Controlling Your Event – Social Media At The Olympics

Think Olympic coverage was outrageous before? Consider the uber-popular ESPN article about sex in the Olympic Village to be the pinnacle of reality or tabloid coverage of a live event?

You ain’t seen nothing yet, as social media is finally at the forefront of our Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is ready with a four-page PDF rulebook governing what athletes can and can’t do regarding their social media accounts while participating in the Olympic games.

Part of me thinks this is outrageous, that dictating how people use their personal Twitter accounts is way too far. But the pragmatic side wins out, as the Olympic sponsors, media and other moneyed parties have paid the athletes’s way into the games, so they should be able to have power in the messaging emanating from the games.

But starting July 27, we’ll see how well these regulations work, and just how many athletes feel the need to flaunt the rules. Here’s why I think they’ll be just fine:

First-Person Perspective
The IOC’s rules are pretty easy to follow.

“…any such postings, blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist – i.e. they must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organisation. A tweet is regarded in this respect as a short blog and the same guidelines are in effect, again, in first-person, diary-type format.
Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images.”

This sounds pretty fair. Seems the IOC wants the participants only to share their personal experiences and not act as trusted information sources. Bet most event planners would agree.

Don’t Sell Photographs
All Olympians can take pictures, but they can’t sell them. No argument here.

The rules state that any video or audio taken inside Olympic Venues recordings must be for personal use and not be uploaded or shared. We’re okay with this, too. While footage may leak out, it’s good to know that not EVERYTHING will be broadcast.

No Using Logos, No Promotion
Athletes aren’t allowed to use Olympic images, nor can they sign individual deals to promote companies through social media. Can you hear the cheering about not having to worry about promoted tweets from athletes during the games? I can, in my head. Hopefully the Kardashians follow these rules, too.

Christopher Craft, guest posting at Convince and Convert, had a few more points to share about Socialympics.

A Memorable Conference

It’s not a trivial request to ask for someone’s time, but event planners do it all the time. We ask people to take time to plan for our events, travel to our events, attend our events and hopefully talk about our events. Sometimes we take hours, sometimes we take days or weeks, and with this comes a responsibility to make sure that time was spent well.

We want to make a memorable conference. Maybe we want that because we want to sell you things or tell your friends or other selfish reasons, but all that requires the time we ask of you to be worth remembering.

ears and light

After reading The best interface is no interface, and a Conferences That Work article about movies, we think conferences need three things to be memorable: a reason to show up, an action to perform while there and something to take away.

Why Are You Here?
While the subhead may also be mankind’s biggest question, in our context we’re looking for how a memorable conference attracts an audience. Most of the community events we throw feature technology industry leaders, but we know they aren’t really the attraction, it’s the interaction attendees crave. Knowing this reminds us how important audience participation and even interaction to our event, which leads us to think about the next step in making a memorable conference.

Perform An Action.
We have you here, you’ve paid your money, brought resources and that’s a schedule in your hand/on your smartphone, so what happens next? At a memorable conference, we’d have a series of small demonstrations throughout the registration area to encourage attendees to walk around and talk to each other. There’s often coffee or something to grab, but never any tables for eating or working.

There’s enough sitting at unmemorable conferences, and sitting usually means at least analog inaction, so we like to keep registration areas as active as possible. Ice breaker activities do sometimes work, as long as you don’t expect a huge turn out.

Take Something Away!
Whether it’s something physical like a packet full of information about product and services they’ll like, plans to get together with potential clients or colleagues or even just a general feeling of “wow! Now I can finally finish _______”, be sure to incorporate a call to action for the entire memorable conference.

In story terms, this is what the hero learns, or releases, or gains from. In advertising terms, it’s the hook. In our terms, it’s what made our conference memorable.

What’s making your conference memorable?

How To Make Sure Your Audience Doesn’t Turn Into A Mob

There’s nothing worse than a large crowd of people with no clear direction. From unorganized lines to long waits to get into session rooms, audiences packed closely together for long periods of time can get restless, irritated and, eventually, destructive.

