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A New Way to Follow Up with Attendees after Events

July 6, 2013

The New Way

Photo credit: Flickr user bernatcg via photopin cc

Introduction

Recently, I attended a virtual event. The event had a large number of sessions and virtual booths (exhibitors). Due to a number of meetings I had scheduled that day, I couldn’t stay too long. I attended one session and visited a few booths to see what was going on.

The Current Way

A day after the event, I received an email from the event organizer. They thanked me for attending and invited me to log back in to view all of the sessions on-demand. So far, so good.

And then it started. Over the next two weeks, I received emails from exhibitor after exhibitor. I recalled visiting some of the exhibitors’ booths. For others emailing me, I had no idea they were even part of the show.

The New Way

I don’t like the current way. It results in too many emails, most of which aren’t relevant to me. So here’s the new way.

Warning: this takes extra work on the part of the event organizer. But in the end, I think everyone wins.

1) An exhibitor can only email an attendee when the attendee requests it, on the event website.

2) All post-event emails come from the event organizer (only).

3) The event organizer becomes an Editor of sorts, assembling emails that pair vendor-neutral content (the on-demand sessions) adjacent to vendor information (product listings that relate to a session).

4) Continuing the Editor role, the event organizer builds sections of the event website (or, the virtual event environment itself) segmented by “solution type.” As attendees view on-demand sessions, they’re able to view lists of vendors within each solution type.

5) In this way, it’s the event organizer who’s helping move attendees along the sales cycle!

Benefits of The New Way

More Credible Emails

In The New Way, the emails come from a credible source. I attended the event, so I’m likely to consider the event organizer credible. An exhibitor I never heard of that’s decided to start emailing me? Not so credible.

Better Email Management

We receive far too much email

Photo credit: Flickr user deltaMike via photopin cc

The New Way results in far less emails. By centralizing the sending from a single source, attendees have one opt-out to manage, rather than 5, 10 or 15 opt-outs from all the exhibitors. With a single opt-out, the stakes are also raised for the event organizer.

More Effective Emails

Today’s approach (from exhibitors) amounts to a shot in the dark. The recipe for the email is:

You attended event X. I sell a product, Y that has some relation to X. Want to buy?

With The New Way, the emails focus on the content of the event and attendees are invited to self-select their follow-up paths. They do so based on the sessions they view, the pages they visit and the requests they submit for more information.

More Qualified Leads

The New Way can invert the process: instead of exhibitors pursuing attendees, the attendees can be the ones asking for appointments with the exhibitors. It’s the job of the event organizer to facilitate this match-making: NOT to simply hand over lists of email addresses to exhibitors.

For bonus points: event organizers can create multiple “email tracks” (by topic) and invite attendees to select the track(s) most relevant to them. Combine this with email analytics and marketing automation to tailor subsequent content down to an individual basis.

Conclusion

It’s up to you, event organizers. By adopting The New Way, you can make your attendees much happier. And if done right, you can enable your exhibitors to achieve higher ROI than they’re getting today. Let’s leave the shot in the dark emails to those selling snake oil.

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How to Be a Twitter Rock Star at Conferences and Events

April 13, 2013

Introduction

With its 140 character payload and ability to follow hash tags, it seems Twitter was designed for events. For me and many others, participating in Twitter conversations significantly enhances my event experience. I find more, learn more and meet many more people than I otherwise would have. Let’s consider tips that can transform you from a conference tweeter to a Twitter rock star.

How to Gain Visibility

ALWAYS include the conference hash tag.

Do this before you pick up your badge: determine the conference hash tag. It’s usually on the event page or printed on signage at the event. If not, simply ask staffers for it. Include the hash tag in ALL of your tweets. If you don’t, your tweets will not be seen. And if the conference doesn’t have a hash tag, create one yourself and encourage others to use it.

Temporarily place the hash tag in your Twitter profile.

If the hash tag is “#conference2013,” then consider adding something like this in your Twitter profile: “Attending #conference2013 this week. Tweet me if you’re there!” Now, when attendees see your tweets and check out your profile, they’ll be more inclined to follow and interact with you.

Share photos.

Take photos of the keynote session, exhibit floor, signage – basically, anything interesting. Users love them.

Engage with influencers.

Influencers include session speakers, along with knowledgeable and well-followed attendees. Follow them and engage with them. If they reply back to you or RT you, others will be sure to take notice.

