The events Graham Brown-Martin, an event producer, and a handful of others put on are intimate, yet are growing in size, running rings around larger enterprises because their use of social media has leveled the field. Delegates at his most recent Handheld Learning Conference, the world’s largest conference on mobile learning, used social media tools like Twitter, blogs, and video to disseminate far and wide the provocative material presented at the conference. Following Brown-Martin’s example in this final chapter, we meld the in-person practices we all know with technologies that can enhance the experience in fresh ways.
The TechnologyAudiences no longer sit quietly during conferences, absorbing the speaker’s words and images shown, waiting to ask a question or make a comment. Twitter and other social media tools allow real-time participation between the presenter and the audience and even between those physically in attendance and those participating from afar. There’s real-time focus, where people are more engaged in the material because they’re crafting instant responses to it. Real-time innovation is taking place as audiences tweet ideas sparked during presentations and others build upon those ideas. Audiences now actively contribute during presentations by tweeting explanations, elaborations, and useful links related to the content. People are forming real-time connections by meeting people virtually and later introducing themselves. Presenters receive real-time evaluations by following tweets about the presentation.
New publishing tools like just-in-time book publishing, Tweetbooks, live blogging, and live video blogging capture the shared knowledge, ensuring it can be accessed after the event has ended.
Responding to Critics
Critics claim that people aren’t paying attention when they’re engaged with social media tools at in-person events and that people cannot learn from a person and social media simultaneously. This can be avoided by asking audiences if they are currently on Twitter, a social networking site, or live blogging, and understanding that the people who are, will probably be commenting on the presentation. As for learning from two different mediums, research has shown that many people use secondary tasks to help them stay engaged and focused.
We have a few recommendations for you to get the most out of events. Don’t go unless there’s time to share a meal with someone. People may open up more when sharing a good meal. So far, there’s no way for technology to duplicate that emotional connection we share in person. Trust the audience to create the insights and connections that make sense to them. Learn as much as you can about what the event offers. For event planners and presenters, give your event a Twitter hashtag to build buzz before, during, and after the event. Create an environment that enhances a social atmosphere: time to talk with people, comfortable seating and lighting, and even good music.