Social Media and Online Interaction: A must for Successful Meetings!?

Social Media and Online Interaction are important components of successful meetings & events.

Establishing a forum where dialogue is allowed to flow freely instills trust, encourages collaboration/ idea-sharing and is important to continued successful growth.  That being said, it can also provide some challenges depending on what tools and channels are being used. There are several things to consider when implementing a Social Media strategy for your next upcoming event i.e.

  • Who is the target audience that will attend and/or exhibit at your event?
  • What is the purpose, content and expected ROI or ROO of your meeting?
  • Who do you want to be able to access and read the information?
  • Who will decide what communication rules should be enforced?
  • Who will monitor, collect and analyze the information?
  • In what way are you going to distribute, share and present the information and content captured before, during and after the meeting/event?

Developing clear plans is an essential part of any Social Media strategy for your meeting.  It is important to include clear plans related to:

  • Marketing & Sales of the Event
  • Online Interaction (before, during and after the Event)
  • Communication flow between Exhibitors and Attendees
  • Evaluation and Follow up communication from the Organizer

This will help you decide whether public channels such as Facebook, Twitter etc. are the way to go; or if a customized solution that provides better privacy and security will work better for the specific event; or sometimes a combination of these channels is the best way to go i.e. using public channels for Marketing & Sales and a customized version for the Online Interaction and Management of the event. Before making a decision as to what tool(s) to use, it is highly recommended to take some time to determine what  goals you want to achieve and whether:

  • You want to make the communication open for anyone to access and see.  (This makes perfect sense for an exhibition or event that is open to the public.)
  • You want to limit the communications within your company/organization but also allow non-attending members or employees to participate in and access the online communications. (This allows you to capture everyone’s opinions and insights while at the same time providing the opportunity to encourage more people to attend your next meeting.)
  • You only want attendees to be able to see and participate in the communication due to its confidential and/or exclusive nature.

I dare say that if used properly, it is almost a must for a meeting to be successful in today’s world to incorporate some form of social media to market the event, encourage online interaction and stimulate ongoing collaboration. There are several new solutions out on the market that can assist you and your attendees in achieving growth and continued success on a personal as well as a professional level through online interaction, collaboration, idea sharing and learning. Some of the areas where these tools can enhance your next meeting or event include but are not limited to…

Marketing your Meeting – the above mentioned Target Audience criteria will also serve to assist you in determining whether you want to do one or more of the following to market your event:

  • Post it on Social Media channels such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, Xing, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.
  • Create a “by invitation only”/”restricted viewership”-group which is available on some of these media.
  • Use your intranet for Members or Associates only.
  • Use a customized web-site for your event that is also linked to a Registration; Housing; Online Interaction; Mobile Networking; and/or other tools.

Pre-Meeting Interaction
In addition to providing a tool for attendees and participants to communicate, network and match people with similar interests, the information shared here can be extremely helpful for speakers and organizers as it can help them understand and address what is most important to the attendees/participants.
When using an Appointment Scheduling system, my recommendation is to have all pre-event communications related to appointment requests go through a dedicated system that allows users to create a standardized reply e-mail template once their appointment schedule has been filled to avoid having buyers being bombarded by “last minute” appointment requests received via the Exhibitors individual company e-mails.
A tool that allows an option for Exhibitors to add an attachment such as a company overview or press release is also a great choice.

During the Event
The organizer can keep their fingers on the pulse and gauge the mood; broadcast changes in the agenda; address multiple similar questions or potential challenges that have been identified; conduct polls, surveys and get instantaneous responses which can be displayed while in the meeting through a mobile audience response system; announce success stories and/or share best practices. For the attendees, the organizer also has the possibility to provide individualized agendas and maps of the conference/exhibit floor and surrounding areas, as well as transportation maps that can be used and accessed via mobile devices. If you are using a mobile messaging system, attendees and exhibitors can communicate any potential delays and/or rescheduling of meetings while on the floor.

Post-Meeting/Event
Allows the attendees to continue the conversation, exchange knowledge and broaden their network. It also provides the organizer with the opportunity to post Audio/Video recordings of seminars and concurrent educational sessions as well as a summary of the event. The organizer can capture feedback and other vital information which he/she can incorporate in his/her plans to ensure an even more successful future meeting. The Social Media/Online Interaction can also provide great insight into areas where additional training or communication might be needed which can assist the Company/Organization with their future strategic planning.

As mentioned, these are just some ways in which I see that Social Media & Online Interaction can enhance your event.

Though Social Media is a concern for many companies, it appears that most are realizing the great opportunities that this can provide as well. In light of the new generation planners, organizers and attendees entering the Meetings industry, I am confident that Social Media is not only a trend but that it will bring with it many new and creative ways to conduct business. It is therefore great to also see that there are constantly new tools available that provide better security and privacy in the form of customized solutions with a “non-public” forum when called for.

I wish you much success in making Social Media an essential and integral part of your next upcoming event – whether an internal conference, incentive/motivational event, congress, exhibition, training seminar, etc. and look forward to your comments and thoughts on this topic.

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