Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Role of Social Media in Future Events?

A Collaborative Blog Post:  Part Four

What do you believe will be the role of social media in events in the near future?

Our blog team took a stab at this topic in this fourth of five articles in a series created in a Google Wave.  As most of you know by now I we have published a series of articles in the past week generated by a joint effort of Nine event professionals.  You may have noticed I crossed out the word “I” above…. that is because through this experiment I have learned the power of “we” versus “me” at an even higher level than ever before.  While this article is published on my blog site, it is clearly the result of a joint effort by an entire team.  They are as follows:

Our objective with these blog posts has been to demonstrate:

  1. Power of crowd-sourcing.
  2. Collaborative strength of Google Wave as a relatively new application.
  3. Importance of harnessing the extended reach of Social Media to foster learning.

I would not be writing this article series had I not been introduced through social media (Twitter) to the people partnering with me on this adventure.  Our bond  is we are like-minded professionals with strong personalities and sometimes differing opinions.  We all have the presence of mind to respect and embrace those polarizing moments to further enhance our collaborative learning.  Best of all, we have become friends!

Our common passion is to share acquired knowledge with others and also recognize there are unknown perspectives and experiences we can learn from.  That feedback will come from you, the readers of these articles…

If you have not read the first three articles here are the links to access them:

  • Part One — Successes of 2009 in the meetings and events business!
  • Part Two — What’s the priority business issue to focus on in 2010?
  • Part Three — What is the next “hot” Social Media tool?

So here are our thoughts:

Jeff HurtJeff I see social media forcing events organizers to reconsider traditional vertical, one presenter to many people style presentations. Audiences want more “social,” horizontal, peer-to-peer, networked learning. They want to engage with each other, the speaker, and the content. I also think we’ll see more organizations seeing the face-to-face meeting within the context of a larger community eco-system and meetings professionals will be looking at the one event more holistically.  How can they use social media tools to create connections and experiences all year long with their customers. Also meetings organizers will need to begin to consider two audiences, those on-site for the face-to-face and the virtual audience.

Ian McGonnigalIan — I think the question is more like: “How do you see the role of events evolving in social media?” Social media has given us the ability to network, communicate and share ideas more powerfully than ever.   Social media amplifies event marketing through engagement, interaction, immersion, internalization and extension. Use events to drive the human factor in relationships. At the end of the day you can’t really text a beer or fax a handshake. Humanity requires humans.

Mike McAllenMike — Companies like Pathable.com have the right formula to integrate event websites into social media meeting wonderlands. I want my event information and networking started long before the wheels of my plane hit that city. I want to already have contacted the folks I want to meet, asked the speakers my questions, and know exactly what I am going to do and who I am going to do it with. I would like the event to last longer also, have legs after the meetings is done. I want to see podcasts of the speakers, as a follow ups. Also the ability to capture the crowds reactions in the hallways as content would be very beneficial to keep that conference alive and start building the content of the next one. (audio or video)

Jessica LevinJessica — One of the challenges is getting people to understand the value and to make the shift in their mind that social media is for everyone and not just for techies. There are challenges including etiquette and manners and how and when social media is appropriate. Some speakers still do not want people side-lining during sessions. I think this goes back to education of all attendees. Even if a conference is focused on medical issues by people that do not use social media as a major business tool, it will be the responsibility of the planners to educate their members, clients, speakers, sponsors and vendors on what we are trying to accomplish. Those of us on this discussion are at the forefront, but we must remember that we have an obligation to help support the meetings industry (which includes anyone that attends a meeting) to help move them into the new world. This is an amazing opportunity for us.

Cameron TothCameron — Jessica, you are making a great point about speakers and organizer’s fears about social commentary. Speak sister! As an organizer and a speaker if people are distracted it is not because you have a Twitter screen its because the presentation is boring. Fears are from people being called out and the beauty of Social Media is that transparency is a must! The author of “Crush It” talks about that.

Jessica –> Cameron: Thanks Cameron. Since I am now on both sides (planner and speaker) I can see how it can be distracting. But I feel the benefit of multi-dimensional communication is greater than “respect” to the speaker. Now, I am not saying that during a keynote someone should be text messaging  friends, etc. But having engaging conversation about what is being discussed helps to enhance the learning experience. The days of talking heads are over!

Michelle BrunoMichelle — Humans will become allies, exude passion and identify with each other over the simplest of common bonds–lovers of the color purple, people who wear Jimmy Choo shoes, Mac users, etc. Eventually event organizers will learn how to develop their communities using commonalities that their customers share. Social media will be an important platform for this development.