How to Gain Followers

Liberally follow others.

I use the Twitterific iPhone app at conferences

Pictured: The Twitterific app for iPhone. I scan for users, view their profiles and follow liberally.

Fellow attendees have at least one thing in common with you (after all, you went to the same event). So wouldn’t they be good people to follow? Follow the folks who are actively tweeting. The follow helps promote your existence. They may miss your insightful conference tweets, but when you follow them, chances are they’ll check out you (and follow back).

Retweet and Interact with others.

Let’s face it, sometimes at a conference, you really just need to focus on the conference itself. You’re sitting in a captivating session and learning a ton of things. You can’t afford to compose a thoughtful tweet. What you can do, however, is quickly scan the tweet stream for others’ insights. Retweet (“RT”) those insights and share your thoughts by replying to some users. Now, quick! Get back to that awesome session.

Quote interesting nuggets from sessions.

Just like you curate (and share) great content on Twitter, your “job” at a conference session is to curate interesting nuggets and quotes. Did the presenter just say something that made the audience go, “Oooh”? If so, quote the presenter via a tweet. You’re likely to get RT’s and follows.

Give shout-outs to exhibitors.

If you visit an exhibitor booth or have lunch with an exhibitor rep, give a shout-out to them (on Twitter). They’ll love it! And they’ll likely tweet you back, follow you, RT you and offer you some nifty conference swag.

General Tips

Always tweet IN CONTEXT.

I once took a photo as I walked into the keynote session. It was a humorous image, tied to the theme of the event and I really wanted to share it. However, once the keynote kicked off, everyone was tweeting about what the presenter was saying. If I tweeted the photo then, it would have been entirely out of context. So I waited. I tweeted the photo during the break, so it could get more visibility.

Facilitate face-to-face meet-ups with other Twitter users.

Another attendee and I tweeted quite frequently at a conference. When I rode the same elevator as her, I recognized her via her Twitter profile photo. I introduced myself and we chatted about the conference (for as long as an elevator ride would permit). “Upgrading” from a Twitter connection to a face-to-face meet-up is a great thing.

Take a break.

This won’t make you a Twitter rock star, but make sure you take adequate breaks from Twitter and enjoy the conference. For highly active Twitter users, there’s a delicate balance that must be managed. You don’t want to be so active on Twitter that you miss out on the great things the conference has to offer (kind of like visiting the Grand Canyon, tweeting too much and missing the view).

For Exhibitors: tweet in context with the sessions.

Let’s say there’s a breakout session on social media marketing and you’re an exhibitor that provides social media marketing software.

The session is scheduled for 2pm. At 2:15pm, issue a tweet such as, “Want a dashboard to manage social media marketing for your entire team? Visit us in booth #127 after the session.” Bonus points if the presenter is talking about dashboards precisely at 2:15pm.

For presenters: share your slides as you go on stage.

Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) was the first (that I’ve seen) to establish this practice. Some presenters provide their slides after their session. Jeremiah provides his slides before or during the session.

Some presenters will schedule a tweet to share their slides as they’re taking the stage (and then mention the fact during their opening segment). Attendees always request the slides, so proactively sharing them is a good practice.

Addendum: Jeremiah provides additional details:

Conclusion

So there you have it. Follow these tips to gain visibility, gain new followers and make new connections at your next conference. Be sure, though, that you’re getting the most out of the conference. Twitter is fantastic, but it can also consume your attention and time and create missed opportunities. Find the right balance and you’ll be rocking the conference in full Twitter style.


Unable to Attend an Event? 10 Ways Twitter Fills the Gap

October 15, 2012

Introduction

IMEX America, which describes itself as “America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings and events,” took place October 9-11, 2012 in Las Vegas.

I didn’t attend the event, but noticed that 20+% of my Twitter #eventprofs friends were there. I knew about their attendance from their tweets, but also received additional “color” via the photos, videos, quotes, observations and shout-outs that they posted (on Twitter).

So even though I wasn’t anywhere near Sin City, checking the #imex12 hash tag during the day yielded the next best thing: feeling as if I were. I was able to see who was meeting up with whom, which organizations were there exhibiting and what the popular nightspots were.

Here are 10 ways Twitter helps “remote attendees” experience the sights and sounds of the on-site experience.

1) Take in the sights.

