Does Social Media Feel Like an Awkward Embrace?

embrace_kiss.014In Europe, it is customary to kiss a woman on the cheek when you meet. For me, an American expat, this is still a strange and awkward ritual – even after 3.5 years.

To make things more complicated each country has its own customs. I always seem to forget what to do. Where do I start? Left cheek or right? Do we hug too? Two kisses or three? As a result, greetings can be awkward and uncomfortable for me – even though they are intended to be friendly and cordial.

I think the same awkwardness occurs in social media.

Each person has different preferences and comfort levels with social media. Some people are happy to write blog posts, while others prefer to rate them. Some people will write comments longer than your original post, but are terrified to actually write a blog post themselves. Some are happy to be lurkers – consuming your content and quietly going about their business.

How Does This Apply to Your Attendees?

If you want to engage your event community in meaningful dialogue, you need to engage them on their terms. To be effective, I think that you need to keep these two questions in mind:

  1. How do my attendees prefer to engage with me through social media?
  2. What tools can I deploy to engage attendees where they are most comfortable?

How Do You Engage Attendees on Their Own Terms?

The Groundswell is a great resource that can help you understand how your attendees will use Social Media. For those that have never heard of the Groundswell – it is an idea, book and research from Forrester Research. Here is an excellent video that summarizes the approach. (If you have 2 minutes – this video is worth watching.)

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If you want more information on the ground swell read this excellent summary or visit the Groundswell website. Equally important, try the Groundswell’s profile tool. It gives you a snapshot of your audience’s social media preferences. For an Association example – check out Frank Fortin’s Blog (Frank is the Communications Director of the Massachusetts Medical Society). You can read his findings here.

Bottom Line

Before you launch your Facebook fan page, start a Linkedin group or create a Twitter account – understand how your audience will be most comfortable engaging with you. Then, select the right social media tools to engage them accordingly.

Your event attendees need to feel comfortable engaging with you, unlike me, who is always trying to remember was it two kisses or three? Right cheek or left?

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How to Make Your Event’s Social Network Easy to Join

For some attendees, the registration process for your event social network is the equivalent of climbing a steep rock face. It appears impossible.

You ask them to go to some website that they have never heard of – register for a username and password, enter some personal information, wait for an email verification, click a link to validate the email address, fill out a profile, upload a picture (after they find a descent one), etc.

For some people this is a hassle that they don’t want. And while YOU argue that the benefits of joining are worth it – they argue that it is too hard, has too many steps and takes too much time.


It doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this hard.

Here are some simple ways for you to make it easy for attendees to join your event social network.

1. Integrate with Your Registration System

By integrating your event social network with your registration system, joining your social network becomes one small step in the process of registering for the event. You catch attendees while they are thinking about the event. Plus, you can automatically load some of the data into their profiles for them.

“We saw our adoption numbers leap when we integrated with the registration systems. Completions of the final registration page, which asks people to join the community, jumped, catching people in the work flow and addressing their needs when they were already thinking about them.” Jordan Schwartz, Pathable

2. Use Facebook Connect or Twitter for Login

All of us have too many login ids and passwords to remember. The one for your event social network is just another problem for your participant.

One thing that you can do is choose an event social networking platform that allows your participants to login with their Facebook, TwitterID or OpenID. This secure login allows people to connect to your event social network without needing to remember another login ID and password.

“We allow login via Facebook, Twitter, and OpenID. That way attendees don’t need to create and remember another password.”Tony Stubblebine, Crowdvine

3. Populate Profile Information From Other Social Sites

The more information that is included in a participant profile, the better it is for networking. However, it can be a nuisance to have to retype all of that information and upload pictures, etc.

You can save your attendees time and energy by allowing them to connect to their Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Flickr and blog accounts and automatically populate information into their profile. While you are at it – why not setup your social network to pull profile pictures from one of these sites?

“We actually automatically pull in pictures from LinkedIn, Facebook, & Twitter for you to select and use as your profile picture.”Rob Johnson, Eventvue

4. Automatically Reconnect Friends, Contacts and Peeps

Another nuisance for attendees is going through the participant list to make connections with their existing friends or contacts that are also attending your event.

