Incorporating social media into face-to-face events: During the event

Following on from my post that explored how to incorporate social media into face-to-face events, pre-event, this blog post will look at ways of leveraging these tools during an event.

All pre-event activity should have made mention of the community sites being used – e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  At the event it is a perfect opportunity to remind the audience of these vehicles and encourage delegates to create profiles of themselves in these community sites if they haven’t already done so, in order for you to utilise these sites to promote dialogue after the event.

This can be done in a number of ways – either set up an area with PCs for people to create these profiles onsite, utilise a feedback form that encourages people to indicate what social networking sites they’re a part of and to gather their views on social media, or you could use a device like a Poken, that allows users to swap their social networking profiles with each other.  This device was used at the IBM Information on Demand (IOD) event in Berlin.  Every delegate was issues a Poken upon registration and special Poken information booths were set up to show delegates how to set up the device, and how to use them to connect with other delegates.  Each of the sessions also had a Poken profile so that delegates could connect with speakers, and also access the presentations.  The IOD event was over four days with an expected audience of 3,000.  It was therefore possible to use this device as there was plenty of time to educate delegates on how to use the Poken and space at the venue to set up information points.  Also, due to the numbers, special Pokens were bought that could be branded.  But they appear to be a fantastic and innovative tool for promoting and facilitating social networking.

With a captive audience onsite, you have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate various social networking sites or virtual environments.  At the SOA Architect Summit in 2008, I had a stand dedicated to Second Life in demonstrate IBM’s innovations in Second Life and interest in virtual worlds.  The video below is a highlights video created at the event which uses some of the footage from the Second Life demonstration, and it was important to introduce delegates to this environment as follow-up activity was planned in Second Life.

It is also possible to broadcast part of the event (e.g. the keynote) within a virtual environment or stream live on the web for delegates who are unable to attend.  Tools such as Lotus Live or Livestream offer the ability to broadcast the whole session, or stream part of the session on the web.  Companies are increasingly incorporating this option into their live events to counter travel restrictions and other factors that are inhibitors to people attending face-to-face events.  It also gives you the potential to utilise speakers who aren’t able to attend the event in person.  The trick is to ensure that offering this facility doesn’t affect your registration numbers.

Having set up a Twitter feed prior to the event and built up a follower base, this can be used effectively during the event to announce sessions and speakers, collect feedback/questions from delegates either on or offsite, and generally create a real-time, highly interactive forum.  There are different ways of incorporating Twitter.  At Wimbledon, the IBM Twitter profile provided updates on the matches, as well as bringing to life what was taking place within the All England Tennis Club.

Alternatively I’ve seen Twitter broadcast onto the screen on the main stage of the conference so that delegates can see what people are finding of interest in the session, and it also allow speakers to answer questions that are posed by people on Twitter.  By setting up a hashtag you can be sure to follow all relevant tweets.

Prior to the event it’s vital to identify what content you would like to capture onsite.  For example, photos that can be posted on to the Flickr group for your event, video assets that can be posted onto YouTube (e.g. Voxpops, interviews with speakers/delegates, etc.), presentations that will be posted onto your event website – either with audio or video, presentation slides that will be posted onto Slideshare, plus many other  options.  Identifying all of these potential assets upfront, and creating a plan to distribute these, will ensure that you utilise every opportunity to create reuseable content that will extend the life of your event.

Obviously budget considerations, the size & scope of your event, and your objectives are key considerations.  But the huge variety of Web 2.0 and social networking tools available can really enrich the event experience, both for people onsite and those who are unable to attend in person.

My final post in this series will explore opportunities for incorporating social media post event.  Are there any other tools people are using to to drive to events or onsite that they’ve found particularly useful to engage with their audience?  The above lists some examples that I’ve used or come across but is far from comprehensive.


3 thoughts on “Incorporating social media into face-to-face events: During the event

  1. Wendy, a great post with great ideas.

    There are so many benefits of engaging your event audience in such a fashion.

    The most important, in my mind, is establishing and maintaining a real and continuous dialogue. The best events are those that serve as catalysts for dialogue — versus those with just interesting speakers.

    Social media can really help to pre-warm the dialogue and get people talking before they even get onsite, and social media at an event can really enhance the dialogue on the stage.

    Looking forward to your additional posts on this topic.

  2. All great ideas but I would also add another item to it: consider doing a virtual event/meeting. Virtual events and meetings are a great way to deliver training and enable collaboration especially with travel budgets cut. These solutions are being deployed so rapidly by companies that the market is projected to exceed $18 billion by 2015. If you are interested in how you can use virtual environments attend the Virtual Edge Summit Feb. 22-23 (virtually or in-person if you are in/near Silicon Valley). There is no registration fee if you take a short survey.

    Virtual Edge Summit 2010 is the only event that focuses exclusively on providing education, training and solutions for planning and producing virtual events, meetings and communities. Over 2 days, 80 experts will share their experience with you, and be available for one-on-ones. The event also offers a rich program for featuring experts from Cisco, Stanford, IBM, Disney SAP, Oracle, Intel as well as top virtual technology and service providers like InXpo, ON24, 6Connex, Stream57, CGS VirtualEvents365, George P. Johnson, Unisfair and Digitell.

    When: February 22-23, 2010 8am until 6pm

    Where: At the Santa Clara Convention Center in California and virtually in browser based virtual environments offering 2D and 3D experiences.

    Register at

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