Over the last two years I have had the good fortune to be drawn into the world of live-blogging at events. I came into this as a result of trying to figure out how to maximize the value I was gaining from using Twitter. To be perfectly honest, when I first saw Twitter and the kinds of messages people were posting, I thought: “Great. Another platform for the terminally self-involved and ego-centric to shout, ‘Look at me!’” But after exploring it some more, and heeding the advice of folks like Chris Brogan, who advocated the use of Twitter as a tool for keeping connected with subjects that were of interest and importance to you, I found my way to #innochat.
For those of you who don’t know, #innochat is a weekly Twitter chat held at noon (USA Eastern Standard/Daylight Time) every Thursday. Each week a topic is determined, a framing post is created in support of the topic with links to appropriate resources, and some key questions are identified to prompt and guide discussion. Usually the person who identified the topic also writes the framing post and moderates the chat on that day. Between 50 to 150 people “show up” to wrestle with a core concept each week. In the space of an hour we may have nearly 1,000 tweets. In short, it is a great online event which rarely disappoints in terms of engagement, energy, and enthusiasm.
What does this have to do with event participation? Good question.
This chat model is an adjunct to a wider series of Twitter chat and live event integrations which are expanding the impact and engagement of those events beyond participants in a room. One recent example is covered very well by Angela Dunn (aka @blogbrevity) who wrote a series of great posts at Pharmaphorum on “How to make your conference social”. Angela’s most recent post focuses on the establishment of a bloggers’ hub and how to effectively participate in an event as a blogger. You might even see someone you know being interviewed.
The great thing about Angela’s advice is that it is practical and useful no matter what type of event you run. This is drawn directly from her own experience as a blogger at multiple events and this post specifically focuses on the great work of George Levy, VP of Online Marketing for HSM Americas, who created the Blogger’s Hub at the HSM World Innovation Forum three years ago. From a full-blown, multiday conference to a focused internal event for innovators in your organization, integrating social media expands the scope of the conversation and broadens its utility to a much wider audience. The key is to be clear about your objectives for participants both in the room and further afield.
As part of my volunteer work helping to coordinate #innochat sessions, which I fell into, I have also been asked to participate as a live blogger for internal company events. Francois Gossieux, founder of Human 1.0, invited me to participate in one such event for a technology innovation company that incorporated a range of bloggers, the host company, and client participants in the room. By engaging bloggers, the company created a much wider platform for its small event, inviting participation from around the world to share in the experience being generated in a hotel conference room in Orlando, Florida. This event leveraged social media in a way that meant the host company had a broader reach and greater impact than a typical trade show event or internal product launch would ever have had.
Another off-shoot from my #innochat experience was taking the online chat to a live setting at the South By South West Interactive Festival (aka. SXSW) this year. Renee Hopkins, one of the long-time contributors to and hosts of #innochat invited me, Gwen Ishmael, and Jason Sutton to participate in a Core Conversation at SXSW on Business 101—focused on making money as a small enterprise or solo entrepreneur. Now, the way Core Conversations had been designed by the SXSW organizers was to have them be audio-visual-free zones: The rooms were set up in the round (all the chairs facing each other in a large circle) with no AV equipment. Being the innovators we are, the #innochat team on the ground immediately subverted that.
We set up a projector and omni-directional microphone in order to live-stream the conversation in the room. We also had Gwen and Justin cover the #innochat hashtag live while Renee and I integrated comments from inside the room with questions, comments, and suggestions from the wider #innochat community. Our experience at SXSW had been that if audience members were dissatisfied with their in-room experience, they would quite rapidly employ the rule of “two feet” in that they could walk out at any stage. We started with a packed room (over 100 people) and we ended up with people sitting on the floor around the room by the time we finished. The dynamic between the room participants and those following and engaging with the chat stream at #innochat was great.
As people left, some said it was the most engaging session they had been to so far.
How are you maximizing the use of social media to increase the impact of your efforts?