Insights from Jack Morton on Event Tech Strategy

This morning, I was powering through my backlog of “toread” articles when I ran across two articles from Jack Morton that are worth discussing: “The Power of Smart: Integrated Event Technology” and “Orchestrating the (IT) Experience.”

Think Beyond Tools. Focus on Attendees.

I like the way they frame the discussion in the Power of Smart: Integrated Event Technology. They help you move beyond technology tools to focus on attendees, operational efficiency and expanding the event. The author describes the Power of Smart as using integrated event solutions to “make life easier, more efficient and more effective.” Then, she defines integrated event technology as including the following three categories:

  1. Applications that enhance the attendee’s experience
  2. Applications that make the event marketer’s job easier.
  3. Applications that help the event reach new audiences and generate new revenue streams.

To me, this framework makes it easier to create attendee focused questions like – what can I do to improve the attendee’s experience? What tools can I provide attendees to help them achieve their event objectives? I like those questions much better than starting with – should we do something on facebook?


Orchestrating Success. Focus on Touchpoints.

The article Orchestrating the (IT) Experience focuses on execution of the IT experience. What I liked most about Jack Morton’s approach here is the ruthless focus on attendees and their technology touchpoints. The author encourages you to match the right technology in the right amount (scale and scope) to the experience that you want to create. I think they are right on target here. Plus, I would add: make sure that your digital touchpoints are planned, scrutinized and tested in the same way that you handle your face2face touchpoints.

Bottom Line

The attendee’s experience at your event is the sum total of your face-to-face and digital experiences. You need to keep a sharp focus on your attendees, touchpoints and execution.

Does the digital strategy for your event start with attendees and touchpoints? Or do you find yourself starting in the techno-soup?

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Will whiteboards become part of the collaboration experience at events?

This morning, I read an article on interactive whiteboards that got me thinking about whiteboards and collaboration in events.  The article indicated that interactive whiteboards were improving learning and collaboration in educational environments. Also, it said that 1 in 7 classrooms will be using these interactive whiteboards by 2011.

It made me wonder – will we start seeing whiteboards and interactive tables at meetings and events?

For those of you that are new to interactive whiteboards – Wikipedia has a great definition and description of the technology: Interactive Whiteboard. It should help you understand the difference between whiteboards and interactive whiteboards.

Collaboration Lounge for Events

Sometimes, we forget that people need the space and tools to communicate and collaborate at events. A few weeks ago, I learned about a new concept called the Collaboration Lounge that solves this problem (see Meetings Podcast Interview with Jay Smethurst). Essentially, a collaboration lounge is a networking space outfitted with comfortable furniture, markers and whiteboards. Participants use these whiteboards/markers much like they would use the back of a napkin or scrap paper to draw pictures and explain ideas. In some cases, Jay’s team will create visual summaries of breakout sessions and post those in the collaboration lounge, too. Then, participants can use those summaries to share ideas across sessions or expand on key points.

Interactive Collaboration Tables

From a technology point of view, it seems that the interactive technology is arriving in tables too. In this example of a collaborative table – you can start to imagine how this might work in large groups that are doing idea sharing, brainstorming, etc.


While that video gets me excited about the future of collaboration, it still seems a bit futuristic for most events – today.  Having said that, Microsoft launched an interactive table called Microsoft Surface in 2008. Sheraton Hotels is one of the customers using the technology – in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

Have you seen this?

To get a feel for the way people are using these tables checkout Fast Company’s “Killer Apps for Microsoft Surface.” The article pulls together several video links of different applications of Microsoft Surface — including my favorite the DaVinci.

What do you think?

Do you think that these tools can help you (or your clients) create interactive and collaborative experiences for participants? Will we start seeing whiteboards, interactive whiteboards and tables at events? Are you interested in using (or already using) these types of tools in your events?

Do Social Technologies Add Value to Face2Face Meetings?

