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Lessons in Engaging Attendees from Event Camp NYC 2010

On Saturday, the self-organized twitter group #eventprofs organized its first conference. The event was called Event Camp and was centered around Social Media in Events. This was supposed to be an unconference – but was really more of a tribal meeting in my mind. [See Mike McCurry’s post for more] You see, this group recognizes each other’s unique talents and uses those as an opportunity to learn from each other and work together.

Friday Dinner At Event Camp

Friday Dinner At Event Camp

Here are some lessons from Event Camp on engaging attendees that I hope will help you.

Pre-Event Community

Event Camp created an event community around the event with the Omnipress Conference 2.0 solution. This turned out to be helpful for many attendees. I noticed that many would received the daily digest and then add their ideas or comments. Three things came out of the community: (1) High Awareness in the Hybrid Events Session and Fishbowl Sessions, because these sessions were discussed on the conference community. (2) Informal Dinners and Social Gatherings were arranged by the attendees. (3) Several attendees were invited to share and shared their reasons for attending with the larger audience.

[Read Jenise Fryatt’s post on How Social Media Creates a Need For Attendees To Meet Face2Face for another excellent perspective.]

Big Blue Buffalo Hats

The Social Collective has an interesting solution called CrowdCampaign that was used by the attendees to choose some swag that the event staff had to wear. Fortunately, the organizers were very gracious in purchasing and wearing the Big Blue Buffalo Hats. However, there is a second use of CrowdCampaign happening right now. The attendees are trying to decide on their number one takeaway. The list is starting to get really interesting. [crowd campaign list of takeaways]

Reinforcing Messages with Multiple Channels

The backchannel was projected on screens throughout the venue – but most people had one eye on the laptop or iphone and another eye on the speaker. Personally, I found it really helpful to be able to scroll through the backchannel messages on my new iphone. Being able to see these same messages delivered in a second medium helped reinforce some key points for me. (Not to mention that there is a transcript of tweets that I have used to go back and review the event.) While, I recognized that this helped reinforce the messages to me – it was Ray Hansen of IML that actually pointed this out. Thanks Ray.

Including More People

Thanks to Mike McAllen of Grass Shack Events & Media and the team at Core Staging this event had a hybrid component. The main plenary hall of the conference was being broadcast on Livestream and secondary sessions were recorded. As an attendee, I found it really engaging to get input, ideas and questions from these virtual attendees. Equally important, we made sure to wave once or twice to our friends at home too. I think this was a nice touch.

[Read Emilie Barta’s post – Live and Virtual Events Compliment Each Other, Not COMPETE with Each Other for more]

Bridging the Virtual And Face-to-Face Audience

This community was active on the twitter backchannel, making comments asking questions, etc. Mike McCurry was an excellent conduit between the face-to-face audience and the virtual attendees. He made sure that any questions the virtual audience had were integrated into the face-to-face discussion. This is a key role to making sure that their voices were heard, too. [Read Christina Stalling’s post on some of her backchannel learnings]

Engaging Virtual Attendees During Breaks

Breaks can be quite boring for virtual attendees that are watching the room be reset or attendees getting coffee.  So, it was very cool to see Emilie Barta (a professional tradeshow presenter) interviewing speakers and attendees during the break. I think this is a low effort – high return way to enhance the virtual attendee’s experience.

Let’s Jump into the Fishbowl

My session was a collaborative session that used the fishbowl format. In this session, I turned the attendees into the experts and took the “guide on the side” role. This allowed us to do more learning from each other – rather than have me go through 6400 slides in 40 minutes. Since, I am the host of the Interactive Meeting Technology Blog – I would have let all of you readers down if my session didn’t have an interactive component.

[Read Lara McCulloch-Carter’s post – Fishbowl session through the eyes of the virtual attendee for some discussion and feedback on my session]

User-Generated Content

Event Camp was loaded with User-Generated content. There was a “bloggers row” type space that was designed to make life easy for people using computers during the sessions. So far – there are atleast 10 blog posts on learnings and ideas created from the event. There will probably be several more. Also, there were dozens of photos taken from the attendees. Thanks to Social Media guru – David Berkowitz – the iphone application Cat Paint became the big hit of Event Camp. Cat Paint allows you to drop cats onto iphone photos before sending them out over twitter. Some attendees made sure that we all got a good laugh out this. Here is a picture of me with a cat on my shoulder. (Personally, I think the applications of this tool in terms of a sponsorable item would be amazing. take out the cat and insert – your event logo or product name.)

