Leveraging Social Media to Create Better Business Conferences


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Earlier this year I posted about being approached by a global conference organiser to sponsor a social media event – I declined because the event was decidedly unsocial.

Given we’ve recently been swamped with SxSW noise and enthusiasm, this led me to recall a couple of posts I stored away about events

Looking at these two posts now and in light of my comments about the unsocial social media conference, I’ve created a check list that utilises content from each of these posts and summarises what I think constitutes an event that embraces social media.

These points are the first version of a framework that I’m going to build out that will outline how to plan and execute a business event that properly leverage’s social technologies and the community.

I’ve grouped these key points into the 3 lives of an event – before, during, and after.

Before the Event

  • Make sure the venue has adequate internet and power – too many event venues seem to believe that providing a basic wireless network will suffice.
  • Set up a specific event website that encourages pre-event interaction
  • Agree a hash tag before the event and then start promoting it – it should be on every piece of promotional material
  • Distribute the attendee list and keep it up to date. Many event companies retain the view that an attendee list is their god-given property and no one will be allowed to see it so they send you useless summaries of the types of people attending. Get over it and share.
  • Use a number of core tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to keep people up to date. Key here is understand where your prospective audience is and connect to them there – that might be via LinkedIn or Facebook or both. I like the idea of a dedicated Facebook fan page as you have greater flexibility over posting multi-media content than you do on LinkedIn.
  • If you have the budget undertake Facebook advertising – again I’ve found this to be cost effective and very useful.
  • Another suggestion if you do have some budget I’d encourage you to invest in a social media monitoring service to monitor pre-event discussions and to also build a knowledge base of articles of interest for the event. It can also be a very effective way of bringing real time discussions into the agenda and helping your presenters break from their canned presentations.

During the Event

  • Don’t be afraid to adjust the agenda on the fly – in fact, make it mandatory that all speakers are flexible and will work in with any on the fly agenda changes.
  • Encourage, if not demand that your speakers are committed to the event. They need to be at the event early, and after their presentation and most of all, they need to be engaging with the delegates. The best example of this I’ve seen are the Sales Leadership events run by Selling Power in the US. CEO Gerhard Gschwandtner insists all speakers attend for the whole day and get out into the audience engaging with the delegates.
  • Use podcasts and vodcasts to capture and distribute content both before, during, and after the event.
  • Encourage attendees to use their own blogs, tweets etc to contribute to the content of the event. Using RSS and an event wiki will allow you to aggregate this user generated content in a way that everyone benefits
  • If you can, dedicate a laptop and projector to the Twitter feed so that everyone attending can contribute. Make sure you take questions that are posted on Twitter and have speakers respond to them.
  • Hold an event like a cocktail function that includes those that couldn’t attend. Here in Australia most events are held in Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne so it’s very easy to organise an additional micro event so as to expand your audience reach.

After the Event

  • Keep the event site open and encourage feedback from all who touched the event.
  • Encourage attendees to create and send you short voice or podcast summaries of their experience – this will give your next event a really personal touch and build future value.
  • Make session ratings open and encourage everyone who attended to help generate an alpha version of the agenda for the next event.
  • Distribute the content and again encourage collaboration.
  • Don’t forget those who wanted to attend but couldn’t – distribute (some) content to them as this builds a sense of community and reinforces the events value in the future.

These points aren’t exhaustive nor are they solely for business conferences.

Have I missed anything?

Republished with author’s permission from original post by Mark

Mark Parker
Mark Parker is the founder of Smart Selling, and the specialist business unit – Smart Social Media. The core aim of both businesses is to help companies become better sales organisations by utilising the ideas, tools, and practices of Sales 2. and social media.


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