Meet Windows Azure Event

Most of our technology here at EventDay is cloud based, and that cloud is none other than Windows Azure. Responsible for streaming video for the NFL and the Olympics (for real), Windows Azure is a computing powerhouse.

That’s why we came to San Francisco to help the Microsoft team introduce new product rollouts, celebrate the successes thus far and throw one heckuva event for partners, customers and fans alike.

While the event is long sold out, all the important parts will be live streamed.

After a day spent affixing dog tags to recycled bike tire bags and sorting cool sweatshirts, the EventDay team is looking forward to running registration tomorrow. We’ll be scanning QR codes, crossing names off lists, affixing wrist bands and awarding prizes to luck attendees.

And yes, even the bosses helped with this one.

Tune in at 1pm Pacific!

Do lectures still matter?

For years, most events have worked in one of two ways. Either they’re set up like a tradeshow with multiple booths and attractions arranged so attendees can visit each one as they peruse the facility, or there are a planned series of lectures that require attendees to be in a certain place at a certain time.

The latter isn’t good for much. Sure, lectures are great ways to cover material. They are excellent in showing off the speaker’s ability to present information in an interesting way. Lectures are also very good at boring an audience to near death, or worse, preventing them from learning important information that may take more than a slide, clever picture and a bullet point to get across.

Audience at TEDxDU 2011 Salon

Jeff Hurt also thinks lectures are fairly useless. Calling them a “wimpy model for learning“, Hurt likens a typical event lecture as effective as handing out a report to everyone in the audience — if you’re lucky, both! — without any sort of interaction, continued learning or different perspective that could assist attendees in retaining as much as they can.

What can be done to make lectures less report-like and more interactive? Try these things:

Ask Discussion Questions
Strong speakers know their presentations are about the audience, not them, so why not ask discussion questions for later review? While not every answer can be reviewed in the room, surely a question or two will spark greater conversation that can be handled off-site after the presenter is off stage. Bonus points for questions that require people to work together.

Use Real-World Examples
Fancy metaphors and adapted nursery rhymes a fancy presentation make, but sometimes too clever is also too complicated. Speakers that use real-world examples stand a greater chance of connecting with the audience, especially if they reach outside their personal experiences and share something from an audience member (colleague, client, boss).

Ask Yourself If What You’re Saying Matters
Is there a call to action during the lecture? Could an attendee take the information from the lecture and use it to do something? Why not? What else do they need in order to do so?

The more you connect with attendees on a personal level, the better your information will be retained. Save the lectures for the boring speakers, okay?

Gen Y And The Future Of Collaborative Conferences

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While digital hasn’t yet killed analog, there’s no question the rise of intangible goods/services with reproduction cost near zero has allowed event organizers to broaden both their information offerings and the geographic accessibility of conferences.

Just like ebooks, nearly every calendar program and too much software (dubbed skeuomorph — Apple is horribly guilty of this), much of what we’re already doing online is a digital copy of an analog process.

Think…

iPads as demo tools
Digital signage
Webinars
Live streaming
Twitter hashtags
Google Hangouts

All of the previous are good things, but they aren’t quite the leap forward many of us have been expecting. While we’re proud of our technology that combines smartphone apps with printed QR codes, we know that this is only a start in making conferences better, more productive and perhaps most importantly, cheaper/more cost effective.

To The Rescue?
That’s where Gen Y, the sharing economy and collaborative consumption come in. This generation has grown up with handheld technology, sees the collaborative consumption patterns as not only part of the recent recession but as an integral part of their formative years and generally understands that stuff matters far less than experiences.

Is it really digital VERSUS analog?
Some might think that Gen Y will eventually kill the conference, as they would rather use Facebook and other digital means to stay in touch, but we disagree. What Gen Y will do is turn away from the usually excessive waste of typical conferences in favor of smaller, more people focused events that focus on interaction and experiences, rather than information and advertising.

If you’re an event organizer that’s fighting this, if you think your pay/commission is going to take a hit because of ever-lowering profit margins and if your analog waste doesn’t back down from obscene levels, we think you won’t be around very much longer.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still time to evolve.

Let’s do this together.