Yesterday, HSMAI Affordable Meetings(R) National and Event Technology Expo(TM) released the results of a survey that found that technology cannot replace the value of face to face meetings. (Read Article)

The press release identified six elements of the conference experience that meeting professionals felt were unable to be replaced by technology:

  1. Socializing and networking spontaneously
  2. Helping attendees best put names with faces
  3. Allowing more free and open dialogue between attendees and vendors/presenters
  4. Training effectively via live and personal interaction
  5. Paying greater attention to others when face-to-face
  6. Engaging in real-time conversation that is not interrupted by technical glitches.

Does Tech Add Value?

My Thoughts

While I agree that technology will not replace the face to face events, I would argue that interactive and social technologies are improving and enhancing face2face meetings. Here are two examples:

Social Networking Solutions: Social networking solutions help participants answer the questions: Who else is at the event? Who are the like-minded people that I should meet? and what do they look like? Based on my experience, these tools helped me put a name with a face and maximize my limited networking time.

Speaker Q&A Texting Solutions: In a typical 10 minute Q&A session, the speaker can answer 3-4 questions via the microphone. When I have used Q&A texting solutions as a speaker, I have been able to answer 8-10 questions in the same 10 minute time block.

What do you think?

Do you think social and interactive technologies add value to face2face events? Do you think social and interactive technologies add value to the 6 elements listed above? I am interested to get your point of view.

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18 Tips To Make Your Event Webcast Rock!

Are you thinking about adding a webcast to your next conference? I feel like “live” webcasts from conferences are popping up everywhere.  Just last week, three webcasts caught my attention.  I watched the presentations and engaged in discussions about the content.

Though, I was surprised by the lack of standards and best practices. All three webcasts had different formats, used different technologies and created three different experiences for me (the virtual attendee).  All three events would have rocked, if a mashup of all three experiences existed.

If webcasts are going to become a standard part of conferences and events – they need to rock! So, I came up with 18 tips that I hope will help the first-time-webcaster get off to a successful start. The tips are divided into 5 categories to make it easier for you to digest them and think about them. If you have additional tips, please add them in the comments section!

Sample Webcast Screen

Planning Your Session

1. Think Like a TV Producer. Once you start webcasting you are basically creating a television show. You need to think about your audience and ask yourself: Who is my audience? When will they want to watch my program? What do I need to do in the presentation to keep them from changing the channel? Do I need to make any changes in the introduction, content and wrap up to accommodate them?

2. Pick a Date/Time that works for your virtual audience. If you want your webcast to be seen by a large “live” audience, then air your webcast at a time when the largest virtual audience will be available. Be sure to pay attention to time zone changes between East and West Coast of US and Europe. One recent webcast that I saw was broadcast live at 10AM MTN time on a Sunday morning in the US. People were either attending church, eating brunch or sleeping. It was a terrible time. Another snafu was 9AM EST on a weekday. In Europe that was a great time – middle of the afternoon. However, the westcoasters were still snuggled under the covers.

3. Use Social Tools to Share Your Story. In “Here Comes Everybody” Clay Shirky writes that the easier things are to share – the more that people will share. So – use social tools to help your audience to tell their “like minded” friends about your webcast. Make it easy for them to email or tweet the links. Ask them to write about it in their blogs. (Tips for Integrating Social Technologies in Webcasts/Virtual Events)

4.  Create a Hashtag for Your Webcast. Use Hashtags to help a community form around your event by aggregating the buzz and user generated content on Twitter, Blogs, Flickr, YouTube, etc. Equally important, the hashtags will help people that are talking about your virtual session connect with each other and exchange ideas.

5. Assign Someone to Tweet (or Connect) the Virtual Audience with the Face2Face Audience. Having someone summarize key points and tweet them to the virtual audience helps the virtual audience connect with your event. Encourage this person to ask the virtual audience questions. In the #bizbutterflies session Paul Salinger asked the virtual audience questions that provided additional points of view. He then shared those tips with the live face-to-face audience.  (Additional Tips from Doug Caldwell)

Webcast Technology

6. Computer Screen Real-Estate: In my dream world, the screen would contain the video, the slides AND a place to see the backchannel. I have yet to see anyone do it. Most vendors provide either the video + backchannel or the Video + slides. Be sure to select a vendor that can integrate 2 of these 3 services on the screen. When you find a vendor that can do all three – tell me!!

