with Wayne and Garth – nowhere to be found. Yet, it was clear to most at the event that this technology is something to consider. Mark Ragan even pointed out that he is getting 15% of his event revenue from virtual events. When you are making money with virtual or hybrid events, I think that makes virtual events magically babelicious.

Bottom Line

Just like Wayne’s World, the MTO Summit was entertaining, engaging and full of amazing people and ideas. If I were smart, I would have summarized this entire post in one line: “MTO Summit. MTO Summit. Party Time. Excellent.”

What do you say?

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Free Webinar: Beyond Social Media – Uncover New Ways To Connect, Engage and Educate Your Audience Physically And Virtually

This morning, I joined Jeff Hurt (Velvet Chainsaw Consulting) and Michael McCurry (Experient) in a webinar called: Beyond Social Media: Uncover New Ways To Connect, Engage and Educate Your Audience Physically and Virtually. The webinar was organized by InXpo and was part of their InXpoLive program. The webinar gave us a great opportunity to experience the InXpo platform from behind the curtain.

The slide deck is below and the webinar recording is available here: Webinar recording.

[slideshare id=3469467&doc=march18inxposmwebinarfinal-100318131139-phpapp01]

Bottom Line

Social Media is creating new opportunities for you to connect, engage and educate your attendees. As your attendees get used to having more of these two way experiences in their real lives – they will start expecting similar experiences from your events. While there are many technologies that can help you – you need to make sure that you (1) set your objectives, (2) assess your audience and (3) map your needs to the resources that are available to you.

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Virtual Events 101 Presentation at MPI EMEC

On Monday, 1 March 2010, I gave an introduction to Virtual Events presentation at the European Meetings and Events Conference in Malaga, Spain.  While most introductions to virtual events presentations concentrate on the technology involved – I tried to keep the focus off of technology and on the when and why to use virtual events as part of your event strategy.

Here is the slide deck. Some notes from the presentation are below:

[slideshare id=3344908&doc=emec2010virtual101-100305101811-phpapp02]

What is a virtual event? How are people using them?

This presentation contained some insights and ideas from my participation in the “Virtual 3rd World” at the Virtual Edge Summit (Read more here). Where I tapped into some of the latest research data from Virtual Edge and George P. Johnson regarding virtual event usage and statistics. Also, I discussed the big question: What is a virtual event? and showed some of the graphs from Kelly A Graham’s presentation on Virtual Events.

Three Types of Attendees in the LikeMinded Community

One of the radical ideas that I proposed – was this idea that there are three types of likeminds in your event community:

1. Those that are attending.

2. Those that cannot or do not attend

3. Those that don’t know who you are but believe how your attendees do.

In my opinion, the virtual event is very powerful for giving the people that are your fans (and cannot attend) a platform for participation and sharing. In this sharing, your virtual participants can help draw in other likeminded individuals that don’t know about your organization, brand or event.

New Opportunities that Digital Technology Creates for Events

I shared my framework of the four opportunities that digital technology creates for events: Extend the Event Experience, Include More People, Increase Interaction and Leverage New Formats. Then, I discussed four different types of virtual technologies that could be used for their events and explained the advantages and differences.

One of the points that I tried to make in this presentation is that events are an explosion of content. While that is great, virtual events help us extend that content explosion and spread it much further. Also, they help us re-use the content that goes into these events over a much longer time.

Also, I shared some planning timelines from Cisco, where I made the point that a “Virtual Event” is a real event. You need to still go through your planning process in the same way that you would for another event.

Metrics and Best Practices

The final section covered some metrics and best practices that I wanted to share with the audience. In fairness, I could have developed this a little further – but I considered these bonus slides. I didn’t think that we would even get to these slides.

Questions and Comments

If you have any questions or comments on the presentation or the content, please let me know. I would be more than happy to answer any questions and expand on any of the ideas that were discussed.

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Building A Digital Game Plan For Events

On 1 March 2010, I made a presentation at MPI’s European Meetings and Events Conference in Malaga, Spain on “Building a Digital Game Plan”.