Images tell a story. It’s hard to imagine “following” an event on Twitter via words (text) alone. The images of attendees, exhibitors, speakers and the show floor give us a sense of the event’s character and personality. In addition, imagery adds to the feeling of “being there.”

2) Discover the key themes.

I don’t need an industry publication to tell me about the key themes of this year’s event, because it’s all right there in the tweet stream. Whether Twitter users share their own opinions or a quote from the keynote presentation, the tweet stream is the leading indicator of the event’s key topics.

3) Make new connections.

You’re sure to find interesting people at the event, by way of the tweets they’re sharing. You may choose to follow selected folks and they may decide to follow you back. In addition, by following the event’s hash tag and getting involved, you’re bound to pick up some followers by way of your interactions. I once attended a physical event and made new connections exclusively on Twitter. That’s right, we “met” on Twitter, but not face to face (it’s sad).

4) Gain nuggets of wisdom.

Miss out on a Sunday’s worth of NFL action? It’s OK, you can still watch the highlights that night. It’s similar with events: by reading the quotes shared on Twitter, you still get the nuggets of wisdom (from presenters) and get a feel for what particular sessions were all about.

5) Find exhibitors who provide solutions you may need.

For popular booths at physical shows, you may have to wait in line to speak to an exhibitor sales rep. Many of these same exhibitors are online (on Twitter), posting news and inviting on-site attendees to come visit their booth. If you’d like to obtain more information from an exhibitor, engage with them on Twitter – chances are they’ll respond back and get you connected to the right people.

6) Interact with onsite attendees by answering their questions.

Whether you’re 50 or 5,000 miles away, you can still be a valuable resource to the on-site attendees. How? By answering questions they might have. Provide a meaningful answer and you’ll likely pick up a few followers, too.

7) Learn about important industry news and announcements.

Whether it’s an award, an exhibitor product announcement or news of a new industry partnership, chances are you’ll hear about it on Twitter.

8) Watch live video from the show floor.

Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have known about the live video interviews that were being conducted from IMEX America’s show floor.

9) Listen to a show’s podcasts as well.

Meetings Podcast, hosted by Mike McAllen and Jon Trask, was the official podcaster for IMEX America ’12. And how did I know that a new episode was up on the site? On Twitter, of course!

10) Discover recaps of the show’s happenings.

A great complement to the “Twitter commentary” are blog summaries that can go beyond 140 characters. Here’s an example of a great daily recap published by Anne Thornley-Brown on the Cvent blog.

Conclusion

I thought I’d conclude this post in 140 characters (or less):

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


10 Lead Generation Tips for Digital Events

January 12, 2012

Introduction

At Virtual Edge Summit / PCMA Convening Leaders in San Diego, I gave a Learning Lounge talk titled “Digital Events: 10 Tips for Generating Leads for Your Exhibitors.”

Ten Lead Generation Tips

My ten tips are:

  1. Content Marketing (You).
  2. Content Marketing (Your Exhibitors).
  3. Social Media (You).
  4. Social Media (Your Exhibitors).
  5. Leverage Speakers for promotion.
  6. Utilize social sharing buttons.
  7. Start promoting early.
  8. Leverage your partners.
  9. Issue a press release.
  10. Supplement with paid media.

The Presentation

Here are the slides from my presentation.


Introducing Virtual Trade Show 2.0

May 7, 2011

Photo credit: “LAUNCH Music Conference” on flickr.

Introduction

In the virtual extension of this booth (above), will I be able to play all those cool-looking guitars?

Previously, I wrote about ways in which the physical event experience can be brought to virtual events.  Then, I attended one of the world’s largest and most prominent trade shows, NAB Show in Las Vegas.  Based on that experience, I’ve concluded that there’s so much more that virtual trade shows should be offering.

There’s nothing quite like the face-to-face experience of a physical trade show. Whether you’re producing a 100% virtual trade show or providing a digital extension to your physical trade show, I build upon my previous  post to consider additional ways to bring face-to-face experiences online.  That’s right, it’s Virtual Trade Show 2.0.

Private Meeting Rooms for Key Clients & Prospects

Physical trade shows are great for providing TLC for your VIP (“tender love & care” for your “very important people”).  When your executives invite key prospects, clients or partners into a private meeting room, it results in some “intimacy” (away from the hustle and bustle of your booth) and it signals to visitors that they’re important. In this way, trade shows are great for establishing, and then developing relationships.