This kind of powder keg possibility in your audience usually happens in a few specific places, most notably the registration area, in areas outside popular presentations, and during networking events (often for drinks). While eliminating long lines will likely never happen for most events, read on for a few tips on how we’d handle the aforementioned situations before they overwhelm your staff and facilities.

Long Lines At Registration
Pre-printed badges, pre-made brochures and registration giveaways seem like a great value add for conference attendees. While some large events have the space to accommodate 5-25 lines, your audience likely won’t act as you hope. Last year’s SXSW again featured long waits for everything (though cholera didn’t break out) because of outdate organization techniques that required every registrant to wait in line for a badge.

Now, if everything went as planned and people showed up at staggered times, this idea is brilliant, but we all know that seldom happens. Because of this, we like to use mobile-based check ins to alleviate the long shuffle. This also works for small conferences with limited space, as staff can walk the lines scanning QR or bar codes instead of waiting for each person to make it to the desk.

Outside Popular Presentations
We’ve heard stories galore about the HOURS of waiting many attendees endure before popular Comic-Con panels. While organizers seem unwilling to set aside passes for each panel, perhaps a check-in system would be a better choice for these type of presentations.

Disneyland uses a Fast Pass system that allows riders to come back when the lines are lesser, which could work if organizers were willing to stage panels more than once throughout the day.

Lines For The Bar
Simplify your alcohol offerings. One clear liquor, one dark, one light beer, one not as light, red and white wine plus one fruit juice and one soda mixer should speed up turnover considerably. Drink tickets help too, but don’t do much to alleviate initial lines. Perhaps free liquor should be on its way out?

If all else fails, bring cash. It certainly works for restaurants and clubs!

Tradeshows Must Establish More Than Digital Relationships

Cubicle Hell

There are some that think trade shows are dead and will soon cease to exist. We don’t agree, but we do think that digital-only interactions have very much reduced the real reason most of us attend tradeshows, conferences and seminars:

To interact with people.

Not just exchanging business cards or scanning QR codes on badges, but to wine, dine, and find out more about what makes us similar instead of different.

It’s true, shows such as CES (the granddaddy of tech events) shrunk by 22% last year. Even the rabid following Macworld enjoys has declined, too. While venue changes, lineup alterations and vendors pulling out can be attributed for at least part of this, we think the real problem is something different.

Most tradeshows just aren’t that fun anymore.

Before we could find anything online, tradeshows were an integral experience to hold new products, chat with experts and see how this year’s GPS units compare to last year’s or the competition. The floors looked more like 3D catalogs rather than thriving hives of chatter and hands-on learning. Here’s what we’d like to see from any large gathering of like-minded people in the future:

Attendee-centered agendas
Starting at 7am with a short morning break and a quick lunch followed by a loooooong afternoon of presentations and floor walking isn’t enticing to most attendees. While there’s always a desire to fit in as much as possible to events, how much can people possibly remember and process if force fed 6-10 hours straight?

Smaller venues
We concede that it’s hard to turn a profit in small venues, as fewer people equals fewer tickets sold equals fewer sponsorship dollars. Our solution? Make your event more enticing to attend, then charge more.

Live-streaming screens
Want to make sure people stand together and talk to each other? Mount a TV on a wall and show something interesting. It works for bars, so why not broadcast feeds from other areas of the conference, saving attendees the hassle of hoofing it from one room to another while ignoring everything else around them.

Are Online Events Useful?

First there was uStream, then FaceTime, then YouTube Live and Google+ Hangouts. In the future, we’ll likely have always-on holograms capable of reacting just as a real person would.

In the future, we may never have to leave our desks to have face-to-face meetings, we’ll just put on our Google Glasses, fire up our full-body scanners and congregate in ephemeral worlds clad in avatars just like Snow Crash and the Matrix and virtually high-five in our online events.

