I have probably attended 300-400 conferences or group meetings in my lifetime. But lately, I have seen some truly engaging and fun meetings when the organizers carefully planned how to intertwine social media with standard conference delivery. Here’s what some of the best are doing:
- Crowd source the event. Begin to generate buzz with votes on the menu, topics, content, facility, entertainment. Why should the organizer decide between coq au vin and barbecued chicken? Use Facebook, twitter, evites and linked in groups to take a poll and make the deacons for you.
- Take control of your hashtag early. Put the twitter #hashtag on all invites and programs so that everyone knows how to find and follow your event.
- Be sure attendees get a welcome email that invites them to the social family as well as the event. Let them know how to connect to other attendees before, during and after the event.
- Always invite attendees to your Facebook and twitter accounts in the confirmation email they receive about your event.
- Use eventbrite or plan cast to mange your ticketing AND let attendees automatically broadcast their plans to their friends and followers.
- Stop thinking of it as an event (or a campaign) and thing about it as a community meeting that NEVER stops. There’s something to say to your attendee community all the time. Not just when you are looking for conference attendance.
- Plan the event logistics: bring in GOBS of powerstrips!! consider adding gym lockers (a la SXSW) to give attendees a locked space for their gear without heading to their hotel. Take care of all gadget needs – laptops,power, ergonomics and comfort. Do NOT set up a room where attendees are expected to balance their searing laptops on their legs. Set up a special “Blogger Lounge” that lets bloggers get the word out to their readers fast. Charging stations at lunch tables will be so appreciated.
- Check cell phone tower bandwidth if your event will be large. Consider adding wireless cell phone boosters if there is a problem.
- Plan what and how you will collect information and feedback from the event. Create appropriate hashtags and share them with your attendees.
- Add “Blogger” ribbons to name tags just as you would for “Speakers” or “Officers.”
- Have resources who will live blog or tweet on site. Live Blog gives a news or broadcast feel while tweeting on site is more conversational.
- Plug in all social accounts into a single feed like HootSuite or FeedMagnet and display live on screens throughout the conference. Especially in lobby and hallway areas.
- Set up a special hashtag for all speakers and facilitators for realtime event notices like audio issues, temperature, burned out projector light. Have someone monitor the tag and immediately attend to each issue to gain convincing credibility for social media and your use of it.
- Be careful to NOT put up twitter feeds on screens (tweet walls)behind speakers. I have seen events where a CEO was speaking and the twitter feed behind him was questioning everything he said without him realizing it. It quickly seemed like The WøRD on the Colbert Report. No one looks at the speaker if the twitter feed is behind him. This is a perfect thing to put up in the hallway just outside the speaker’s room.
* I cannot find that corroborating fact online….Has anyone else heard that?