7. Setup a Backchannel: Virtual participants need to lean over and whisper comments to their neighbor, too. So, use a backchannel to help them chat. This could be through the Hashtag or a private chat. If this is a commercial conference or an association conference – please use Twitter as part of your solution. It is much easier for everyone. (Backchannel Explained by Jeff Hurt)

8. Don’t Use That Auto-Rotating Webcam. In my opinion, a webcam is fine for webcasting breakout sessions or people standing in a stationary position. However, I strongly advise that you stay away from the auto-rotating webcam. They end up focusing on attributes and places that are more distracting than helpful.

9. Include the Slides/Screen Content: If there is a screen that will be broadcasting slides and videos please make sure that the virtual audience can see that content. Most commonly I have seen slides embedded on the screens next to the video  or offered as downloadable resources.

Integrate the Online Audience with the Face2Face Audience

10. Introduction and Background: If you are webcasting a single session from your conference, it is important to introduce all speakers, leaders, characters, etc that will be participating in the session to your virtual audience. Most virtual participants will not be familiar with the rituals and customs of your organization or your event. For example, one event had a talking eagle that was probably a hit with the face to face audience. For the online-audience the eagle appeared out of place.

11. Take Some Questions from the Virtual Audience: By including the virtual attendees in the question and answer portion of the session – you ensure that their ideas and points of view are valued.

12. Show the Backchannel Comments on a Video Screen: Include a big screen or two (depending on room size) that shows audience comments. Here are a list of options for showing these comments on the screen via twitter: (View List)

13. Conclusion and Wrap-up of session: Be sure to plan plenty of time to properly wrap-up and conclude your virtual session.  Thank everyone for attending – share next steps, etc. This might sound obvious but I have been to several webcasts where this did not happen, because the technology had a hard cut-off point. If your webcast technology has a hard time cut-off then be sure to start the wrapup early. Otherwise, you could be in the middle of answering questions or just starting your “Thanks for coming” speech and the session immediately cuts off. If that happens it looks really, really bad to the virtual audience.

Stage Setup

14. Seating, Podium and Stage Space: Be alert to how your stage setup – seating, podium, backdrop, etc will work on the video. It is sometimes hard to visualize without the cameras. In some webcasts, I have seen the speaker darting in and out of the camera view. In others there were objects in the line of sight of the camera that were distracting to online viewers.  Also, you might want to give your speakers instructions of where to stand/walk so their movements do not distract online viewers.

15. Ask your A/V Company To Be Consultants. A/V professionals are experts in production – so be sure to use them as a resource when planning your webcast.  They might be able to help you avoid simple mistakes that improve the quality of your presentation. You might not need a lot of help, but by keeping them in the loop – you might avoid some simple mistakes.

After Your Event:

16. Archive the Session Video Immediately: People that joined late may want to watch the portion of the presentation that they missed. By offering the archive immediately, they can do this while they are thinking about your event. Others will want to tell their “like minded” friends about the “Awesome webcast” that they missed. Having the archive immediately available helps your participants spread the message of your awesome webcast.

17. Archive the Backchannel Discussion for Future Review. The Backchannel will contain questions, comments, new ideas and additional links to resources. By archiving the backchannel you create another educational resource for participants to use.

18. Look for Blogger Recaps of your Session. Your virtual attendees might write blog posts and other stories about your sessions. Share the links to your archive documents with these bloggers.