To save them time, you can setup your event social network to do “third party address import” (there has to be a sexier name than this) and automatically reconnect all of their friends. Essentially it means can attendees find which of their Linked-in, Facebook, MSN, Google and Yahoo contacts are attending this event. Sometimes, the process is simpler than others.

“The user can click one button and pull in their friends from facebook and Twitter who are also attending the event they are attending.  Why rebuild your connections when you can carry them over?”Clinton Bonner, The Social Collective

5. Hook my Flickr up to my Twitter and Facebook it!

Some of your participants are going to have accounts on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, YouTube, and many, many other social websites. They may want to integrate their social presence from these other sites into your event social network.

To help them, setup your event social network to include their Blog posts, Flickr photos, tweets from twitter, status updates, etc. from these other sites.

Bottom Line

You want your event social network to be a communication hub for your event before and after the event. You want attendees to spend time networking, sharing ideas, connecting with other attendees and discussing hot topics.

The easier it is to join your event social network – the more attendees will do it. So, work with your technology vendor to make your social network as easy as possible to join.

Is it easy to join your event social network? or is it like climbing a mountain?

photo credit: jimbowen0306

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Go Old School – Build Your Event Social Network with Magic Markers

Get_Connected_Wall_01Are you looking for a super-fantastic way to bundle networking and interaction into a single activity?

Then you might like this idea. I found an old school way to build a social network using magic markers – it is called the “Get Connected Wall.”

The “Get Connected Wall” allows your attendees to create a extra-large social network of everyone at the event! It can be done during a cocktail reception – in real time – with magic markers and a super-sized piece of paper.

This awesome idea is the brainchild of Anna Okupinski, Event Manager for Scan Source, Inc. Anna created this idea to give a tech crowd a low-to-no-tech way to network and connect with each other.


How Do You Make Your Own Get Connected Wall?

  1. Go get a ginormous piece of paper and mount it on a large flat wall. Anna recommends checking out for paper. Make sure that you have a few extra people to help and plenty of tape, tacks and other sticky items to mount the paper on the wall.
  2. Then give attendees nametags where they can write their name (and possibly one or two things about themselves) and stick them anywhere on the wall. Anna suggests using “Hello My Name is” stickers to control the size of the name on the wall.
  3. Using magic markers, ask attendees to draw connections between themselves and other attendees that they know. On the connection – they should indicate what they have in common or how they know the person. If they don’t know someone, then they need to go meet them and figure out what they have in common. (Hot Tip: have a few people set-up to kick off the activity by putting their names up on the wall)
  4. Finally – Voila – you have a graph of your entire event. At a glance, attendees can see who else is here, how they could be connected and what they might have in common with the other attendees.


5 Reasons Why I Like The Get Connected Wall

  1. I was captivated by this idea because it was a simple tool to encourage networking and interaction. It creates a lot of value for attendees that are interested in finding like minded people, connecting with old friends, etc.
  2. This solution helps attendees answer three of the five networking questions that I think are important for their networking success: Who else is here? What do I have in common with other participants? and How do I find or connect with them?
  3. Creates a semi-structured networking and interaction activity that can be integrated into a welcome reception or networking cocktail.
  4. The Get Connected Wall – gets people talking and finding out where they have common ground and common interests. If you use this activity at the beginning of your event – you can get everyone connected right away.
  5. Understanding how everyone is connected to each other allows you to introduce people to each other during the event. This creating value for the attendees and makes you look like a star!

Bottom Line

This is a simple idea that is easy to execute, doesn’t cost a fortune and creates value for your attendees. It allows you to do new school things (social networking and interaction) in an old school way (magic markers and big-old-sheets-of-paper).

“Some of the connections end up being silly (both have a tattoo, fan of cheeseburgers, etc.) but no matter what it gets people talking to each other!” – Anna Okupinski

Share this Idea

If you like the “Get Connected Wall” consider using it at your next event, telling your like minded friends about it, sharing it on twitter or leaving a comment on this post. Better yet – send Anna a “Thank you” tweet to @annaoki. Wherever you share this idea – be sure to mention Anna and her awesomeness!