But will it feel real? As Morpheus said, “What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

But until we have that kind of technology, we’re going to experiment with what we can do. Events like Jeff Goins’ Wrecked book tour are a fantastic look at what could work, what will likely work, and what exactly it means to have a tribe of dedicated fans/attendees/followers willing to try something a little different with an online event.

What makes a good online event? Here are a few things we’d like to see from anyone hosting an event digitally:

Agenda – far too many online hangouts lack agendas, meaning the host either talks to themselves, or answers halfhearted questions throughout the audience. We believe that the most useful events have agendas and goals, along with a host unafraid to keep people moving along.

Faces – with so many computers built with webcams, broadcasting ourselves is easy, but broadcasting it well is not. Guys like ePublishUnum’s Evo Terra buy specific external webcams to be able to look directly into the lens and emote all the way through your screen.

Audio – your built-in mike isn’t good enough, nor are your iPhone headphones. Quality microphones and headsets can he had for around $100, and they improve sound quality considerable. We haven’t found wireless mics to be clear enough for most online events, but they soon will be.

Timing – time zones make scheduling difficult, but this can be alleviated by planning multiple events. Try an early one for the East Coast, and another in the evening for the West Coast. We’d also love to see presenters narrate their slides using something like LoopLogic, which gives us the ability to time-shift content.

See you online!

Social Media Stunts For Fun And…?

It’s tough to gain people’s attention these days. With so many entertainment opportunities available via computer, TV, tablet and smartphone, sometimes getting them out of their home or office and into town to an event is a feat in itself.

LOUD speaker

Make no mistake, most event planners (major sports certainly have this issue) aren’t competing with other entertainment options, they’re competing with high-speed internet, 42″+ TVs and DVRs. Many sports fans have recently realized that special TV packages provide better views, less hassle and cost less than season or even game tickets, so is it any surprise that the events world may soon tangle with this very problem?

The answer for years has been stunts. In the sports world, these are giveaway nights, after-game concerts, and, in the past, ‘flying’ records and cheap beer. While we’ll likely never forget such stunts, they didn’t do much to get more fans in seats. Promotional stunts, either via analog or digital means, need to be treated with a heckuva lot of care for them to be more successful than the previous ‘what not to dos’ aforementioned.

Is It Repeatable? Scalable?
Jay Baer of relays a recent story about Doubletree sending a four year old birthday gifts during a recent stay. Yes, it was touching and yes, the video received millions of page views, but besides a few minutes of feeling good, what does something like that do for the brand?

Is it going to make me more likely to stay in a Doubletree? Likely not.
Does it make the Doubletree more event friendly? Only if they’re willing to seriously scale their offer.
Did it do any good? We doubt it.

Does it lead to industry betterment?
Ryan Holiday, media manipulator and American Apparel marketing guy, recently conducted a stunt of his own. In an effort to either drum up publicity for his new book Trust Me I’m Lying or simply an altruistic attempt to out lazy journalists, Holiday duped HARO reporters using a variety of stories.

While there was definitely a lesson to be learned from his actions, did the stunt itself help anyone but Holiday himself? Businesses need take this in mind whenever they think about planning a stunt, as fooling your audience by showing off how clever you are could backfire.

Will it hurt?
Peter Shankman’s recounting of kicking a soccer ball filled with concrete — that’s not a joke — brings to mind, as Shankman mentioned, Charlie Brown repeatedly whiffing attempts to kick a football. While cartoon violence can be funny, how hard are you going to laugh when a colleague has to wear a cast for weeks after kicking an immovable object?

Thank god the PR industry hasn’t gone this route…yet.

Have you seen any worthwhile stunts? Let us know!

QR Codes As Admittance Stamps?

We love QR codes. From checking in attendees to sharing information with vendors, QR codes and their cheap-to-create smartphone readers has allowed companies like ours to save time, resources and a whole lot of lost business cards.

While we’ve all seen QR codes used somewhat inappropriately on billboards, campaign signs and other places where it’s near impossible to whip out a smartphone and scan, this simple technology can’t be beat when used effectively.

