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How to Increase Social Media (and Technology) Adoption at Events

In my opinion, some event organizers are throwing technology at their events in the same way that the zookeeper throws a big chunk of raw meat to the lions. They lob it out there on the floor, stand back and see what happens.

While the lion might jump on that piece of meat without batting an eye, most attendees are not jumping on social media and event technology without a little help.

So, how do you get more attendees to start using these interactive and social technologies? I will start the discussion with some suggestions based on my experience. I hope that you will add your ideas in the comments below.

1. Show Attendees the WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Most events are packed with activities. If you are going to ask attendees to use (or try) a new technology tool, be sure that they (A) know about it and (B) understand how they will benefit from it. Otherwise, with so much going on, they may overlook the new tool.

2. Show Attendees How To Use the Tech Tools.

Attendees start from different points on the technology learning curve. Some will arrive as power-tweeters, while others will still be struggling with email. Also, they have different learning styles. If you want attendees to use the tools, you need to provide various forms of support. Here are some things that we did at Spotme to help attendees feel comfortable with the new technology:

> Each attendee received a small instruction card that included some of the “how to” basics at registration.

> Provide a short 5 minute “how to” presentation at the beginning of the event. (Many times this included the WIIFM).

> Provide personalized demonstrations of the tools (for those that want it).

> Provide a help desk where attendees can get personalized demonstrations and answers to individual questions. (If you want to be “2010” – call it a genius bar.)

> Provide Just-in-Time instructions as required. This was very effective for voting, speaker Q&A or other tools that were not used in every session.

3. Keep the Tech Tools Simple.

Since events are so short, you only have a few minutes to teach attendees how to use your tech tools and help them become proficient at it. The easier it is for attendees to learn how to use the tools on site – the more they will use it.  When considering different options – look for simple, easy to use interfaces.

4. Consider How Attendees will Participate.

Not all attendees will use the technology equally – even after they know how to use the tools. That’s ok. We don’t all like to do the same things. You can increase your chances of success by learning about your attendee’s social media engagement preferences. Do they like to create content, critique it, etc? The Groundswell’s social technographs profile tool can help you.

Bottom Line

Unlike the lion with a piece of meat, chances are good that most of your attendees will need a little help learning to use the new technology at your events.  Don’t let this discourage you – there are some simple steps that you can take to help them learn to use the tools and have a great event experience.

Ok, your turn. What would you add to this list?

Image Credit: 2minutes
13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your analogy is fantastic! “event organizers are throwing technology at their events in the same way that the zookeeper throws a big chunk of raw meat to the lions. They lob it out there on the floor, stand back and see what happens.”

    I would go one step further- event organizers throw speakers and panel discussions and powerpoint and round-tables and breakouts and… just like the meat. They don’t start with the end in mind and try to decipher what the participants really want to get out of the meeting/event. New technology can aid this, but there is a long way to go.

    An article about how to improve panel discussions is very interesting about the topic, including technology.

    January 5, 2010
  2. Sam – Well said. Great ideas. I think a short “How-to” along with a help desk are excellent ideas. And the help desk could easily become a great networking area for technophiles and phobes alike!


    January 5, 2010
  3. …and most attendees are vegetarians!

    Sam, great post! I think the other challenge is that many organizers are throwing multiple solutions out there and diluting their chances of gaining enough adoption on any one solution. Add to that, the fact that a very low percentage will jump on everything and dilute the value that they get.

    Bottom line, technology choices need to be highly integrated to the event website. That content and engagement needs to be available at the main site and then spread to mobile and Social Media platforms. Successful implementations are going to be the organizations taht are exceptional at community management.

    January 6, 2010
  4. Sam, I really dig the “Genius Bar.”
    One idea I had was to provide my “Twitter in Twenty” presentation. The concept is to repeat the short presentation at several intervals throughout the day; perhaps in a public lobby area, near a computer lab, Internet Cafe or other informal venue where listeners could watch a demo much like at a stand in a fair…watch me slice and dice and help you, too, become a Twitter Whiz! Then there would be “geniuses” available after the demo for some more in-depth, hands-on instruction for those folks wanting some specific guidance.

    Dave I wholeheartedly agree with your community management comment, brilliant!

    Finally, are you ready for my favorite, tired old statement? Uh huh, you knew it was coming…Technology is just a toy until it serves a human need. Or, for the purposes of this post, maybe it’s just a big piece of meat 🙂

    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl
    Pulse Staging and Events, Inc.