The idea behind the presentation was to get the audience to think about how to get the audience to think about the opportunities that technology can bring to events in terms of extending the event, including more people, offering new formats and increasing interaction. Then, I wanted to show them a process for planning to implement interactive or collaborative technology inside their events. (This could be Social Media or other event technology).

You are more than welcome to look through the slides here.

[slideshare id=3330105&doc=emec2010digitalgameplanpdf-100303170305-phpapp02]

Supporting Material

Equally important, I compiled several blog posts into a pseudo e-book that the attendees could use as a second reference. This was designed to provide some additional support behind what happened. Here is that document: Building a Digital Game Plan Article Collection.

Questions or Comments

If you have any questions on the content or ideas that were included in this presentation, please let me know. I would be happy to expand on any of the topics.  For the regular blog readers – there are some ideas in the slide deck that will be the subject of future blog posts.

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20 Tweets from the Virtual Edge Summit Worth Reading

Tuesday, I found myself in the “virtual third world” at the Virtual Edge Summit in Santa Clara, California, USA. I wasn’t attending the event in person. I wasn’t watching the event on any of the 5 different virtual event platforms. I wasn’t behind my computer. I was observing the conference through Twitter on my iphone.

While it wasn’t ideal – I gotta say that it wasn’t that bad either. Especially, considering my alternative was to watch movers load the truck.

Here are 20 Tweets that I collected from the event that I think are worth your attention. If you are interested in more – you can either watch the videos or checkout the backchannel (Search #ve10 on Twitter).

1. C your F2f event as a microverse in a larger context of community says @PaulSalinger #vevu #ve10 think of all channels 4 your content /via @jeffhurt

2. Key component of Hybrid events is the interaction and engagement created between virtual and face2face attendees /via @michaelmccurry

3. Remote attendees arrive early, stay late online and want a robust virtual experience when attending a virtual event says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

4. Why Virtual Events: extend content reach, extend, reduce spend, extend duration, support #green, demonstrate tech @kellyAGraham A) #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

5. Why Virtual Events B) Gain better metrics for business intelligence – data, data, data says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

6. Consider prospects who may attend your virtual event, taste it, & decide to later attend the F2F event says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

7. A Virtual Event is a gathering of ppl who meet in online environment at set time 2 acquire info, share, network, engage @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

8. Virtual Event Strategies: Get, Keep & Grow Customers says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

9. Virtual Event Strategy (VES) 1) Understand your Audience 2) Document Your Objectives 3) Develop Measurement Plan says @kellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

10. What I like about the live stream of #ve10 – I can flip between sessions until I find content of interest /via @scottlum

11. @scottlum You can flip between sessions and no one has to move their chair to let you scoot by! 😀 #ve10 /via @ginaschreck

12. VES: Don’t understimate resources for virtual strategy. Lrn to understand virtual attendee’s expectations says @KellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

13. You need a good Digital Strategiest that understand virtual and online experiences for Virtual Events Success says @KellyAGraham #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

14. Strategic Methodology for Virtual Events Use Master Process: M) Mark your aud A) Assess Objs & goals S) Strategy says @kellyagraham #ve10 /@jeffhurt

15. VE Strategic Methodology cont T) Tech Review E) Execution R ) Review & Reblance says @kellyagraham #ve10 /@jeffhurt

16. Audience Technographics for Virtual Events #ve10 from @KellyAGraham [Book mark this. Another winner from Kelly] /via @jeffhurt

17. Wow, Cisco did a virtual event for 10 million says @kellyAGraham [Not the norm she reminds audience] #ve10 /via @jeffhurt

18. Cisco cost per person dropped from $4500 to $385 by going virtual. But they want hybrid event for 2010 : drive motivation #ve10 #vevu /@ikesingh

19. Virtual events? Don’t look at technology first – what do you want to accomplish? Look at tech. after event plan in place. #ve10 /via @scottlum

20. Virtual is an umbrella term for any type of event that is not face-to-face says @KellyAGraham /via @JeffHurt

Two BONUS Tweets

21. Gr8 4all events: Virtual Event Obj: Complete form for each aud segment u target says @KellyAGraham /via @JeffHurt

The diagram is great for all events that are using any type of digital technology. I use many similar questions when I meet with companies that are considering event technology.