QRandom 256

Because QR codes can be customized quickly and cheaply, there’s no limit on what they can be used to do. The following is a list of usage ideas we’ve either seen or implemented ourselves.

Time-Sensitive QR Codes
Sometimes boring hand stamps are just that: boring. We’ve seen far too many events and bars choose the plainest of stamps with apparently no thought about tying that image into marketing or advertising campaigns. But New Delhi bar Turquoise Cottage sees them as far more useful.

During the evening, scanning the QR codes took patrons to specific landing pages for special deals for that night, tips on after parties, and cab companies.

During the day, patrons could use the QR codes for hangover remedies and reminders for the next night’s party schedule.

Check-In/Print Badge
We’re particularly fond of using a QR code to quickly check attendees in and have their badges ready for them at the registration table. Instead of waiting in line for minutes and hours to check people in one at a time (or more, if you have the tables and space), we grab an iOS or Android device with attached camera and walk down the line, scanning QR codes that we’ve sent attendees ahead of time.

Whether they’ve printed their tickets or left them on their smartphone, our QR code readers work quickly to send their information to our servers and back to a registration laptop connected to one of up to four label printers. If it sounds like magic, we’ll admit it does feel a bit like that at times.

Contact Information Swap
For years huge trade shows made a killing renting out handheld scanners that could read attendee information from badges, saving both sides the hassle of transporting and storing business cards. While we don’t fault the companies making a living doing this, the proprietary software and expensive hardware made too many people shy away — especially small businesses, who likely spent most of their budget reserving the booth for the show.

We’ve solved that. Available on iOS and Android, the same basic software we use to check in attendees via QR codes can be used to scan and record attendee data for vendors. No renting special equipment, just any iOS or Android device, a quick scan of a special QR code and some codes to enter.

Long live QR codes!

Public Conference, Private Content?

Rustic Railroad Tracks

Rustic Railroad Tracks BlogPic from WinePress of Words.

Many public and a few private organizations would do well to be transparent in their business dealings. Whether it’s sharing public data, exposing the steps used in building lasting relationships, or simply allowing their source code (or company secret sauce) to be tinkered with and improved, transparency can do wonders.

But Adrian Segar of Conferences That Work thinks that this may not be a good thing. Our oversharing, always on, and broadcast everything approach using digital tools has certainly increased exposure for conference presenters, but has it decreased value?

A recent edAccess conference seems to think that DECREASING information shared with the masses is a better tactic than the opposite. With numerous privacy concerns — students they serve and their co-workers, faculty, and assorted staff — it’s a wonder that more conferences haven’t gone this route.

While we’re not condemning social media and sharing/collaborative cultures, there are plenty of topics that just aren’t suited for a wide audience, as no amount of digital security will ease the worries of presenters that show up to discuss sensitive topics.

Best to not record at all, right? What better security could there be if there’s no one live tweeting, live streaming, or furiously taking notes to share with the world?

But for conference organizers, this greatly diminishes the resale value of content produced at these kind of events. No longer can they make any of their money back selling recorded conference sessions, which could lead to higher attendee prices and increased sponsorship needs.

From an attendee’s perspective, this approach seems perfectly in line with the goals of academic-oriented conferences, but without enough assets to sponsor or advertise with, potential sponsors may shy away from the higher prices.

If you’re an attendee, would this matter to you? Would you pay more knowing the experience you’d get would be unavailable anywhere else at any time?

Is exclusivity back in vogue for pragmatic reasons?

Every Professional Should Be Blogging

There are so few reasons why every professional SHOULDN’T blog.

Maybe they don’t like their audience, maybe they don’t want success and maybe they like working far harder and more inefficiently than they’d like to. Whatever those reasons are, we don’t agree. Blogging, and its cousin content marketing, is one of the most effective ways to gain permission from your audience, help clients that don’t realize they need it and showcase exactly what you bring to the table.

imagining links

Permission Marketing
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”Seth Godin

Most people want to buy our products and services, they just don’t want to feel like they’re being forced to. By staying in constant contact and sharing ideas with clients, customers, colleagues and even competitors, we’re forced to stay on the top of our game and have a cool ability to build off others’ attempts.