Photo Credits: Aaron Moller (@aaronmoller)

How to Save Attendees from Networking Hell

Imagine this: you walk into a room with 1,000 people but find yourself alone – drowning in a sea of people. Some people you know – but that lady who just walked past – who was she? Could she be a “future” customer? But before you can ask – “poof” she is gone. Unsure of what to do next – you circle the room, get in line for a drink and set your sights on the nearest empty table.

This scenario is common for many first-time, shy and timid attendees. It can be a networking hell.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You, the event organizer, can throw attendees a life preserver and save them. Here are some things that you can do to help.


Understand Attendees Networking Objectives

The post 20 Reasons Delegates Attend Conferences uncovered several “specific” attendee networking objectives. In many cases, I think these objectives are unstated by most people – but they are there. By recognizing these objectives and creating activities to support them – you can help your attendees do a better job of networking.

Here are some examples of different networking objectives:

  • Meet Like Minded People
  • Discuss Topics of Interest
  • Connect with Old Friends
  • Meet New People
  • Discuss Best Practices
  • Find New Business Partners

Notice the verbs – meet, discuss, connect and find.  Are you helping attendees do these things at your events – or is it largely their responsibility?

Five Questions Attendees Need Help Answering

When I worked at Spotme, we helped thousands and thousands of attendees network better than ever before. The secret to this success was in Spotme’s ability to help attendees answer the following questions:

1. Who else is here?

2. What do they look like?

3. What do I have in common with other participants?

4. How do I find or connect with them?

5. How can we stay connected after this event?

Imagine how much easier it would be for you to network at events if you had tools that answered those questions? Imagine how much your attendees would love you if you provided similar tools?

The good news is that there are several ways to do this. You could print a photo guide, provide an electronic delegate list, use an event specific social networking site (like Crowdvine, Pathable, Social Collective, Eventvue or Zerista), create a networking wall, use an onsite mobile networking tool, etc.

Bottom Line

There are several ways that you can help first-time, shy or timid attendees have an awesome networking experience. First – consider their objectives. Second – put together activities that correspond to those objectives. Finally, provide tools that help attendees answer important questions about the others at the event.

You have the ability to throw your attendees a life preserver and save them from networking hell. Will you do it?

photo credit: scoobay

4 Drivers of Audience Engagement and Other Invaluable Tips

Three Perspectives On Audience Engagement

How are you managing communication and engagement with the four generations that are attending your events? How do you invite the spirit of co-creation? How do you get  adults with a 20 minute attention span to listen to a 60 minute presentation?

Those are a few of the questions that were tackled in the Tips to Maximize Audience Engagement Webinar organized by Best Events Magazine and IML Interactive. This interactive webinar brought together three different perspectives on audience engagement: Business Leader/Agency perspective, the technology perspective and the speaker perspective. Here were the speakers:

  • Fay Beauchine, President, Events & Engagement, Carlson Marketing Group
  • Ray Hansen, Director, IML Worldwide
  • Dan Rose, President, Omakase Group

I thought this webinar was packed with valuable content. Below you will find a summary of the Four Drivers of Audience Engagement and some other invaluable tips that I thought you could start implementing immediately.

Blue Man Audience Engagement

Driver of Engagement #1: Encourage a Great Experience

When it comes to creating experiences, events are experiential.  Fay recommends that you touch all 5 senses. Her company focuses a lot of its thinking on the emotions. She suggests that you do the same.

Equally important, Fay suggests that you make the experiences immersive AND don’t go halfway. As an example, Fay described an event where a technology company that wanted to encourage Eco-Responsibility and Global Citizenship. To make the experience complete, they distributed 2000 mobile phones that contained the agendas, conference guide, and messaging capabilities. This solution reduced the printed material by 75%. Attendees sent over 20,000 messages to each other.

Driver of Engagement #2: Encourage Participation

Carlson Marketing Group maximizes the application of technology to encourage participation. Using social technologies, they are expanding event experiences to 3-4 months in length and a maximum of 9 months. Also, by getting the attendees comfortable with engagement before the event – attendees are more comfortable with interacting onsite. Some of the tools that they are using include – webinars, surveys, videos, voting and mobile messaging.