Additional Resources:

19. 10 Takeaways on Virtual Events from “Boldly Going Where you Should Already Be” by Jeff Hurt (Read)

20. Virtual Meetings and Renegade Tweeps by Midori Connolly (Read)

21. 6 Things to Consider on the Way to the New World by Ian McGonnigal (Read)

22. Virtual Events Boost Live Attendance (Read)

23. Free E-Book on Virtual Events by Virtual Edge (Download)

How Can You Contribute?

There are a lot of ideas and resources in this post.  It could be better with your input! Please share your ideas, experiences and additional resources in the comments section.  For those of you organizing your first webcast – please use the tips and let me know what is missing. I look forward to your suggestions and contributions!

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Insights from Experient’s Technology and Meetings in the Future Webcast

Yesterday, Experient webcast a panel session on “Technology and Meetings in the Future” from their E4 Conference in Maryland. There were about 50 people watching it online, plus a room full of people onsite. Stephen Nold of Advon Technologies moderated a panel that included Nicole Buraglio (Hanley Woods Exhibitions), Mike Immerwahr (Microsoft), and RD Whitney (Taurus Online Media). You can watch it and look at a visual recap.

Most of the discussion revolved around Social Media and how it is redefining events, event experiences, communication and marketing/promotion. Here are a couple of ideas that caught my attention.

Shift Happening in Marketing  of Events

The shift from Push to Pull puts customers in control. Customers here means participants, exhibitors and sponsors. As people start collecting information in new ways event organizers need to be prepared and change accordingly. For example, email marketing with graphics that looks nice on a computer screen ends up garbled on a mobile phone. On the other hand, through communities it is now easier to reach out and connect with your customers directly. Nicole Buraglio said “we listen to our customers and give them what they want.”  To adapt, her company has redefined the way that they are doing business. How are you adapting?

New Competitors And New Opportunities

Today’s social media tools allow us to share, collaborate, communicate and self-organize. I got the sense through the webcast that many event organizers are trying to grasp with this new reality. RD Whitney, a commercial events organizer, said his largest competitor for one event is a blog. Yes! One guy with a Macbook blogging from his mother’s basement is threatening an entire event!  On the other hand, RD Whitney said his organization uses online communities to create new events. They create communities, establish a beachhead, and if there is interest in a face2face event – they create one.

Communities are the Gateway to Live Participation

The panelists agreed that connecting with participants through online communities are vital for an event’s success in the new world. The panelists indicated that they had successfully used social media to connect with their communities to achieve the following: creating new events, learning what participants wanted, generating word of mouth marketing, getting qualitative feedback and getting people to attend the event. Stephen Nold shared a story how MeetingTechOnline asked speakers to tweet comments and increased attendance at a face-to-face event by 8%.

Controversy: Should you Create Your Own Event Community?

When it came to the tactics and actions that you should take for using Social Media for your events, the panelists and twittersphere started to disagree. There are some that would prefer to connect through the existing Mega-One-Size-Fits-All-Communities like Facebook (200 million), Linkedin (40 million), Twitter (12 million). While others preferred to create separate private online communities. In my opinion, you should always engage people on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. Then, create a private community if you want people to have conversations about who’s coming, the hot topics and exchange information about your event.

What do you think?

So, those were my observations from the webinar. Anything else that you would like to add?  Are you using Online Communities to engage your participants? What types of results are you getting? Please share your opinions and insights.

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20 Reasons Delegates Attend Conferences

Despite the millions of meetings, conferences and events taking place each year, I had a hard time finding a consolidated list of reasons that delegates attend conferences. To be clear, I wanted the delegate perspective and I wanted something more specific than “great content” and “networking.”

Frustrated that I could not find a prepackaged lists of reasons, I decided to make my own list. All of the items on this list came from secondary research and reading blogs and rants on the internet. As I came across new reasons for attending a conference, I added them to my notebook. After the list grew to 20, I thought the list might grow faster with your input. I am hoping that YOU will add anything that is missing. Will you agree to do that for me?

