Interactive Technology and Social Media

Interactive Technology and Social Media

Planning and managing an event, conference or large meeting is a challenge. This is particularly the case when both budget and time are tight. Event organisers continue to highlight the difficulty of persuading delegates to take the time to attend events, or even simply getting larger groups of colleagues to meet in the same place at the same time. Increasingly event organisers are looking to incorporate new technology and social media into events in an attempt to find new ways of engaging delegates and colleagues. New opportunities for event organisers Despite the challenges, most commentators agree that meeting face to face is a vital aspect of business communication. Furthermore, the growth of social media and pace of development of technology presents new opportunities for event organisers to overcome those challenges. Social media and new technology can offer a number of benefits: > Add interest and value to events by stimulating delegates in new ways > Attract a new audience by increasing the reach of event marketing through social media > Involve more delegates in your events through the use of interactive technology > Improve delegate satisfaction by enabling attendees to get more from each event > Aid delegate retention by improving satisfaction Social Media & Events Like it or loath it, you can't afford to ignore it. In the UK alone there are 30 million Facebook users and 10 million twitter account holders. A Facebook user will typically create 415 pieces of content each year and an average Twitter user spends 23 minutes each day on the site, therefore these and other forms of social media are here to stay. From an event perspective, social media can be a vital marketing channel and a key way of maintaining engagement with delegates during and after an event. From a delegate perspective, social media can enhance the event experience and make the process of networking at events much more effective. Effective integration of social media The good news is that there is lots of advice out there and many different ways that an event experience can be improved through the effective use of social media. The most important advice begins with the basics, picking which social media you will use for your event and making sure that it is incorporated into all of your event communication and to make it as easy as possible for everyone to find the URL's. "Social media commentator Lars Basche points out that Twitter traffic does not depend on the number of delegates at the event. At one event only 10% of participants might tweet, while at another, more Twitter friendly event, 8 times more Twitter users than participants might tweet" Twitter is a particularly effective social media for events, allowing all participants and interested parties to read and share information quickly. Top tips for using Twitter effectively: > Select a hashtag for your event early and use it heavily in the run up to the event > Encourage as many of your colleague as possible to use it and if possible provide them with easy to mange content to share > Encourage delegates at conferences to tweet questions to speakers in advance and ask the speakers to respond to some of them on Twitter only > Create a twitter wall - a simple display which shows all attendees the tweets that have been sent during the conference > Don't be afraid to share some content during and following the event as this will help promoting future events as well as increasing the reach of the current one - tweeting post event is a key way of improving marketing reach as well as delegate satisfaction "At a recent Paypal conference they took the twitter hashtag so seriously that it was highlighted in the key note speech, so all delegates were clear about the correct one to use" Regardless of which social media you use it is important to have a steady stream of photos from the event as they are much more likely to be viewed and shared than simple text only updates. Videos and infographics (which can be produced with simple software) are also popular for sharing. It is also a good idea to have social media 'concierge' or co-ordinator at events so that delegates can ask questions and get customer support in real time, via social media. "Checking in? Adam Helweh of Social Media Explorer points out that many people like to 'check in' on their social media and it is a simple matter to create a check in location for your specific events on location based services such as foresquare. 'Check ins' are often cross promoted on Facebook and Twitter and provide additional profile for your event" It is important and perhaps re-assuring to know that even the social media 'experts' recognise that social media enhances the event but it cannot replace the basics of event management. Pam Moore of social media tells of conferences she has reported on where they have a full social media lounge set up, but don't have a written agenda of the event! Interactive technology Research reveals that delegates and attendees are becoming increasingly demanding, as time is scarce and the pressure is on everyone to be more productive. Delivering a great and engaging experience is becoming ever more important and incorporating technology into events can play a key part in achieving this. As one industry commentator noted, mobile devices are pervasive at conferences and events. Savvy conference organizers recognise the prevalence of handheld devices and incorporate them into the event planning and overall meeting experience. This is not surprising given that 56% of the UK population possesses a smartphone and around 20% has access to a tablet computer, such as an IPad. The trend has been to incorporate mobile technology into events to add an interactive element. There are a number of services available to help achieve this and we have taken the opportunity to highlight some of them. iPad App Technology for events have developed an iPad application which enables users at an event > To view a presentation on their device (as well on the main screen) > Make notes next to the slides in real time > Respond to and ask questions The application also enables the user to keep a copy so that the delegate has their own unique record of the event for future reference. Crystal Interactive provide a similar service, which uses a smart phone rather than a tablet. Such services represent a nice 'build' on more traditional handheld voting keypads, which have been used to make presentations and events more interactive for some time, but that rely on less flexible hand held devices. The new flip chart? Much of the technology available tends to be aimed at larger events, however, Involve (Developed by Event Technology Ltd) is equally suited to large or small settings. Involve is a collaborative messaging, drawing and voting tool which uses wireless laptops to enable delegates to interact with each other through text, pictures and voting. All of the data can be recorded and displayed immediately for instant engagement as well as being captured for post event analysis. The strength of this service is that the technology facilitates delegate interaction, resulting in a creative event environment where everyone's contributions are captured. Taking text to screen to the next level Text to screen is a simple way of engaging an audience in an event and has long been used by event organisers to build interaction at larger scale events. This has been taken one stage further by one company, IML, who have developed the 'IML connector', a device which acts as an individual microphone for each member of the audience to speak through, a real time translation service as well as the ability to text to screen. 'Scavenging' at events Digital scavenger hunts are an emerging trend in the US. These are effectively activity games which are facilitated by a digital device. It is becoming increasingly popular for groups to take part in 'treasure hunts' where the 'treasure' is located through the use of GPS devices, with results and games promoted online. More recently these techniques have been incorporated into events, such as trade exhibitions to encourage delegates to visit as many stands as possible or at larger meetings to ensure that delegates network with as many people as possible. The mobile phone or device is at the heart of such games with players required to upload specified pictures from each exhibition stand (or equivalent) with a real time leader board online to promote the game and stimulate competition. is a low cost, off the shelf option that could easily be incorporated into your next event and add interest and value. New opportunities The positive news is that while organising events is still challenging there are now more tools available to you to help build, engage and retain your audience. Furthermore this can be achieved simply and with minimal cost, with significant potential benefits when executed correctly and effectively.

Author: Gary Burgess

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