I have been reading and hearing a lot recently about the impact of social media/web 2.0 on events, in particular the challenge that event organisers face in keeping delegates not only coming back but interested and engaged, in a world where a new social media technology pops up on almost a daily basis and it is no longer a given that the speaker knows more than the audience.
Samuel J Smith’s blog post and subsequent comments ‘Do you hear the noise?‘ is an excellent discussion about this very issue (and the inspiration for this blog post), and as an event organiser has got me thinking a lot about this idea that we are perhaps on the brink of a change in the way that physical events must be organised.
It strikes me that social media trends have the ripple effect, in that a new web 2.0 technology gets dropped into the ocean of webness creating a ripple that eventually reaches those on the periphery, by which time those at the centre have adopted that technology to the point where its impossible to function on a daily basis without it, whilst something new has already been dropped in again, starting the process over. Creating ever increasing circles of knowledge and acceptance.
Are we perhaps reaching the tipping point in events planning? Will events where the content is driven by the delegates and all speakers use web 2.0 technologies to engage and interact with the audience become commonplace?
An event organiser is very much reliant on speakers and facilitators to deliver the content of an event and should a speaker be anti-social media, you can have the whizziest web 2.0 technology going on at your event and the best will in the world, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change the way that speaker delivers his presentation, short of forcing them into submission.
There will also be sectors of the audience that just don’t get the social media thing who quite like the old fashioned way of sitting in a lecture and having a quiet snooze (slight exaggeration but you know what I mean). There are a lot of them out there, and we should raise our heads above the web 2.0 parapet now and again to recognise that. It is frustrating and hard to believe I know. I do fear however that by blasting delegates with social media technologies at events, whether they like it or not, we risk alienating them. In the sector that I work there are a lot of people that expect events 2.0 and are rather frustrated when they don’t get served what they ordered, however on the other side of the coin there are still a lot of people that are only just dipping their toes in the social media ocean.
We have to listen to the ripples and give people the choice, rather than make it the only option. The need for physical events will always remain and I believe that this will never change. The fact that TweetUps now exist is proof of that – physical events for online communities. Need I say more?
Some delegates go to an event to learn stuff and find it frustrating that they are asked for their input or opinion on something rather than being given something tangible to go away that they can use. My colleauges have been to events where the speaker has tried their best to use web 2.0 technologies, engage the audience and try to get them to interact, and it really hasn’t worked. So how to get it right?
I think that whilst we can assume that the use of web 2.0 technologies at events is becoming the norm, we should also assume that the ripple may well not have reached some people. The challenge for me therefore is not how to effectively integrate online and offline but how to do it without alienating those people that the social media technologies ripple has not reached.
How do we satisfy the early adopters without alienating the sceptical?