Apple’s recent announcement that it is leaving MacWorld (after this year’s event) sent shock-waves through the conference industry. Having worked in the conference world from 1999 to 2006 and having associates still residing in the industry, it got me thinking about how conference companies can choose to either evolve & innovate or become irrelevant.
There will always be a place for face to face interactions. After all, we are social beings! But as the economy goes in the tank and alternative forms of communication become the norm, conference companies are on the verge of joining the endangered species list. What about the popularity of Tweetups? Everyday my administrative assistant, Digsby– lets me know about Tweetups all over the country. With that realization and my past successes setting up social communities around conferences, I decided to post a series of blogs on the topic.
The following is part 1 outlining how conference creators can utilize social networking to not only stay relevant, but be the leaders of much needed change.
Pre-Event Best Practices
- Create a destination community attached to the conference website-same branding. This requires an investment in a vendor provider. The free services just cannot offer the security your constituents demand and should expect.
- Select a vendor that has an idea share tool.
- Empower the attendee and speaker base to create session ideas for the upcoming event.
- Be flexible with the tracking to accommodate popular session ideas.
- Create a Community Manager position that is exclusive to being the leader of the online event experience-not the face to face experience. I cannot stress enough, this does not come as an add-on from the existing resource pool.
- Seed message board threads with questions attached to event threads. Meaning each session should have its own message board thread.
- Encourage the speakers to be proactive within the community by asking questions. Make it clear what the benefit is for them; deeper conversations onsite with the introductions already out of the way.
- Use the member profile as a way to ask (optional) business intelligent questions to enhance the user experience.
- Open channels of communication. Create groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, MeetUp and yes…Tweetups.
- Engage the vendors to open their marketing channels in return for additional exposure on the community.
- Conference companies can sell sponsorship for Ideashare for example, or trade out the real estate for exposure.
- Create a Content schedule
- Create a Recognition Rewards program for 3 groups:
These are the first steps of transforming the conference experience from a three day event (on average) to a 365 day experience. It will also help in acquiring brand loyalty, market intelligence, innovation and alignment with recent social networking trends.
In Part 2, I will talk about transforming the face to face experience to not only include your social networking community-but make it the centerpiece of the conference value proposition. I always welcome comments with additional ideas to include in a summary at a later date.