A steady stream of admissions, ideas, and opportunities will keep the permission spigot turned on.

Solve Unforeseen Problems
In Mission Impossible III, the bad guys hoped to profit from selling Bellerophon, the cure to deadly virus Chimera. Problem was, the bad guys also created Chimera. As get-rich-quick schemes go, this seemed like it had a good chance of success, but we don’t think problems need to be manufactured or even identified before they can be solved.

By regularly blogging about what you’re working on, what you think about it and what’s next for your company and industry, blogging professionals can likely see small issues that either can be fixed readily or can be applied to re-tool existing, inefficient processes. There’s a reason Silicon Valley companies are so successful; the lack of non-compete clauses allow ideas to flow and people to share (in real life, not just blogs, of course).

Expert Status
No one really knows what it means to be an expert. Is it a certain percentage of total knowledge about a particular subject? Is it knowing even a little bit more than everyone else? Does it require that you’ve done and shown your work?

Life is good for experts. People listen to their answers, invite them to speak and often pay them tidy sums of money for their insight. But how do experts let it be known that they are such?

We suggest talking about it. Perhaps they should try blogging.

How To Overcome 3 Types Event Planner Overload

There’s no such thing as a low-stress event planner position. With the frustrations of staying on budget, inevitable client changes, and the never-exciting fun of issues outside most human control, we feel confident saying that event planning should be left to only those willing to bear the brunt of life’s problems.

That’s really the key. Events aren’t just about logistics or venues or food or speakers, they’re about people. Attendees each have specific needs that all need to be met now, and offending them isn’t going to make an event planner’s job even easier.

And those logistics, venues, food and speakers we mentioned earlier? Yeah, they’ll have needs, too. Add sponsors, shareholders and client bosses into the mix and we’re surprised event planners stay on the job for months, let alone years.

We’ve identified three instances of overload and how to deal with them.

Digital Overload
You’d think advanced digital tools and fancy social media apps would make it easier, not harder, to manage millions and billions of bits and bytes that pass through our inbox/stream/wall daily. If you’re familiar with how to deal with massive amounts of email, we bet you’ll be able to transfer those lessons to any of your digital inboxes.

Quick tip…most messages you get can be read and deleted without worry. Trust us.

Attention Overload
No matter whether it’s analog or digital, boss or client, attendee or sponsor or even spouse or kid, we humans do a poor job of paying attention to more than one thing at a time. Sure, we all CALL it multitasking, but a better name would be DoingManyThingsPoorlyAllAtOnceTasking, which doesn’t roll off the tongue that well.

If you think it’s ADD or ADHD, think again. Attention deficit trait, or ADT, is a new, completely environmentally caused disorder that often prevents people from performing up to their abilities.

Because event planners are often the hub of communication, being able to ignore or absorb interruptions and properly delegate non-urgent, non-important notifications to someone else could work wonders.

We recommend turning off your phone in the evening. Stay away from email for a few hours. Let those tweets slide right on by. Establish open office hours to help mitigate interruptions during productive times.

Think you’ll get bored? Maybe at first, but you’ll produce far better work.

Information Overload
While digital and attention overload are bad enough, the real problem most people think they face is that there is just too much information out there to adequately process or ignore. The reasoning for this is simple: the more we know, the (usually) better.

We doubt that phrase ever took into account endless opportunities to garner information. It’s one thing to read three papers every morning, it’s entirely another thing to read everything on the web. We recommend pruning a bit.

Focus on three things. Just three topics. Find out everything you can about them, and then move on. It’s not impossible, but it sure isn’t easy.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m now going to read a book while surfing online in front of my monitor playing MLB.TV. I said three things, right?