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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 .

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Case Study: Trade Show Lead Generation with American Express OPEN

April 26, 2011

Introduction

At NAB Show 2011 in Las Vegas, American Express OPEN (@OPENForum) created a game-based attraction in a lobby area that generated nearly a thousand (my estimate) sales leads.  Attendees were invited to play a Memory Match game, with an iPad 2 awarded to each day’s top performer. Read further for my thoughts on what made their approach so effective.

How They Attracted a Crowd

At any trade show, whether it’s physical or virtual, you want to attract a crowd to your space (or booth). To attract interest, location sure helps. The OPEN attraction was located in the lobby, right beyond the entrance and adjacent to the Information Desk.  Location goes only so far, however – you need to give attendees a reason to walk over to see what’s going on. OPEN achieved this with a prominent physical structure, along with an engaging host.

The host engaged simultaneously with the player and the audience, rooting the player along, while playing things up to the crowd, to generate excitement. Since the host spoke into a microphone, he garnered the attention of attendees who were walking by.

How They Tapped Into Attendees’ Competitive Juices

The brilliance of OPEN’s Memory Match game was the “score” (the time it took you to complete all matches – the lower the time, the better) and the leaderboard.  If the top score was “35 seconds,” then each contestant knew that they had to beat 35 seconds in order to win the iPad 2 (or, at least to attain the top spot on the leaderboard).

With a typical booth giveaway, you drop your business card in a fishbowl and hope that your name gets picked. The OPEN giveaway was different, because it tapped into the competitive spirit in all of us.  Contestants feel like they can control their destiny, unlike the random pick out of a bowl.  And, they’re presented with a clear goal in mind.

The game dynamic created a byproduct: an intense amount of excitement each time someone set the new “record”.  A woman who obtained the top time of the day jumped and screamed her way off the platform, as the crowd roared. It was like Tiger Woods sinking a birdie putt at The Majors – and, it drew further interest from passersby.

How They Captured Leads

Before beginning the Memory Match game, contestants needed to enter their information on the game console – the process was quite similar to filling out a registration page.  While leads from viewers (in the “audience”) were presumably not captured, all attendees who played the Memory Match left their name and contact information.  By providing a fun experience to visitors, OPEN can expect a stronger response from sales prospects compared to a more conventional show presence (i.e. without the game).

How They Provided Instant Gratification

Only a single visitor would win the iPad 2 each day, which means that 99% of visitors would go home empty handed. Not so with OPEN: they occasionally handed out $10 Starbucks cards to those contestants who showed their AmEx card. A great way to send visitors away happy, and to reinforce the notion that “membership has its privileges.”

Conclusion: Apply This to Your Virtual or Physical Trade Show Booth

Things to consider for your next trade show, whether it’s virtual or physical:

  1. Figure out how to attract attention.
  2. Tap into the competitive spirit of your visitors.
  3. Make sure your visitors have fun.
  4. Make sure a portion of your visitors leave happy.
  5. Optimize your lead gathering process.

What Virtual Events Can Learn From Groupon, Quora and FarmVille

December 18, 2010

Introduction

Successful web sites provide a great opportunity: the chance to study what makes them successful and apply those learnings to your own websites or applications.  In 2010, three of the “most talked about” web sites were Groupon, Quora and FarmVille (though FarmVille is more a discrete app, rather than a web site).  Let’s consider how some of their concepts can be applied to virtual event experiences.

Groupon


Groupon is said to be in the local advertising space, but they’re really much more than that.  They’ve hit the mark with a group buying phenomenon (using bulk purchasing to drive down prices) combined with creative and entertaining email copy that keeps subscribers eager to receive the next day’s email.

Groupon, which serves local businesses, segments their offering by geography.  So I might subscribe via San Jose, CA and receive offers from merchants who are near me.  But the Groupon model could certainly apply to national or even global brands.

Group Viewing at Virtual Trade Shows

Now, let’s consider a common dynamic at virtual trade shows.  Exhibitors (sponsors) would like to get their message across to attendees, while attendees are resistant to hearing unsolicited product pitches.

How can you “arbitrate” this situation?  Consider Groupon, where the “daily deal” only registers when a certain number of users agree to purchase the item(s).  Here’s how it might work with sponsor presentations (webinars) at a virtual trade show:

  1. Five sponsors list their webinar title in the trade show Auditorium
  2. Each sponsor is “on alert”, ready to begin broadcasting their live presentation
  3. No presentation begins until it receives 50 (or more) viewers
  4. The presentation continues, only if it can continually sustain 35 simultaneous viewers – if it drops below 35 viewers for more than 5 minutes, the presentation closes

Benefits

  1. Puts portions of the presentation agenda in the hands of attendees
  2. Forces sponsors to present on relevant topics
  3. Forces sponsors to “deliver what they sold” with regard to the presentation
  4. Ups the overall quality of sponsor presentations, as sponsors need to both “sell” the topic and sustain the audience

Quora

Quora is “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.”  Question and Answer (Q&A) services have been around for some time. Quora has picked up steam in 2010 due to the quality of the members participating (e.g. some of the leading thinkers on the web – and in Silicon Valley).