Samuel J. SmithSamuel — Social Media has made it easier than ever for groups, like this one, to organize. I think that we are going to see new events emerging out of these new communities and self-organized groups in 2010.  Some of them will be big (over 500) and others will be small (20-50 people).

At the same time, I think we are going to see more existing events struggle and eventually close, because their members or community don’t perceive value anymore.

Midori ConnollyMidori — We must bear in mind the usual purpose of meetings – to learn and to connect.   As long as Social Media addresses the needs of adult learners and supports the learning design of an event, it will continue to flourish.   Should it become a distraction or counterproductive, we’ll see its presence and popularity diminish.

Michael McCurryMcCurry — In 2010 many organizations are going to begin realizing they must adopt new strategies and communication channels for their events.  Those businesses savvy enough to incorporate social media into their toolkits for 2009 will begin to see the positive benefits of those strategic moves.  The emergence of independently run, online events will continue to rise, which will ultimately push more traditional associations, whom they are competing with, to wake up and make some changes to their business models.  For some, it may be too late, and their businesses will suffer, if they aren’t already.

As Jeff puts it, the attendee will be king, and social communities will continue to grow and evolve finding ways to better integrate a variety of social media tools together seamlessly.  Google Wave will go public with their application at some point, I predict, in the first quarter.  If they have responded well to the constructive feedback submitted by their preview users, that social media tool should really take off!

So based upon your experiences in 2009, how do you see things evolving in the social media world?  How do you believe your events will be impacted by these added tools?  What do you think your attendees want?  What say you? :)

Follow Michael McCurry on Twitter

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Clarke December 3, 2009 at 8:49 am

I think Jeff’s already seen this post: http://paulclarke.com/honestlyreal/2009/10/a-conference-but-not-as-we-now-know-it/

and its follow-up.

But they tell a story of how one conference got it so very, very wrong. Particular as it had a digital engagement theme itself. This instantly raised the expected standard of communication and openness to new heights.


Michael M McCurry CMP December 6, 2009 at 9:32 am

@Paul Clarke,

Thanks for sharing that story Paul!

We can all learn from “not how to do it” and through that process we have the potential to be better at what we do.

We really are in the wild wild west with social media, virtual and hybrid events, etc. so it will be interesting to see how things evolve over the next year and whether some best practices evolve that are consistently used across the events business.

Thanks for contributing.



Dave Lutz December 5, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Mike, this little test provided some great initial blog posts. Congrats and thank you to all who contributed!

My only addition is that social media is a team sport. For the greatest success, it really requires speakers to jump in, the host to be an active participant (listening and helping facilitate) and for significant audience adoption.

What I’m seeing out there is:

1) Too many people trying to sell vs. building trust
2) Not enough user adoption for a sustained event community
3) Too many event organizers being either a) too controlling or b) too passive
4) Poor participation from event speakers.

It’s like a four cylinder engine that needs all cylinders to fire in order to get maximum performance. It’s going to take a few tries to get it right. We need more certified event social media mechanics that are experts at managing and connecting an event community.

Dave Lutz – @velchain


Michael M McCurry CMP December 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

@Dave Lutz,

You raise some really valid points here. I contend that technology is only as good as the people that use it.

Clearly, event organizers need to do a better job of managing the event community and also supporting the speakers by providing them with helpful information on what the expectations are, as well as some best practices for engaging folks.

If we get it right on the logistics and communications side of the ball, then the attendees will adopt this community.

Thanks for contributing Dave,



Stephen Nold December 26, 2009 at 8:20 pm

Great post.

Jeff hit true with his statement that social media is ‘forcing events organizers to reconsider traditional vertical, one presenter to many people style presentations.’ It is a shift, as RD Whitney with Tarsus Group recently described it as the “Great Marketing Shift” from traditional push marketing to pull marketing, which requires a new mindset to harness the power of these tools.

The role of social media in future events? If the trust can be maintained, social media offers a direct channel through the normal spam filters. You get my attention through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter because I know have a way to track the source of the message. If you abuse this trust, you are no longer linked with my inbox.

Chris Brogan recently described his campaign for “Wiring Yourself for Success” by creating three words for 2010 that will serve as the compass points for your efforts.

I am not good enough to keep it at 3 words, but I still think the exercise is worthy. With help from your guest bloggers, here is what I derived:

Holistic view, online evolution, living content, mind shifting, transparent communities in a team effort.

– stephen


Michael M McCurry CMP December 27, 2009 at 8:37 am

@Stephen Nold,

Interesting thoughts Stephen…

My three compass points are collaboration, Community and Learning.

You are so right about trust. Our online colleagues value trust above all and if we violate that trust, or become selfish in our interactions that is the kiss of death in the social media world.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation!



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