Bottom Line

Event Camp evolved out of an online community of individuals that has a passion for Social Media in Events. From the speakers to the attendees to the sessions this event was one of the most comprehensive and complete learning laboratories on Social Media in Events.

Ok – Event Campers – what else would you add?

(PS: Eventprofs recently celebrated its first anniversary on 9 February 2010 )

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paul Salinger #


    great post (and nicely organized :-)). I’d say you captured the essence.

    What is really compelling (as you point out) is how this community started from scratch one year ago today, has grown and thrived and shared knowledge. That created the impetus for a face to face meeting (the reverse of the usual approach), and will now become an even stronger online community as a result.

    This is what creates change and impact in an industry that is often slow to adapt to the real needs of their audiences.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of 2010 and meeting everyone face to face again in 2011 at Event Camp 2011, wherever it may be.

    February 9, 2010
  2. Sam,
    Very well articulated and great summary. It was so incredibly powerful to experience what we have been preaching for some time. I have understood that social media as a “tool” could improve our meetings and events, yet truthfully, I have seen mixed results whether I was a speaker, supplier or attendee.
    This weekend I witnessed first hand what is possible in our industry. I experienced the power of combining an online and live audience into a HYBRID audience. I experienced the “BACK CHANNEL” via Twitter that enabled an active audience to engage in a dialogue with the speakers, presentations and content. I experienced NETWORKING that was rich and meaningful even though face to face time was limited it was valuable because this wasn’t the beginning or the end of our conversations, interactions and education because I was a part of the pre-event online COMMUNITY. This was a fantastic example of what we should be doing in our events.
    Experience is everything!

    February 9, 2010
  3. What a fantastic way to summarize everything that #eventprofs accomplished at EventCamp and what we all learned while in NYC or connected virtually.

    One thing that hit me while reading your post is that this community was developed and this conference was produced in under 1 year. And the growth of both was achieved through social media. How amazing is it that a group could achieve so much, so fast…that is the power of (good) social media!!

    (And thanks for the pingback and the mention!)

    February 9, 2010
  4. Samuel:

    Great post. What would I add?

    1) Don’t underestimate the power of a few people to build a flourishing community which grows into a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive tribe.

    2) Attendees receive the most from a presentation or session when they are allowed to be engaged. Using openspace discussions where the attendees drive the content is the best of the best for face-to-face sessions. Then attendees customize the content to meet their needs.

    3) A growing online community brings trust, energy and excitement to their face-to-face meetings. This helps everyone involved and is the catalyst to success.

    4) Speakers enjoy talking to a well-formed community and it helps further their thought leadership.

    5) Traditional conferences and events should blend elements of unconferences to create more attendee engagement.

    Lastly, we all left wanting more time with each other, more time with the speakers, more time with the content, more time together! That’s what happens when you create an infectous, radically relational conference!

    February 9, 2010
  5. As usual, Sam, you’ve condensed this wonderful experience into some very useful tips that I hope people will take note of.

    The only thing I would add is that the social media/events connection is powerful. Barcamps were a natural outgrowth of a situation in which bloggers who met online felt compelled to take their relationships further and meet face to face.

    Their impatience with traditional conferences will also be reflected more and more by the average attendee who gets precisely the kind of information he wants, when he wants it at the click of a button. These trends will continue and event professionals who fail to take heed, do so at their own peril.

    February 9, 2010
  6. @PaulSalinger, @RayHansen, @EmilieBarta, @JeffHurt, @Jenise Fryatt –

    Thank you so much for the compliments and taking the time to write such thoughtful responses! I enjoyed reading each of your comments first thing this morning. I tried to respond to each of you individually – but I realized that I was just re-hashing comments and doing it poorly. [which is why I am responding at night]

    So – let me just say this: I agree with each of you. It IS really amazing what our small group of self-organized and committed people accomplished this year. I am really excited to see how we evolve and grow in 2010. 2010 is going to be a fun year!

    I am looking forward to seeing each of you again at the next Event Camp. Thanks again for your comments!

    February 11, 2010

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  1. Event Camp 2010 was a Success!! Best Part? Meeting YOU!!! | Pink Inc.

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