A friend calls me for advice: she wants to attract some “bloggers” to her business conference in order to 1) make her event more “modern” by being present on the blogosphere and 2) satisfy a request from the company’s management to… be more “modern”. While her request was a valid one, product of a sincere will to improve the prestigious conference she was organizing, two aspects turned on an alarm bell in my head.
- The fact to consider “bloggers” a general category
- The fact that she asked how could she control what these people produce
First of all “blogger” is a qualification I’m not fond of because it’s almost as generic as saying “male” or “female”. What is a blogger? Searching for this on Google produces results such as:
“a person who keeps and updates a blog”
“A contributor to a blog or online journal”
“blogging – is the act of writing in one’s blog. To blog something is to write about something in one’s blog.”
“blog – a journal or diary that is posted on the Internet.”
Well, that’s interesting… how many people that satisfy those statements come to mind? From a 13 year old girl that blogs about barbie dolls to a General Motors executive that blogs about cars or a bunch of journalists using it as an extension to other media they work with.
It’s not the word “blogger” I have a problem with but the indiscriminate user people make of it. Who is an interesting blogger for -in this case- your event? Is it a journalist specialized in business affairs? An executive that’s active online and has a good reputation? A business school student eager to make a live coverage of your event and interact with other attendees? I guess that in this particular example all of these profiles could be interesting but as you can imagine all of them require to be approached differently though through a common channel, be it blogs, twitter, facebook or whateverotheronlineserviceyouwant. When saying “blogger”, please identify who you want to attract under this category and who else from your audience falls under it. Even a competitor might be present during your conference and be willing to blog “against” you…
Forget about control, you have none. You can’t prevent people from exercising their free-will online (unless you’re hosting your event in China or Iran… no pun intended). From my experience in conferences I can offer the following advice to stimulate the creation of a favorable and healthy environment for online activity:
Give them connectivity (wi-fi)
Many might have access to the web and other online services through their mobile phones or Internet USB-keys but if you want to maximize the amount of people present at your conference that engage in online activities (be it twitter, sharing photos live, etc) provide them with free Internet through wi-fi.
Give them (electric) power!
Another basic element is electric power. Most laptops or cellphone batteries won’t last a full event day if used actively so it is handy to provide power inside and outside from the conference room. In some events they even provide tables for people with laptop computers so that they can work better (often reserved as a special service for journalists).
Define a hashtag so that you can track what they say about your event
This is a key issue! Create and communicate which is the hashtag that identifies your event. This will help you group and track the conversation (Read more tips on live online coverage for your conference).
Participate in the conversation
This is possibly the most important piece of advice I can offer: interact with your audience! Comments on Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, etc) or articles on blogs are a very powerful way to measure the mood about your event, sometimes even better that making a survey (read more on how to make a survey for your event). They love you? Great! Thank them. They hate you? Even better, ask them for ways to improve and make them part of the process. Do not [only] broadcast your content or provide useful information. Find out what they think, how they feel about the experience you offer and find ways to make it better.
Offer visibility as a motivator (or ego-booster)
Use a widget on your website’s homepage that shows the online activity connected to your website. Select the best blogposts, photos, videos and tweets produced by your audience and highlight them on your website (always ask for permission!). People like to see their names or content promoted on a prestigious website and this stimulates more people to participate. Re-tweet interesting comments.
Promote interaction amongst attendees (and the external world)
By giving visibility to what happens around your event online, you are providing an extra element to boost interaction between people. Create a twitter backchannel with screens inside the conference room or in the coffee-break area (more on this topic in a further article).