Hashtag Your Next Event

There’s no better way to keep track of conversations online than having clear, distinct and trackable terms. Because Twitter and Facebook are great ways to share what we’re learning at events, said search terms need to be short, simple to type and easy to remember. Not everyone has the patience or space to enter “Best Conference Ever Phoenix Winter 2012” every time they say something nice about a speaker.

Hashtags are the answer. Hashtags, which are short acronyms, words or phrases prefixed by a #, are accessible by anyone. They are easily searchable, allowing for both post-event research and real-time tracking, completely customizable and can be invented on the fly. Here are a few tips in choosing and using your hashtag:

Make it easy
If your event is titled “Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference 2011,” a proper hashtag could be #azec10 or #azec. Because most Twitter searches can sorted by date, it’s not necessary to specify the date in a hashtag, but it might be useful for readability purposes.

Choose one and go with it
We’ve seen events with multiple hashtags, like #podcamp, #podcampaz11 and #pcaz11. While this isn’t a complete disaster, it’s annoying to people who are trying to follow participant reactions online and makes the organizers look a little foolish. When you pick your conference name, choose a hashtag and promote it.

Ask your attendees to use the hashtag
Many traditional conference attendees aren’t used to using their smartphones during presentations. While this of course will vary among audience members, it’s okay to encourage their appropriate usage when listening to speakers or participating on panels. While promoting the event online and encourage conversations via social media channels is a great use of hashtags, if no one is paying attention to anything that’s happening in the room, their effect is negated.

Explain the what and why of a hashtag
Hashtags aren’t like gang signs, there’s no need to repeat them over and over to followers and fans online, nor are they really mean to exclude anyone. Hashtags are used as inclusion techniques, so be sure to tell your attendees about sample tweets and posts that would make sense with a hashtag attached. No one wants to feel stupid.

Consider a Twitter wall
Twitter walls allow the aggregation of all hashtagged tweets on a screen somewhere at the event. Some events have them on large screens in view of the audience, others have them in separate rooms away from the actual presentations. Placing them in view of the audience in the same room as the speakers allows for greater audience interaction, but also increases the chance conversation may get off topic if the speaker or panel isn’t top notch. Having it outside the main room keeps people engaged, but might not spur as many conversations.

Anything you’d add about hashtags? Do you use them? Why/why not?

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Meeting Planner Meltdown

Have you ever been in this situation?

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We all fear it. We all know someone who’s experienced it. Maybe we’ve ever experienced it first hand? We’re all in awe of it.

Meeting planner meltdown isn’t supposed to happen. Meeting planners are the sort that have everything planned out, have backups for backups and can’t seem to be out of sync no matter how hard they try. But we all know they’re not impervious. Meeting planners have meltdowns too, and thanks to Cvent, we’re going to share our thoughts too.

Only delegate to those with something to gain
Most people would say only delegate to people you trust, but that’s not always enough. Give tasks to people who will gain from them, whether it’s experience, exposure or monetary. We all like to help others while we help ourselves.

If you don’t know, say no (for now)
Many meeting planners think overpromising and delivering on that is what will get them respected and invited back, when most clients are simply looking for people who will do what they agree to do. While it’s good to stretch your limits, perhaps that should be integrated into your next event planning cycle instead of in the middle of the current one.

Automate
Many people still like to take notes by hand, send out customized invitations personally and always meet in person. Not all of these tasks are necessary and they might actually be hurting your bottom line. Unless you’re in the business of high personal touch, perhaps an email program, tablet or conference call would better suit your process.

Share your plans with your assistants/help
While it certainly feels more secure to hoard all the event plans, doing so only means you’ll have to lord over every decision and problem. Give other people access to your master plan and you’ll be able to trust that the right decision will be made without your direct supervision.

Take time away
Meeting/event planners live on the highs and lows of the event lifecycle. This makes them extremely productive during times of high stress, anxious to always be working and often guilty of ignoring their own health. Plan rest days or hours into your schedule so you aren’t forced to later on.

What tips do you have? Have you ever had or witnessed a meltdown?