Friday, August 14, 2009

Life of a Virtual Attendee … What’s in it for Me?

In our company, Experient, we have a large account management team so our approach to membership within industry organizations such as ASAE, IAEE, PCMA, MPI, etc. is to divide the coverage.  Experient encourages us to be a member of one organization, and as long as we remain active they support it.  So how does a person tap into all the other wonderful networking opportunities going on in the meetings biz.  Well, read on….

art-virtual-eventsThe meetings and events industry organizations are waking up to the cyber-possibilities extending the reach of their events beyond the walls of convention centers, hotels and resorts.  Thanks to social media it is now possible for a person to expand their involvement to a variety of organizations, even without being physically located at their events.   With the increased presence of blogs, webcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter an event professional now has the option to become part of a conference community, right from their desktop.

Here are some examples:

Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) — In June PCMA held its annual leadership conference in Austin, TX.  One of the program’s sessions was video conferenced live to two chapters.  The interesting aspect of this event was the two way communication of the broadcast, enabling virtual attendees to interact directly with the speakers and the live audience in Austin.  PCMA also endorsed the use of an official hashtag for the event, #pcmalc which saw some traffic, although not extensive.

On the downside this content was not made available freely on the web and there were no Video Monitors anywhere featuring the live twitter stream.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) — In Salt Lake City, for their July 2009 World Education Congress (WEC) MPI encouraged the use of the Twitter Hashtag #wec09 for their event.  The twitter stream was active throughout the event and actually is still thriving to date.  Interestingly, for MPI’s opening general session an impressive twitter dialogue occurred, in which on site attendees were communicating with virtual attendees.  I was one of those participants.  While MPI offered a virtual pass to the event, for a hefty fee, participation was made possible through the hashtag for those not willing or able to buy the virtual pass.  I wrote a blog article recapping the presentations of that session, without even being there.  My reference was the tweets generated during the event.  You can view that article here.  Hashtag participants also were featured in MPI’s daily newspaper… pretty cool eh!

American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) — Just this morning I visited ASAE’s website to preview the missed-connectionsprogram for their Annual Meeting & Exposition in Toronto which commences today.  To my delight I discovered several strategic actions the ASAE team has taken with this conference.

  • First, of course they are promoting a Hashtag for the event, which is #asae09.  I was impressed to find the following statistics on this twitterfeed with the conference not even started yet … In the last 7 days:
    • 563 Tweets
    • 169 unique contributors
    • Average of 80.4 tweets per day

Note: You can find these statistics at http://wthashtag.com/Asae09

  • Free WIFI — is available in all of the meeting rooms and public spaces with the exception of the expo hall. (Sponsored by ASAE–Endorsed Business Solutions.)  This will encourage participants to bring laptops to sessions and tweet about their experiences… love it!
  • ASAE’s official Twitter Handle is twitter.com/asaecenter09
  • Flickr Photo Pool — View pictures of last year’s meeting and be the first to see new pictures from this year’s events on their Flickr photo pool.
  • Engage Your Career Video Blog — Follow along with their five official Annual Meeting bloggers and hear firsthand about their experiences as an attendee.
  • Dynamic Blog Roll:  For folks planning to blog about the events of ASAE09 they are able to add their blog to the interactive blog roll. Alternatively interested people may just keep up by reading others’ blogs.
  • Twitter Roll: Are you planning on twittering from Annual? If so, add your Twitter ID to their interactive Twitter Roll.
  • Annual Meeting Web Stickers: For attendees headed to the 2009 Annual Meeting they may post an ASAE & The Center 2009 Annual Meeting web sticker on their website, blog, or social networking profile! For doing so they are automatically entered in a drawing to win a free registration to next year’s 2010 Annual Meeting!  That is some intelligent marketing!!!

Kudos to ASAE for providing these value added services to their conference attendees.  Unfortunately, I believe ASAE  has missed an opportunity to really demonstrate leadership… by offering a live webcast of some or all of their major sessions.  The speaker lineup is impressive and it is very disappointing they chose not to extend the reach of their content out into cyberspace.  There is no question the impact would have been significant, especially in a tough economy where many people can not afford to attend events!  I wonder how their attendance is doing this year???

Question–  Do you think ASAE should have arranged live webcasts of some or all of their key events?  In the context of world, as we know it today, would that be a solid strategic move?  I would love to hear ASAE’s response as to why they chose not to webcast any events.  Let the discussions begin…

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

MsStallings August 14, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Nice post, Mike!

ASAE did do a great job of engaging their audience of attendees through your above-mentioned social media campaigns. I am in agreement with you–it would have been nice if they could’ve web cast just one or two sessions to engage those of us who couldn’t attend due to budget cuts, etc.

We want to go to these events! Badly! Especially in such a challenging economy – we want to learn! However – we want the organizers of such events to help us by allowing access to atleast a virtual preview of the value, so we can justify the expense of attending to those who determine the budgets.

Kudos to those who are embracing technology and social media in the event world. Hoping they understand that these days it takes more than it used to to justify expenses to decision-makers. A complimentary preview/enticement of the value of the event will get more folks onboard.

Reply

Michael M McCurry CMP August 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

@MsStallings,

Thanks so much for your comments!

Your thoughts are right on, as in this tough economy many of us can not attend these marquis events and at least with virtual access we can benefit from the education and ideas presented.

Hopefully ASAE will choose to make this content available in the future virtually!

@michaelmccurry

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