In a virtual trade show, private meeting rooms could be a feature for premium-level exhibitor sponsorships. They’d allow you to have “multi party” dialog (i.e. your executives and your visitors), in an area that’s separate from the virtual booth.  To encourage the “intimacy,” all parties should be encouraged to enable their webcam, so that they can be seen and heard. Sight and sound builds relationships better than the keyboard.

Touch and Feel the Products


What do you sell?” – in a virtual trade show, you explain your product offerings – or, you point to documents and links in your booth. In a physical trade show, you bring your products to the prospects and have them touch and feel them. Throughout NAB Show, exhibitors were doing demos of their software, removing line cards from servers and showing off their latest chips, devices and doo-dads.

Virtual trade shows need to provide a better “touch and feel” experience.  Exhibitors should have the capability of placing 2D, interactive representations of their products in their virtual booth and allow exhibit staff to show visitors how the product works.  To date, virtual trade shows are all about the “tell”, but they should move to the “show and tell” and then the “show, tell and play.”

Relevant Technologies

Some technologies that may enable this include Equipment Simulations, LLC – check out their LiveDrive demo, which allows you to interact with a fire engine.  Another technology to watch is Kaon v-Stream – Kaon pioneered the use of interactive kiosks and v-Stream now enables a similar experience, delivered over the web.

Exhibitors Make an Impact by Delivering Core Services

Too often in virtual trade shows, there’s a “wall” that separates the core elements of the show from the exhibitors. The problem here is that exhibitors “fund” the show, which means that the show won’t go on without happy exhibitors.  As such, exhibitors ought to be integrated into the experience, so that they become “core” to the show.

As an example, the image (above) is not the food court at NAB Show. It’s one half of an exhibitor’s booth!  Judging by the crowd that stopped by for a bite or a drink, this exhibitor became a “core element.”  And you can bet that after many visitors finished their snack, they walked across the way to learn more about the exhibitor’s products and services.

Virtual trade show producers will need to find ways to integrate exhibitors into the core experience, without allowing the exhibitors to be too promotional (it’s a delicate balance).  Sponsoring a “virtual food court” would be one thing, but having exhibitor staff “hound” all visitors with private chat requests would not be wise.

Conclusion

Trade shows have a rich history that goes back hundreds (thousands?) of years.  Virtual trade shows have a history of less than ten years. It’s time to draw upon history to help shape the future.  Leave a comment below and share your thoughts on how you’d design virtual trade show 2.0!


Top 3 Ways To Improve Virtual Event Experiences

July 30, 2010

We need to create better and more engaging virtual event experiences.  We need to better approximate the valuable face-to-face encounters and experiences that physical events create.

1: Create a stronger feeling of “there”

There’s nothing like walking into an over-crowded trade show floor and hearing the buzz of attendees and exhibitors.  It’s similar to walking into a popular restaurant or bar.  The buzz permeates the environment.  If I were to login to the world’s most popular virtual event, there’s hardly an indicator to tell me so.

The closest thing we have today is a list of avatars (also known as profile images) in a given event area.  If I see a long list of other attendees listed, then I know the area is quite popular and there must be something going on (e.g. perhaps there’s a live chat session occurring).  Beyond that, it’s hard to tell that “there’s a ‘there’ there”.

To address this, event platforms and event planners should consider augmenting the experience with sensory stimulation.  The two relevant senses are sight and sound.  With sight, one could imagine  “heat maps” that signal to attendees where the action lies.  Or, animation to direct users to a popular area – or, that something is important is happening in a given location.

Incorporating sound can be a challenge in a B2B environment, since many users mute their computer speakers while at work.  So perhaps one uses visuals to encourage attendees to enable their sound.  Then, platforms could “inject” show floor chatter into the environment, adjusting the level of intensity based on the amount of activity or people present.

Better yet, platforms could allow attendees to speak into a common audio channel.  If I’m in the Networking Lounge, I’m then able to converse with others (via audio) in addition to text chat.  Perhaps the system allows for comment moderation, so that one person is enabled to speak at any one time (a challenge that takes care of itself when folks assemble in person).

2: Create stronger person-to-person interactions

Text chat is great, but virtual events need to go beyond text to create richer and more engaging person-to-person interactions.  That means audio (as outlined above) as well as video.  Bandwidth availability varies depending on where you’re located – but if you have sufficient bandwidth, virtual events should allow you to network and connect with others the “old fashioned way” – with a smile, a greeting and a hello.  Not with a “LOL” or a smiley.

