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Lessons in Engaging Attendees from Event Camp NYC 2010

On Saturday, the self-organized twitter group #eventprofs organized its first conference. The event was called Event Camp and was centered around Social Media in Events. This was supposed to be an unconference – but was really more of a tribal meeting in my mind. [See Mike McCurry’s post for more] You see, this group recognizes each other’s unique talents and uses those as an opportunity to learn from each other and work together.

Here are some lessons from Event Camp on engaging attendees that I hope will help you.

Pre-Event Community

Event Camp created an event community around the event with the Omnipress Conference 2.0 solution. This turned out to be helpful for many attendees. I noticed that many would received the daily digest and then add their ideas or comments. Three things came out of the community: (1) High Awareness in the Hybrid Events Session and Fishbowl Sessions, because these sessions were discussed on the conference community. (2) Informal Dinners and Social Gatherings were arranged by the attendees. (3) Several attendees were invited to share and shared their reasons for attending with the larger audience.

[Read Jenise Fryatt’s post on How Social Media Creates a Need For Attendees To Meet Face2Face for another excellent perspective.]

Big Blue Buffalo Hats

The Social Collective has an interesting solution called CrowdCampaign that was used by the attendees to choose some swag that the event staff had to wear. Fortunately, the organizers were very gracious in purchasing and wearing the Big Blue Buffalo Hats. However, there is a second use of CrowdCampaign happening right now. The attendees are trying to decide on their number one takeaway. The list is starting to get really interesting. [crowd campaign list of takeaways]

Reinforcing Messages with Multiple Channels

The backchannel was projected on screens throughout the venue – but most people had one eye on the laptop or iphone and another eye on the speaker. Personally, I found it really helpful to be able to scroll through the backchannel messages on my new iphone. Being able to see these same messages delivered in a second medium helped reinforce some key points for me. (Not to mention that there is a transcript of tweets that I have used to go back and review the event.) While, I recognized that this helped reinforce the messages to me – it was Ray Hansen of IML that actually pointed this out. Thanks Ray.

Including More People

Thanks to Mike McAllen of Grass Shack Events & Media and the team at Core Staging this event had a hybrid component. The main plenary hall of the conference was being broadcast on Livestream and secondary sessions were recorded. As an attendee, I found it really engaging to get input, ideas and questions from these virtual attendees. Equally important, we made sure to wave once or twice to our friends at home too. I think this was a nice touch.

[Read Emilie Barta’s post – Live and Virtual Events Compliment Each Other, Not COMPETE with Each Other for more]

Bridging the Virtual And Face-to-Face Audience

This community was active on the twitter backchannel, making comments asking questions, etc. Mike McCurry was an excellent conduit between the face-to-face audience and the virtual attendees. He made sure that any questions the virtual audience had were integrated into the face-to-face discussion. This is a key role to making sure that their voices were heard, too. [Read Christina Stalling’s post on some of her backchannel learnings]

Engaging Virtual Attendees During Breaks

Breaks can be quite boring for virtual attendees that are watching the room be reset or attendees getting coffee.  So, it was very cool to see Emilie Barta (a professional tradeshow presenter) interviewing speakers and attendees during the break. I think this is a low effort – high return way to enhance the virtual attendee’s experience.

Let’s Jump into the Fishbowl

My session was a collaborative session that used the fishbowl format. In this session, I turned the attendees into the experts and took the “guide on the side” role. This allowed us to do more learning from each other – rather than have me go through 6400 slides in 40 minutes. Since, I am the host of the Interactive Meeting Technology Blog – I would have let all of you readers down if my session didn’t have an interactive component.

[Read Lara McCulloch-Carter’s post – Fishbowl session through the eyes of the virtual attendee for some discussion and feedback on my session]

User-Generated Content

Event Camp was loaded with User-Generated content. There was a “bloggers row” type space that was designed to make life easy for people using computers during the sessions. So far – there are atleast 10 blog posts on learnings and ideas created from the event. There will probably be several more. Also, there were dozens of photos taken from the attendees. Thanks to Social Media guru – David Berkowitz – the iphone application Cat Paint became the big hit of Event Camp. Cat Paint allows you to drop cats onto iphone photos before sending them out over twitter. Some attendees made sure that we all got a good laugh out this. Here is a picture of me with a cat on my shoulder. (Personally, I think the applications of this tool in terms of a sponsorable item would be amazing. take out the cat and insert – your event logo or product name.)

Bottom Line

Event Camp evolved out of an online community of individuals that has a passion for Social Media in Events. From the speakers to the attendees to the sessions this event was one of the most comprehensive and complete learning laboratories on Social Media in Events.

Ok – Event Campers – what else would you add?

(PS: Eventprofs recently celebrated its first anniversary on 9 February 2010 )

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43 Social Media Tips, Tricks, Big Ideas & Real World Examples for Meetings & Events

When it comes to Social Media – all of us are learning. Some of us faster than others. You should be able to benefit from the successes, failures and experiments of other event professionals.

Think of this list as a “social media launching pad” to get your event’s social media program off the ground in a hurry. If you use all of the resources here – then you will find yourself inside a collaborative community of event professionals that are leading the events industry into the world of social media.

The list is loosely organized by category. Though, some articles could belong to several categories.

Start Here

As a starting point, watch this video of David Meerman Scott talking about Social Media in Events to the CMP Conclave in San Antonio, Texas last summer.


