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Are You Multiplying The Value of Your Meetings?

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

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

I have a question for you.

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

Think about that question for a minute.

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

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

The Big Question

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

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

Some Answers

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

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

Bottom Line

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

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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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Worlds Are Colliding to Create New Opportunities for Events

Yesterday, my colleague Ruud Janssen and I delivered a presentation called the 2010 Event Technology Shopping List at EIBTM. I will post the slides and video soon. But, first I wanted to share some of the thinking that was at the heart of our work.

Worlds Are Colliding

Event Technology Worlds Are Colliding

The digital world and the face to face worlds are colliding and I see several new opportunities emerging for events. Yesterday, we tackled these four new opportunities that have emerged for events to use event technology to transform the event:

  • Extending the Meeting
  • Including More People
  • Improved Interaction
  • New Formats

Extending the Meeting

We have the opportunity to stretch event experiences from 1-2 days to several days, weeks and months. Rather than looking at the meeting as an isolated event – we can look at it as one point in a conversation stream. By using your digital touch points wisely, you can start relationships earlier and change the nature of the face-to-face interactions onsite. Webinars, webcasts, social networks and social media tools are some of the technologies making this possible.

Including More People

The people that come to your event are a subset of your event community. For one reason or another, there are some people that cannot come to your event. It has nothing to do with you, your program, the venue, the destination or the price – they just can’t come. Rather than ignore these “potential” attendees – the technology tools like the backchannel and live streaming help you include them in your event experience.

Increasing Interaction

Attendees are smarter than they have ever been. The gap between the experts on stage and the attendees in the audience has never been smaller. The collaboration tools that we have at our disposal have made it easier than ever to create this interaction. Equally important – there are a large number of audience response keypads, gadgets, handheld devices and mobile applications that put the power in the attendee’s hand and make it easier for you to engage them: Ask questions, collect ideas, vote, etc.

Alternative Formats

We still live in a world where good projects (meetings, marketing plans, etc.) are being cut in favor of better projects. Telepresence and Virtual Events are two event formats that have emerged as viable lost cost alternatives (or compliments) to full face-to-face events. While some face-to-face diehards may initially raise their noses at these two formats – I suggest that you take a closer look. I would prefer that you keep some options in your back pocket and fight for your projects – rather than accept defeat when the finance department and management want to cut your event.

Bottom Line

The collision between the digital world and the face-to-face world creates several new opportunities for events. By framing the discussion in terms of these new opportunities – you can strategically approach technology rather than look at it tactically.

That’s my take – what do you think?

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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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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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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