In virtual events, experts and leading thinkers in a particular industry have gathered online.  They can listen to featured experts (e.g. the presenters), but the event doesn’t fully extract and share the collective knowledge of those assembled. If done right, a Q&A service layered on top of a virtual event can be quite useful.

In fact, let’s consider a related Q&A service, Aardvark, which is now part of Google.  With Aardvark, “you email or instant-message your question to Aardvark, it figures out around half a dozen people you know who might have a good answer, then emails or IMs them for a response and sends what they say back to you.” (source: VentureBeat article).

A virtual event platform could implement a “Quora meets Aardvark” model, whereby questions are distributed to online attendees – and answers are fed back in semi-real-time.  Questions (and their answers) could be shared not only with the requester – but, all attendees, based on their selection of particular topics.

FarmVille

On the surface, FarmVille is about planting your virtual crops and tending to your virtual farm.  But below the surface, its “power” is in the psychological reward of achieving success in something you take pride in.  It’s the same dynamic that fuels entrepreneurs (who take pride in their businesses) and Twitter power users (who take pride in their following).

As virtual events shift from “point in time” live events to “365 day communities”, the challenge becomes how to sustain an ongoing and active community – who will visit the environment on days where absolutely nothing is scheduled.  It’s the same challenge Zynga had – how do you incent farmers to tend to their virtual farm each day?

Virtual Farm Meets Virtual Community

For virtual communities, there needs to be a parallel to that virtual farm – an abstraction that allows members to feel psychological reward when they’ve done something meaningful.  Ideas include:

  1. Elevated  member profiles. Turn the “vanilla” user profile of today into the parallel of the virtual farm
  2. “Pimp my space”. Exhibitors get to build booths – now, allow attendees the freedom to create their own spaces and receive ratings on them
  3. Leverage “status badges” on the profiles – but ensure that demand consistently outstrips supply
  4. “Rate the ratings” – allow members to rate the worthiness of a rating (a la Amazon.com, and “Was this review helpful to you?”) – top rated members receive elevated status in the community
  5. Prominent Leaderboards related to particular activities, games, etc. – these can be a tremendous draw, as users continually return to check on their position on the board

Conclusion

Groupon, Quora and FarmVille have taught us some valuable lessons.  The rising demand for virtual events tells us something as well.  Aardvark may have hit upon the right model – in which they combined social collaboration with a real-time (or semi-real-time) component.  Perhaps Grouopon and the like have something to “learn” from virtual as well.


Event Planners “Check In” To Location Based Services

July 26, 2010

Introduction

Due to the rising popularity of Foursquare, Gowalla and related apps, location based services (LBS) is quite the buzzword both in consumer and technology circles.  Logically, the ability to “check in” at venues, connect with friends/associates and make new contacts has relevance to events and event planners.

Let’s highlight some of last week’s articles and blog postings on this topic.

Trade Show News Network

Michelle Bruno (@michellebruno) wrote an article in Trade Show News Network (@TSNN_com_US) titled “Checking Out ‘Checking In’ for Events“.  The article references Foursquare and Gowalla and then profiles a technology provider named Double Dutch.  According to its web site, Double Dutch provides “White label geolocation apps for your brand”.

Michelle references a key point regarding hybrid events, in which event planners support both physical and virtual venues.  Michelle writes, “If a virtual event is also taking place, live attendees can check in at the online and offline events for more recognition”.

Tracking and supporting check-ins across physical and virtual locations can build a more cohesive and compelling hybrid event.  In fact, it can serve to bridge the physical and virtual venues.

Virtual event platforms should look into this.  In fact, I blogged about location based services and virtual events previously.

Cisco Live

In Cisco’s Virtual Environments blog, Dannette Veale (@dveale) writes about virtual technologies that Cisco has incorporated into their Cisco Live (@CiscoLive) annual conference.  The 2010 Cisco Live event concluded recently – the physical component was hosted in Las Vegas, while a virtual component ran concurrently.

Disclosure: My employer (@INXPO) provided the virtual platform for Cisco Live

Dannette describes an innovative use  of Foursquare by Cisco Live’s event planners – a type of scavenger hunt, in which conference attendees received a clue (via social media channels) about a check-in location.  The first 75 attendees to check in at that location (and complete an additional task) would receive buttons, which could be used to redeem a daily prize at the Cisco Store.

The contest generated 802 checkins and allowed conference attendees to network and make connections with one another.

SCVNGR (Mashable)

SCVNGR, “a game about doing challenges at places”, this week announced the social check-in.  Two or more users can bump phones (or, wave them at each other in close proximity) and check in at the same time and place.  There are many ways event planners can leverage this technology.

In a trade show, attendees could be encouraged to perform social check-ins with each other – or, with exhibitors.  In a user conference, the social check-in could be used as a back-drop to a game that encouraged attendees to network with one another.  In a corporate setting, social check-ins could be used to encourage team building.

Conclusion

The concepts of “check ins”, location awareness and location tracking have natural uses for events.  While they’re a great fit for physical events, think about tie-ins between physical and virtual for your hybrid event.  And, think about ways in which “location tracking” (in a virtual event) can create connections, engagement and interaction.

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