Here is my list of 20 reasons delegates attend conferences – in no particular order:

  1. Learn best practices
  2. Learn new skills – How To’s
  3. Learn about new trends
  4. See a vision of the future
  5. Listen to a “Star” speaker
  6. Earn continuing education credits
  7. Get New Ideas
  8. Try new concepts
  9. Listen to industry experts
  10. Gain inspiration – from networking with peers in the industry
  11. Meet new people
  12. Re-connect with old friends
  13. Share war stories (Share stories of difficult challenges overcome)
  14. Share your experiences
  15. Meet with like minded people
  16. Become reenergized as you become part of the larger whole
  17. Discuss common problems
  18. Realize that you are not alone with your thoughts and opinions
  19. Meet with several suppliers or customers in one place
  20. Had to go – the meeting was mandatory

As you probably noticed, this list is not comprehensive. With any luck, you are already thinking of one or two items that I have missed. If so, please add them in the comments section.

Why do I think this list is important?

I like to look for “hidden” insights that might help me change my perspective and challenge me to think differently. If I can learn something new that changes my perspective – then I might be able to come up with better recommendations, new solutions, etc.

For example, once this list was assembled the following words jumped out at me: Try, Share, Meet and Discuss. To me, these are action words used by people that like to engage in dialogue at conferences. They are not the words of people that want to sit and be entertained for 8 hours.

Equally important, I feel like the networking objectives were really specific, actionable and measurable: connect with old friends, meet new people, meet like minded people and share your experiences. It might just be me, but I can see value in developing networking activities (technology based and non-tech based) that help participants achieve some combination of these objectives.

What can you do?

I need you to join this conversation. Please help me fill in the gaps in this list. Let me know what is missing. Share your ideas and point of view. The goal here is to get as many people as possible commenting – positive and negative – so that everyone can benefit from your knowledge, expertise and ideas. I believe that together – we can create better ideas and solutions.

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Do you hear the noise?

When I look around me, I feel like the world is screaming for more interaction and dialogue in events.  I want to help. So, I created this blog to start the discussion for using technology to create dialogue in events.


Here are some trends that have shaped some of my thinking:

  1. The knowledge gap between the audience and the experts on stage is shrinking. Today’s delegates are more likely to have access to the same tools and information resources as the experts than 5 or 10 years ago.
  2. The scientists have proven that lecturing is an inefficient delivery system for learning. Lecturing persists because it is an efficient way to deliver content to large groups.
  3. Equally important, scientists have proven that passive listening (sitting in a chair twiddling your thumbs) yields less learning and retention than active listening (answering questions, participating in activities, etc).
  4. Research exists in academia proving that audience response keypads and the backchannel (think: twitter) improve learning. 
  5. The technology tools exist today to engage the audience in either structured or unstructured dialogue. 


When events bring together 100, 300, 500 or 2000 of our best customers, employees or association members, I see it is a perfect opportunity to tap into the ideas, expertise and opinions of the many and build a powerful community. Don’t you?



This is no easy task for events.  As the groups get larger and larger, it becomes more difficult to organize interaction and dialogue among the participants.  So, as the groups get larger we need to use different approaches for creating and managing communication with these groups.  


Today’s meeting technology tools have the power to connect audiences and engage them in structured and unstructured dialogue. However, these tools are not like the magic beans from the children’s book “Jack in the Beanstalk.” You cannot just plant them in your event and Voila! — interaction happens!  You need to think through objectives, outcomes, processes and obstacles in your planning and design stages to make these technology tools effective.


This is the challenge that we face. The tech tools exist, but we need to discuss how to evolve our planning and design processes to effectively incorporate them. 


That’s how I see it. How do you see it? What else did I miss (or forget)? Do you hear the noise? Should we have a healthy debate?  Do events need more interaction? or is it just me?


What can you do?

I need you to join the conversation. Share your feedback and experiences, challenge my points of view and offer new insights. The goal here is to get as many people as possible commenting – positive and negative – so that people considering these technology tools for their events can benefit from your insights.  I believe that together – we can create better ideas and solutions for how to use technology to create interaction at events.



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