February 13, 2012 by Jeff Hurt
In today’s successful forward-thinking conferences and events, the experience has become more sophisticated and seamless.
It flows back and forth between participants, experts, speakers and event organizers. No longer is the conference host or speaker seen as the primary source of content and information. It’s a fluid and dynamic experience, rich in relationship building and sharing.
Here’s a look at three styles in conference experiences, their implications and changes to observe.
Web 2.0 has taught us that it’s better to play together than alone. Yes there are times when we need to put our nose to the grindstone and focus on getting work done. Yet in most cases, the collaborative process benefits everyone.
In progressive dynamic conferences, conference hosts have moved the hallway learning into the education session. Presenters are asked to facilitate more than just lecture. Participants and experts are learning from each other in a variety of ways.
Sharing information and learning from our peers has proven to be a powerful learning tool whether face to face or digitally. Learning together is being woven into the fabric of the conference experience. Asking participants to share what has or hasn’t worked with them is taking front stage.
Collaboration in conference experiences is simple. It allows participants to find common ground, balance skills, communicate clearly and create learning and accountability networks.
Watch for hospitality organizations to create best practices and guidelines for collaboration before, during and after a conference. Look for organizers to focus on securing facilitators more than speakers.
The mobile device is pervasive at conferences and events. We’ve become a society that wants to track and document our personal experiences as well as share them with others. Our social networks are our digital portfolios like the scrapbooks of the past.
Savvy conference organizers implement text to screen, interactive polling, geo-caching (conference scavenger hunts), Wiki spaces (for collaborative session note taking), Skype speakers and geo-location conference check-ins. They encourage social sharing of the content and experience.
Some meeting professionals entice participants and speakers to create media for marketing and sharing. Podcasts and videos add a digital transmedia storytelling layer to the experience.
Look for savvy conference organizers to create a digital portfolio, the equivalent of a media-rich resume, to showcase their conference experience.
Most meeting professionals view the conference experience as a standalone event. It has a definite start and end time. Once it ends, it’s filed and forgotten.
Savvy, dynamic conference organizers view the conference as integrated into a full spectrum of customer touchpoints. The annual meeting is one experience assimilated into an ecosystem of community experiences. Each experience, whether digital or face to face is threaded and connected with others.
These conference organizers view the conference from a holistic point of view. They create opportunities for participants to connect with each other, speakers, experts, exhibitors and sponsors before they arrive. They design learning experiences before and after the conference. They initiate conversations weeks in advance of the onsite experience.
Look for more conference organizers to work with programming to thread the event within the year’s education programming.
How can social media augment integrated conference experiences and collaboration? What technology tools have you used successfully at an event?
Filed Under: Event Planning
Jeff, great post – yes please let’s maximize the face to face experience, and integrate it across platforms that make a positive enhancement and then let’s create ongoing participation and engagement – conversations that will make innovations and collaborations of the future! Please!
Love this blog post! Collaboration, Tech-empowerment and Integration of content/conferences is key to the future of events and the attendee experience!
Great post Jeff. I just returned from a conference and, by far, the most valuable sessions were interactive and engaging with the audience. I don’t care who you are, there are people in the audience with valuable information to add and the audience deserves a chance to hear it.
I guess my question for you is how large an audience can be before engagement just has to be disallowed? 100, 400?
How large can an audience be before you don’t use engagement? It’s never too large. There are techniques to use for 20, 200, 2000 or even 20,000 people. The easiest way is to have people turn to their neighbor on their right or left, in front of them or behind them and converse.
Thanks for reading and commenting too.
Thanks Jeff. I was recently in a session with John Maxwell and he often had us discuss some issue with our neighbor. He had us in the palm of his hand with his engaging style. It was a conversation.
Great article Jeff. Attendees want to connect with presenters, other attendees, and to the collaborative experience. They also want to feel they contributed to the overall value of the event in some way. I see more personal face-to-face interaction during the event and a continued connection through social media afterwards, as being the true value of any meeting or event.
Thanks for reading and commenting. I like what you say that attendees “…want to feel that they contributed to the overall value of the event in some way.” So true.
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