Resources & Communities of Practice

1.  Free Social Media in Events ebook. Three excerpts from this ebook. that you might find interesting:

2.  EventProfs Twitter Group: Self-organized community of Event Professionals

3.  Engage365 (Social Media for Events Community)

4.  Time to Shake Events Up

5.  Three Perspectives for Developing a Social Media Strategy for Events

Planning Your Event

6. Social Media For Events: 101 (Link to 10 Social Media in Events Articles)

7.  Mashable’s Guide to Using Social Media in Events

8.  Meeting and Event Planning with Social Media

9.  Why Event Managers Should be Using Social Media

Promoting Your Event

10. Using Social Media To Promote Events

11. 8 ways to use MySpace for Events

12. 13 Ways Linked Supports Event Marketing

13. 5 Powerful ideas for using Facebook for Your Events

14. Social Media Amplifies Event Marketing

15. Why You Need Bloggers and Tweeters at Your Next Event

16. Three Reasons to have your Presenters Create Videos to Promote Their Sesssion

17. Why User-Generated Content is Good for Meetings & Events

Social Media Marketing Guide by Anne Thornley-Brown

18. Social Media Marketing Strategies for Event Planners – Part 1

19. Social Media Marketing for Event Planners – Part 2: RSS Feeds & More About Blogs

20. Social Media Marketing Tools for Event Planners – Part 3: Twitter & Facebook

Social Networking & Community Building

21. Pre-Event Community Building (Excellent Resource)

22. Using Twitter to Build a Community Around Your Event

23. 14 Online eCommunity Options For Your Next Annual Meeting

24. How To Make Your Event’s Social Network Easy to Join

25. How To Increase Social Media (and technology) Adoption

Backchannel and Twitter

26. 10 Reasons Why Your Conference Should Use a Backchannel

27. Bringing Twitter’s Backchannel to the Frontchannel

28. Tips for Using Twitter During Presentations

29. Tweeting At Conferences And Events: The Good, The Better, The Best

30. 5 Ways to Visualize Twitter at Events

31. 8 Tips for Monitoring the Backchannel during your presentation

Other Useful Resources

32. Using Social Media for Meetings and Events

33. Role of Social Media in Future Events?

34. Does Social Media Feel Like an Awkward Embrace

35. Using Social Media To Listen To Your Conference Attendees

36. Social Media in Events Survey

37. Social Media Revenue Streams for Trade Shows and Conferences

38. Technology Plans for 3 Leading Organizations

39. Benchmarking Event-Driven Non-Profit Social Media Campaigns

40. See how welders use Twitter at Tradeshows

41. User Generated Content & Conferences: Shoot the Reaction

42. 6 Must Read Posts about the ROI of Social Media

43. Best Use of Twitter at Conferences: Change the Context


I am not omniscient and I didn’t stay the night in a Holiday Inn Express.  So, I probably missed some useful resources – like like your killer blog post or awesome online magazine article. Please accept my apology and use the comments section to add it to the list.

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How to Increase Social Media (and Technology) Adoption at Events

In my opinion, some event organizers are throwing technology at their events in the same way that the zookeeper throws a big chunk of raw meat to the lions. They lob it out there on the floor, stand back and see what happens.

While the lion might jump on that piece of meat without batting an eye, most attendees are not jumping on social media and event technology without a little help.

So, how do you get more attendees to start using these interactive and social technologies? I will start the discussion with some suggestions based on my experience. I hope that you will add your ideas in the comments below.

1. Show Attendees the WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Most events are packed with activities. If you are going to ask attendees to use (or try) a new technology tool, be sure that they (A) know about it and (B) understand how they will benefit from it. Otherwise, with so much going on, they may overlook the new tool.

2. Show Attendees How To Use the Tech Tools.

Attendees start from different points on the technology learning curve. Some will arrive as power-tweeters, while others will still be struggling with email. Also, they have different learning styles. If you want attendees to use the tools, you need to provide various forms of support. Here are some things that we did at Spotme to help attendees feel comfortable with the new technology:

> Each attendee received a small instruction card that included some of the “how to” basics at registration.

> Provide a short 5 minute “how to” presentation at the beginning of the event. (Many times this included the WIIFM).

> Provide personalized demonstrations of the tools (for those that want it).

> Provide a help desk where attendees can get personalized demonstrations and answers to individual questions. (If you want to be “2010” – call it a genius bar.)

> Provide Just-in-Time instructions as required. This was very effective for voting, speaker Q&A or other tools that were not used in every session.

3. Keep the Tech Tools Simple.

Since events are so short, you only have a few minutes to teach attendees how to use your tech tools and help them become proficient at it. The easier it is for attendees to learn how to use the tools on site – the more they will use it.  When considering different options – look for simple, easy to use interfaces.

4. Consider How Attendees will Participate.

Not all attendees will use the technology equally – even after they know how to use the tools. That’s ok. We don’t all like to do the same things. You can increase your chances of success by learning about your attendee’s social media engagement preferences. Do they like to create content, critique it, etc? The Groundswell’s social technographs profile tool can help you.

Bottom Line

Unlike the lion with a piece of meat, chances are good that most of your attendees will need a little help learning to use the new technology at your events.  Don’t let this discourage you – there are some simple steps that you can take to help them learn to use the tools and have a great event experience.

Ok, your turn. What would you add to this list?

Image Credit: 2minutes
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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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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 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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