22. Virtual Events Metrics & ROI [Good list to consider] from @deTomasi & @KellyAGraham #ve10 #eventprofs

I like how this list of metrics is categorized: Reach, Engagement, Conversion and Content Lifecycle. I think the attention to the content life-cycle is important. If you are going to make the investment in creating content, then you should look very closely at how you far and wide you can spread that content.

Bottom Line

Even in the virtual third world, I was able to connect with this conference and harvest some valuable insights. I hope that you found these 20 tweets and the links valuable as well.

So, what jumped out at you? What would you add?

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Staying Connected to 5 Conferences While Packing Boxes

I am in full blown moving mode. We are moving from Switzerland to the United States. As I write this, I am sitting on the floor of my empty apartment with only the wifi access remaining. Our furniture is loaded into a container that is starting a six week voyage to the US.

What is really strange is that I still feel connected to five different conferences that are happening around me in other parts of the world:

> MeetDifferent, Cancun: This event just finished and had a virtual access pass. On Sunday, I played Midori Connolly’s The Hybrid Meeting Dissected in the background while I was making some final arrangements before the movers arrived on Monday morning. Midori and Glenn Thayer did an excellent job of engaging the virtual audience in the presentations and discussion. If you are an MPI member you should watch the presentation and pay close attention to Glenn and how he bridges the virtual and face-to-face audience. Also, I liked the Meet Different iphone application. This free application did a nice job of giving me information on the schedule, speakers, twitter stream, etc. for the conferences.

> Confex, London: Confex is the most important show for the UK meetings and events industry.  Some big news from this event was the launch of the IML Connector. This new blackberry-like-device transforms into a voting keypad, “private” backchannel, simultaneous translation device, audio player and a microphone during events. I think the software behind the device is the most interesting. It seems simple enough that a junior A/V tech,  IT staff member or even a speaker could operate the system. If that is true, this solution could open doors for using interactive technology at many smaller corporate events.

> Virtual Edge 2010, California: This virtual conference had about 200 people onsite and many in the virtual audience. The conference allowed attendees to try 5 different virtual events platforms. I thought this was a great way to give attendees get an apples-to-apples comparison of the different platforms. Sadly, I was only connected to the conference through the twitter backchannel (hashtag: #ve10) on my iphone. I guess you would call it being in the virtual third world. But – I learned alot even from this format. I will be sharing insights from the virtual third world in an upcoming post.

> LikeMinds, Exter UK: This social media conference (starting on Friday) is supposed to be one of the first events where Social Media experts actually bring the many-to-many feature of Social Media into Face-to-Face events. I am eager to see how they do it. If you want to follow the event, you can watch the livestream on the Twitterface. Twitterface is a web based solution that allows you to include twitter streams and webcasting into the same user interface. It looks like a cool way to engage virtual attendees.

> MPI European Meetings & Events Conference, Spain: This conference starts on Sunday and I will be there speaking about event technology at two sessions. One session is on Virtual Events 101 and the other is called building a Digital Gameplan for Events. You can follow the backchannel for this event at #EMEC10. I will try to recruit some MPI Europe members to join me on the backchannel. Here is a video about my two sessions:


Bottom Line

Even though, I have been packing boxes and going through the moving process – I have found it remarkably easy to stay connected with several different events this week. Consider “opening a window” into your next event, so remote or virtual attendees can participate in one way or another. Who knows – maybe they will attend in person the following year.

So, what do you do while packing boxes?

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Is this the Future of Event Guides and Exhibitor Brochures?

Today, Wired Magazine did all event marketers and event organizers a favor, in my opinion.  They created a video based on how they see Wired magazine working on the iPad.  Guess what? It rocks! And there are applications for your event guides and exhibitor brochures.

[vodpod id=ExternalVideo.922758&w=425&h=350&fv=videoId%3D66775419001%26playerID%3D1813626064%26domain%3Dembed%26]

Imagine how great YOU and your event would look if your exhibitor brochures or your event guides worked like this. Ok -they will probably never be this cool – but what if they were 1/2 as cool?  When I wrote the post iPad: It just works…but will it work for events – I had these kind of applications in mind. I just wasn’t smart enough to implement it.

Thank you Wired for showing us the way!

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