For those who regularly attend corporate events, you will notice the addition of the AV screen dedicated to Social Media that has been slowly appearing behind the speaker and/or panel discussions. The idea, amongst other things, is to allow the collective audience to view what individuals from said audience think about the content being discussed, in 140 characters or less. That’s right; the Twitter Feed is here allowing attendees to share, participate and enter into a merry dance of digital debate with those once aloof figures on stage.
Before Social Media and mobile technology, activities onstage were didactic in nature; a bad pantomime of information flowing, lecture-like, one way. The exception, of course, is the Q&A although hardly a hand is raised due to one or all of the following taking hold: Fear, need for the toilet, the confusing desire for a lukewarm coffee (in a frustratingly small cup) or a dose of fresh air mixed in with a cigarette.
So has Social Media altered this flow of information; has it, as we’re lead to believe, delivered on its promises of interaction, dialogue, of conversation, the sharing of ideas and breaking down the barrier between stage and audience?
In pre-event marketing, we are presented with @’s & #’s (usernames and hashtags) to prime our minds and thumbs to go fourth and exchange on the day. At the event itself the hashtag is repeated (and hopefully prominent on stage) inviting people to Tweet and we’re reminded from the facilitator to ‘Hey, share back!’. The hope is that everyone is elevated to a higher level of collective consciousness and we will become better people, more enlightened, cultured even, worldly and kinder to strangers! It sounds great doesn’t it? When it works and is administered well perhaps, we can reach these lofty palaces of insight and wisdom.
If event planners and companies are ticking off the Social Media aspect by including the screens on stage and are, at worse, not referring to them and, at best, do so in passing then, they become meaningless, a digital downward jerking wallpaper of nothing! However, if people are encouraged to share their ideas with the promise they will be referred to throughout the day and included in a discussion then this becomes a more attractive transaction indeed.
Using Social Media can generate discussion in real time, allow ideas to evolve, carry out polls and gather feedback; good and bad! On that latter point, it’s great to get positive feedback, but the nature of the relationship, one built on trust and free speech, must allow for the negative, however painful. There’s a lot of advice online how to deal with this: not ignoring, acting professionally and address without emotion, being some of the best. Post event analysis allows you to track the day’s event; see who took part (new or existing contacts) and maybe use comments, with the user’s approval, in further discussion elsewhere or in marketing for next year.
So the benefits, one could argue, lie in the execution. No one likes to be cornered by the boorish party-goer in a bad shirt arrogantly talking about themselves all night with their settings consistently stuck on Transmit! We want interesting ideas, the opportunity to share back, to feel like this conversation, the discussion is a living breathing thing where individuals involved feel they are adding to an idea, the day, the overall aims - that extend beyond the event itself - into something meaningful and authentic. So come on people let’s get digital, let’s share and share alike and see if we can reach that blissful kingdom where the best ideas flourish voluptuously like grapes on a sunlit sloping hillside.