When it comes to using technology Fay offered the following crucial advice:

  • You need to empower people to opt-in and opt-out of the technology
  • Focus the technology tools on content – make it central to the business so people use the tools.

Driver of Engagement #3: Target Communication

You need to explore communication and engagement strategies that are aligned against your audience demographics. Right now, there are four generations attending events. Each group wants to engage and communicate on their own terms. When you are designing your content – you need to ask yourself how will you communicate with this group? and how will you connect them? Here Fay had an excellent slide that laid out the differences in attitudes between each group. You need to consider how these different attitudes influence your event design.

Driver of Engagement #4: Provide Value

Providing value means making the event relevant to the audience and to the community at large. As programs trend smaller – make them passionate, honest and make it seem like a smart choice.  Amplify – yet simplify. As an example, Fay pointed out that team building exercises are still happening – but they are BBQs & chili cook-offs.

We have 20 Minute Minds in a 60 Minute World

In building a case for moving beyond bullet points, Ray Hansen used audience response technology to ask the audience two questions: how long is the average adult attention span? AND how long is your average conference session? The answer to the first question was 20 minutes and the answer to the 2nd question was 60 minutes. Then he asked a rhetorical question — if adults have an attention span of 20 minutes – why are we asking them to sit through 60 minute conference sessions?  Great Question – I thought this was an excellent application of ARS to help the audience arrive at the speaker’s point on their own.

Creating 60 Minute Minds

In order to expand the audience attention and retention during the session – Ray offered the following ARS tips:

  • Engage the audience with an ARS question at least once every 10 15-20 minutes.
  • Use discovery questions to learn about the audience and discover misconceptions at the beginning of the presentation.
  • Ask verification questions to manage attention and retention during the presentation.
  • Ask questions to make sure that participants get the key messages at the end of the presentation.

Building the Spirit of Co-Creation

Dan Rose took the speaker’s point of view. He suggested that the speaker can create a spirit of co-creation in the way that he/her engages the audience. Dan highlighted the following benefits of co-creation:

  1. Puts part of the investment in the final results and takeaways on the audience.
  2. Allows the speaker to create the presentation based on things common to the people in the room.
  3. Allows the audience to prioritize the order of the discussion.

Equally important, Dan suggested that leading the audience through an exercise and having them create some artifacts on their own helps them engage in the presentation. Also, he suggests ask the attendees to compare notes from their exercises before the speaker makes the main point.

Bottom Line

There are several ways to engage the audience, put your community into motion and move them from passive listeners to active participants.  Hopefully you found one or two new ideas in this post that you can implement in your next event.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or sharing it with others.

Photo Credit: Kaptain Kobald
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Why User-Generated Content is Good for Meetings & Events

Imagine that you are a Prince fan. Not just any fan, but a big fan. Now, imagine that Prince is coming to your town for a once-in-a-lifetime concert. Of course, you really, really, really want to go but tickets sell out in 8 minutes. You didn’t get any.

Now, you are riding the bummer train to sadness city.

Does that mean that you wouldn’t think about the Prince concert ever again? Of course not – you would think about it every minute. You would gobble up stories, videos and pictures that are posted about the concert — Like this video.

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Ignite Passionate Fans (or Advocates)

Your meetings and events have passionate fans (or advocates), too. They might not look and behave like Prince fans – but they exist. Many of them are already spreading the word of your greatness – around the water cooler at work, to like-minded friends, etc. Some of them are using Social Media. They are writing blog posts, uploading pictures, making videos, etc. You can’t stop them – they are in a little red corvette and going crazy. You can only hope to harness their energy and ride the wave.

Quench The Thirst of the People at Home

Remember those people in Sadness city? They wanted to come – but couldn’t make it. Your meetings & events have those people too. They are thirsty for the sights, sounds and stories from your event. The sharing of stories, pictures and videos (User-Generated Content) by your passionate advocates helps the people at home connect with the event content, connect with the energy and become part of the experience.

Create Word of Mouth Referrals and Trust

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, conversations with friends and peers are trusted more than the slick-polished corporate stuff. (Duh!) Equally important, conversations with company employees are trusted much more than speeches by the CEO. By encouraging User-Generated Content – you create an unfiltered view of your event that is trust-worthy AND can be viewed as an endorsement of your event. This is a good way to encourage loyalty, retention and attract more participants.