    January 6, 2010
  5. @Brandon – Thanks for the compliment! I agree that technology – on its own is not the answer. We need to consider the processes that we use for interaction and collaboration, too. Thanks for sharing that link on Panel Discussions 2.0! I saw several great ideas for redesigning panel discussions and collaboration.

    @jeffkorhan – Thanks for your comment. You are right – the help desk does become a networking area for attendees (tech and non-tech)! Especially if it is in an informal type of space as Midori mentioned. By designing the space to be a more “genius bar” and “less help desk” it can become a fun networking space, too.

    @DaveLutz – Thanks Dave! Vegetarians – LOL!

    You are spot on about “too many tools.” In my opinion that comes from not understanding the audience’s social technology preferences, when/how they will use the tools and the WIIFM.

    Great point about the website! The website-as-a-social hub strategy can be a great way to mix the social communication & collaboration tools with the event content.

    @Midori – Thanks Midori! I like the “Twitter in Twenty” idea. I can definitely see that working well in an informal space.

    January 7, 2010
  6. Thank you Samuel! I felt like a was completely alone. I plan and work many conferences where almost no one uses SM. All your ideas are excellent and no excuses for not implementing them all. I was going to say especially, but I love them all especially, but anyway, how simple would it be to have instructions for different technologies looping prior to a presentation. Many people arrive at the room early…a perfect use of that blank time.

    January 7, 2010
  7. Great post Sam.

    I have been trying out social media tools in conferences and seen that it is tough to get people to use and see the benefit of using social tools. Even in audience which is relatively young.

    I have noticed, what you mentioned also, that it might be good to try to make tools as open for participants as possible. Concrete example: having spots where there are open access computers for people to try tweeting out trough specifically made general conference Twitter account. This way they can try it out without making their own account.

    It might be also useful to put in the conference badges the twitter names for those who have them, so technology would be more visible.

    Do you guys have more these kind of small tips and ideas for simple tech tools?

    January 8, 2010
  8. @Traci – You are not alone! Feel free to ask me questions at any time. If you participate in the #eventprofs group on Twitter – they will be happy to integrate you into the community.

    Your idea is awesome! I think it would be very easy to setup a rotating slide deck with tips, tricks and instructions for using different tools, etc. between sessions. It could be kind of like the rotating ads at the movie theatre before the trailers start. Brilliant!

    @Jesse – I like the idea of incorporating social media & the conference badge. The conference badge is a ripe place for innovation – in my opinion. I think you can do a lot to integrate your twitter account name, twitter (or social networking) photo, etc. on the badge.

    What kind of other tips or ideas were you thinking about? I may have something (or know where to find something) that is useful to you.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    January 8, 2010
  9. Kevin Richardson #

    It should go without saying, but I’ve been to too many events recently where it needed to be addressed. Provide enough power stations and WiFi to allow users to make the most of the technology.

    PCMA also offered a great webinar for attendees a few days prior to the event to help explain/demystify the different technology/collaboration tools available.

    Take the time to educate and ask for feedback on how useful each tool is to your attendees. Don’t just offer a tool because everyone else is. Relevance is everything.

    January 8, 2010
  10. @KevinRichardson – I like the idea of having a pre-event webinar. That is a great idea! Also, we can never be reminded enough that we need good infrastructure (power stations, wifi access and tables for laptops) in place to support these tools. Great additions! Thanks for your contribution!

    January 9, 2010
  11. Interesting blog post. After attending IAEE’s Expo! Expo! and PCMA’s Annual Meeting, the differences were startling and shows a need to show the masses about Social Media.

    IAEE poorly promoted its Social Community networking site – I only learned of it a week before the event. In addition, the twitter fountains located around the show only showed tweets from IAEE’s headquarters account.

    PCMA did a great thing in having the introductory webcast a few days before the event. I’m sure it helped.

    I like Midori’s idea of having a tutorial being displayed continuously at the show site. I would suggest having this prepared in advance and emailed to attendees, as well as posting on the event’s website.

    Lastly, maybe just a page or two on the basics in the paper show guide so the newbies have a hard reference point to get started.

    Greg – @GregRuby

    January 12, 2010
    • Hi Greg!

      Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you sharing some examples from recent events. I think most people are still experimenting and trying to figure out the best road to success. Also, thanks for your idea of posting some tips into the show guide.

      I saw the PCMA attendee packet on PCMATV (as I could not be there). I could imagine a slim jim brochure with some hot tips for first timers included in that packet.

      Great Ideas and Feedback! Thanks for sharing!

      January 14, 2010

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