As a guy who’s been to all manner of meetings I would like to speak on behalf of the person in the seat at your next event. You may well know that attendees have a lot more influence now. Social media tools packed into mobile devices give them broadcast, publishing, recording, and distribution accessibility before you’ve even started the program. Have you considered the ramifications of that?
If your event is great, people are likely talking about it. If your event stinks, I guarantee you they’re talking about it. The social media savvy attendee will either be your biggest advocate or your biggest threat and you may never even meet the person.
Suffice it to say, it’s worth knowing what keeps this kind of person happy. Here are seven ways to keep the social media savvy person at your next event:
Give them some space. Nobody likes to be crowded and it’s especially uncomfortable for a long event. Try to let them have as much room as possible while still accommodating the group as a whole. Can you add an extra table or two so there’s more room per person at each table? Is there room for people to spread out in the venue or should the Fire Marshall be concerned? Giving extra space is valuable the personal space conscious attendees out there.
Give them power. If it’s going to be the kind of meeting where they need to plug in laptops, be sure there are enough power outlets within reach. That may mean power strips around the room or reconfiguring the space into power and non-power zones, but at least make it clear where it is and how to get it.
Give them good wireless Internet. Events are notorious for bad wireless Internet connections. The people most likely to talk about your event are the very people who will be frustrated with a poor connection. Ramp up your wireless signal in anticipation of a group that might use it a lot and don’t even think about charging them for access. You’ll never hear the end of that.
Give them good food. Ben Franklin once said, “A full stomach makes a man happy.” Actually, he never said that but he should have. Food is tricky but they want quality and quantity. If it’s a lunch or dinner please don’t serve that chicken dish with the funny sauce. Get good food and keep it coming. P.S. Nobody eats the radishes in the salads either.
Give them a super-simple schedule. When they arrive at an event make the schedule simple. Time, location, event, done! Let them dig into the details elsewhere. A cheat sheet version of the schedule is really nice to keep them on track. You get bonus points if you create a mobile version of the schedule, a downloadable PDF that’s mobile friendly, or a version they can sync to their calendar.
Give them real-time information. You may not know this but there’s an entire channel of dialog happening behind the scenes whether you want it to or not. You can join this dialog or choose to observe, but either way you should watch the Twitter feed. Try using Twitter search or a tool like CoTweet to monitor conversation. If you provide a hashtag for the event you’ll make monitoring even easier and be appreciated by the attendees also.
Give them a fast pass. Believe it or not, people don’t like to feel like cattle. Herding is rarely appreciated but is still a common aspect to attending events. Have you considered ways to let some people in early? Is there a way to beat the rush? Can an additional entrance be opened? Think about rewarding the people who get there early with early entrance or at the very least do something nice for people while they wait like handing out doughnuts. If they’re going to be cattle at least give them some hay.
Bill Seaver is the founder of MicroExplosion Media and has consulted numerous organizations to help them understand and apply social media into their marketing initiatives.