In addition, virtual event experiences need to better enable a community to form.  This is done with effective tools to connect like-minded individuals – and, applications to encourage and foster person-to-person interactions (e.g. blogging, status updates, etc.).

3: Use imagery to strike a deeper emotional connection

In any event experience (whether physical or virtual), imagery can be used to strike a deep, emotional connection with attendees.  In a virtual event, we all too often create this effect:

That is, the imagery that may create that emotional connection is covered by functional elements overlaid on top.  What you’re left with is edges of the “pretty picture” – that is, the small segments that are not covered by the functional elements.  A few options to address this:

Combine imagery and function

Build the functional elements into the imagery.  For Flash-based platforms, the images and the functional areas occupy the same SWF.  There are cost and “repeatability” considerations in going this route, so other options can be considered.

Determine function element placement up front

Before the creative team designs an image, determine what functional elements are included in the event area.  Size these elements (by pixel counts) and then have the creative team design around that.  For instance, if you’re designing at a width of 1024 pixels and you embed a chat window 512 pixels wide, then you have 256 pixels on each side of the chat area.

Have your designers make the most of each 256-pixel segment, rather than designing an elaborate image that has its most compelling 512 pixels covered and never seen.

Conclusion

I’ve listed 3 ways that virtual event experiences can be improved.  Drop a comment below to let us know how you’d improve virtual events.

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The Importance Of The Virtual Event Debrief

August 30, 2009

postevent_review

Philosopher and essayist George Santayana was quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  With virtual events, the “past” is fairly recent.  However, the spirit of Santayana’s quote holds true – we need to learn from our prior virtual event in order to make the next one better.

In the virtual events I’ve worked on, the conclusion of the virtual event is very much like crossing the finish line of a marathon – you’ve worked and trained hard and now it’s time to unwind, rest and relax.  The team that worked on a virtual event often has to move on to “the next project”, without much time to reflect on the event that just concluded.  As a virtual event show host, it’s your job to round up the team for a debrief meeting – you’ve all completed the marathon, but now it’s time for the half-mile cool-down jog to reflect back on the race.

The keys to a virtual event debrief:

  1. Define, measure and review virtual event goals and metrics – the first step in the debrief has to occur prior to the start of the project.  During or before your kick-off meeting, you and your team need to define the goals of the virtual event – and the associated metrics that you’ll use to quantify those goals.  Whether it’s “maximize sponsorship revenue”, “maximize user engagement” or “generate leads for exhibitors”, you’ll want to define measurable and non-subjective data points to serve as the basis of your virtual event report card.  So the first segment of the debrief is to review the data (i.e. the measured metrics).
  2. Review what worked – a combination of the metrics results – and, more subjective/anecdotal feedback regarding the overall event.  The key here is to understand why (or how) it worked and determine whether you want to repeat that success in your next event.  For the most part, what works in one virtual event should be carried over into the next.
  3. Review what didn’t work – again, a combination of metrics plus anecdotal feedback.  This is one of the most important components of the debrief – be honest in your assessments of what didn’t work – so that you are not “condemned to repeat it”.  My experience has been that when things don’t work, the reasons are usually “not enough lead time” / “too rushed”, “communications mix-up”, “human error” and “mismatch in expectations”.  Another category is “technology issue”.  I believe that all of these are correctable, with technology being the most straightforward and human error / communication / lead time being a bit trickier to nail down.
  4. Review and judge your constituents’ experiences – different event types will have difference constituents.  In a virtual tradeshow, the constituents include yourself (show host), attendees, exhibitors and presenters.  You may want to ask each constituent to complete a survey that’s specific to their experience.  Did attendees find the content useful?  How about the event experience – was it easy to navigate?  Did exhibitors have meaningful interactions with attendees?  For speakers, did they find the webcasting presenters’ interface intuitive?  Each constituent in a virtual event is important – if they were not 100% satisfied in this event, make it a goal to achieve 100% in the next event.

With the growth we’re seeing in this industry, chances are that when one virtual event concludes, you’re rushing off to your next one.  My recommendation is to stop and take a breath.  Take the time to gather the team and do a debrief.  Then, document the debrief and be sure to review it before you start planning the next event.


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