Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lesson in Engagement

It was as if there were several events happening simultaneously; twisting and turning coming together and separating. On the surface there were participants giving presentations, attending presentations, networking, eating, laughing and learning together in Portland, Oregon. Virtually, attendees were connected from their homes and offices around the globe. And somewhere between, connecting the two, was a stream of information and discussion eagerly focused on sustainability. It was GMIC’s Sustainable Meetings Conference—gone viral.

The twitter feed, blogs and other social media played a vital role. For the first time, it gave those of us, reluctant to grab the microphone and take center stage, a way to communicate our thoughts and ideas. We shared resources pertinent to the discussion. We sent important points out to those who couldn’t be in the room (in person or virtually). We weighed in without stopping the speaker’s flow. We could “audit” concurrent breakout sessions. Information traveled fast, we were connected.

Were we still “present” during the conference? You bet, probably more so than ever! Face to face conversations were now comfortable to start by commenting on a post from another participant. It was as if the more reserved (yet technically savvy) portion of the meeting community at last had a way to engage.

I salute GMIC for taking a risk, heavily incorporating social media into the program design. For those of you planning conferences who have not embraced this use of technology, try it. You will give a voice to a new segment of your audience and enroll them as never before.


Shawna McKinley said...

Hey Nancy - I heard the comment after the conference that people who were not tuned in to social media felt they'd missed a significant part of the experience which I think demonstrates how much richness is added by virtual participation in an in-person experience. Or maybe it's in-person participation in a virtual viral experience? I don't know, but it was pretty cool!

Nancy J. Zavada, CMP said...

Exactly, it adds to the experience not detracts. An important distinction for those reluctant to adding this component to their events.

Unknown said...

It sounds like a great experience. Did the engagement occur through a combination of public social networks and a conference-sponsored mobile app or just on public social networks?

Nancy J. Zavada, CMP said...

Hi Joshua,

It was a combination of both.
Although the main thread was the twitter feed providing a continuous stream of information and links to pertinent blogs amd other resources.