Share a Taste of the Magic

Events are experiences that involve all 5 senses. It is hard to capture the magic of the experience in a press release or recap. By encouraging your passionate fans to share the experience from their point of view – even the raw and uncooked ones – a multi-sensory picture of the event emerges that helps people get the essence or spirit of the event. This picture can be useful to “future” first-time-attendees that are not sure what your event is all about.

Bottom Line

Encouraging your passionate participants to share stories, pictures and videos from your event is a good thing. You engage passionate people that could not attend and help them stay connected with your event and organization. Future-first-time- attendees get referrals from trusted friends and use the multi-sensory picture to get an idea of what your event is all about.

Are you embracing User-Generated Content from your meetings and events? Or are you in the Purple Rain?

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Do You Allocate Enough Time For Interaction?

I recently read that 80% of learning is informal. This statistic was published in a fascinating article called “Learning Gets Social” in the August issue of Training & Development. While I am not smart enough to challenge the validity of this number, I am smart enough to ask this question:  If learning is informal AND face to face events are so important – do you think there is enough time being allocated to interaction in events?

Too often, I see agendas that are packed with speakers and barely any free time.  If you are serious about engaging attendees, then you need to consider setting aside time for interaction. Here are some questions that might want to ask yourself:


1. How Much Are Attendees Passively Listening vs Actively Contributing?

Not long ago, I came across a report by Crystal Interactive (Creating Internal Events that are Fit For Purpose) that surveyed UK corporate and internal events and found that 90% of the learning time is spent passively listening. While only 10% is spent participating in interactive activities.  I was blown away by the numbers and suggest that you read the report (see link above). The body of the report offers several suggestions for thinking through objectives, managing time and interaction in an internal corporate event.

2. What happens following the motivational keynote speech?

In the article “How Not to Use a Great Speaker”, Ed Bernacki describes a motivational keynote speech that missed its mark – because there was no time set aside for interaction and reflection with other attendees after the speech.  He suggests allocating 20-30 minutes for attendees to discuss the presentation’s key themes in small groups. This way you can get extra value from the investment in the speaker and allow attendees to build a stronger connection to the content and its message.

3. Will there be several people in the audience as knowledgeable as the speaker on the selected topic?

The line between the experts on the stage and the attendees in the audience is blurring. Attendees have access to much more research and knowledge than in the past. In some topic areas, new case studies and insights are emerging everyday. If the topic fits this profile make sure you allocate time to get the perspective of other knowledgeable participants.

4. Sooo…how much time should you allocate to interaction?

Crystal Interactive recommends that you allocate 30-50% of learning time to interactive activities. While a recent case study by Ron Springer of Espirit Productions showed that business results were achieved by increasing interaction from 26% to 58% and cutting PowerPoint Presentations in half from 50.6% of time to 24%.  (Read Case Study)

Bottom Line

You control how attendees spend their time at your events. If you want them to interact more, then consider allocating more time to interaction activities.

How much time are you allocating for interaction?

Photo Credit: SadJr

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Going to TV for a Fresh Perspective

Why Television?

We all know that TV is a passive form of entertainment. People sit on the couch and watch others do things on a screen. In fact, people that watch TV all the time are called couch potatoes.

I think a similar phenomenon occurs at most meetings and conferences. Participants sit passively and listen to the speaker talk.  Except, the whole experience takes place on the 21st century’s version of a medieval torture device — the standard-issue-conference-chair.

How is Television Evolving?

TV is taking steps to become more social and interactive. I don’t mean interactive in the sense of “American Idol” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I mean interactive in a way that they engage YOU in the event of watching a particular show at a particular time with various social and collaborative activities.

In the video below, Kevin Slavin talks about creating interactive games that “pushed you back out into the world and changed the ways you experience it.” Then, he shows several examples of how this is being done today.  The video takes about 27 minutes to watch. It is worth watching.


What Does this Mean For Events?

These TV programs are bringing together millions of people to create community, be social and interact in a fun way – digitally.  As these interactive digital experiences become part of regular life, participants will demand similar experiences from meetings, conferences and events. I am sure some clients will say – If it can be done for millions, how hard can it be to do the same for 1000 at an event?

So, you keep your eye on the digital tools that are available to you. While you may not be using everything available to you today, in a few years that story will be quite different.

What do you think?

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Could Flash Mobs Make Events Interactive and Fun?

This past weekend, I was mesmorized by Oprah’s 21,000 person Flash Mob Video (read). It was an amazing display of collaboration and affection from Oprah’s biggest fans for her 24th Season Kick-off. After watching this video, I realized that I didn’t have a clue what a flash mob was or how to start one.

I thought flash mobs were groups of people mobilized to stand still in train stationsdance in a subway station or eat ice cream in protest. But, as you can see from the Oprah video – they can be experiential and interactive.

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Is this an Idea for Meetings and Events?

Yes – I think you can create interaction and collaboration among the attendees using Flash Mob concepts. You probably need to adapt the Flash Mob process a little bit — but I think it would work and be a lot of fun.  Here are some of the benefits that are worth considering:

1. Insta-Networking Activity: Many networking discussions start when the participants establish common ground. Flash mobs create a common bonding experience that gives all participants something to talk about with each other.

2. People Need to Create and Connect:  The article, “Guerilla Event Marketing – A Mob in A Flash” sums up the motivations for people to join a flash mob nicely. The article states: “the psychology behind why flash mobs and viral campaigns work speaks to an individual’s inherent need to create—and connect.” Create and Connect – isn’t this one reason the attendees came to your event?

3. Promotes Your Cause or Organization: Flash Mobs are public displays and allow you to share your organization’s message with others in the public space. (See Create Heroes Project Flash Mob video).

4. It’s Easy to Assemble the Mob: Meetings and Events already have a built-in-mob. So, you don’t have the challenge of finding people. You just need to figure out what they should do and organize them accordingly. What if they poured a Coke? or Danced to Beat it?

5. Word of Mouth Marketing for Next Year: The common bonding experience gives participants something to talk about with their “like minded friends” outside the event. This word of mouth publicity for your organization and event can be further amplified by a short video of the experience that is easily sharable with friends.

Bottom Line

I think flash mobs would make a good interactive experience for *some* events. It would not make sense for all event formats or organizations.  What do you think?

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Thoughts on “Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2010″ Webinar

In August, I took a few digital-days-off to celebrate my 10 year wedding anniversary in Croatia. While I was off-the-grid, Corbin Ball of Corbin Ball Associates and David Nour of Relationship Economics hosted a webinar on the 10 Meeting Trends for 2010. (Watch)

I finally got a chance to watch that webinar this week. It is loaded with links to new technologies that are guaranteed to dazzle your mind and send attendees dancing in the aisles. The data, examples and web links were protein enriched and packed with healthy goodness. The Q&A – which was spread throughout the session — was managed brilliantly. One criticism of the presentation – the Top 10 list was biased toward technology. So, it should have probably been a Meeting Tech Trends List.

The Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2010

10. Mobile Platforms

9. Social Networking Meeting Applications

8. MicroBlogging

7. Social Review Sites

6. Strategic Meetings Management

5. Video Options

4. Telepresence

3. Audience Response

2. Mobile Lead Retrieval

1. Power of Face-to-Face

(Source: Top 10 Meeting Trends Webinar by Corbin Ball and David Nour)

Bottom Line

Now that you are aware of the event technology trends – how will you integrate this information into your 2010 event planning? If you are not sure, try asking yourself the following questions:

1.  Which trends & tools improve my attendee experience and allow the attendee to achieve his/her objectives?

2.  Which trends and tools will help me extend my event experience and create attendee value beyond the face-2-face event? (Before – During – After)

3.  Which event objectives become easily (or cheaply) achievable with these tech tools?

4.  Does my team have the right skills to flawlessly execute the tech at my event(s)? or will I need a good vendor partner?

What Does Your  Crystal Ball Say?

Did David and Corbin hit the nail on the head with this Top 10 List? Or did they miss something in your opinion?  Or maybe they got the trends right and the order wrong?  What do  you see when you look into your crystal ball?

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