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By Guest Blogger Stephanie Hilger, Blue Magnet Interactive

Learn 10 expert tips on how to get the most out of social media at professional events.

Social Media is an important component in today's event industry. From event conceptualization to culmination, social media plays a huge role in event marketing and can help ensure the success of your event as well as enhance your own experiences as an event attendee.

In this post you will learn 10 social media best practices both event professionals and event attendees find helpful.

BEST PRACTICES AS AN EVENT ATTENDEE

#1 -- Optimize Your Profiles Ahead of Time

Never go into an event with incomplete or inactive profiles. In most cases, you will be using Twitter to live tweet and LinkedIn to connect with other attendees, speakers, and hosts. Therefore, at the very least, make sure your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles are up to date and fully optimized before utilizing these channels day-of.

If your profiles are new or have remained inactive for the months leading up to the event, it is a good idea to get in the habit of regularly posting beforehand.  Leading up to the event, make sure to post useful, relevant, and targeted content on your networks for the attendees that you will be connecting with.

#2 -- Do Your Research 

Do not go into the event without doing your research!  You will lose focus if you show up to an event with no knowledge of the official hashtag or session hashtags (if applicable). It is a good idea make a note of these hashtags and applicable handles beforehand versus scrambling during the event to find the information and, in turn, losing track of what you wanted to post.

Take some time to connect with and follow other attendees, organizers, and speakers ahead of time and create saved searches. Introduce yourself and let them know you are looking forward to connecting at the event . Finally, be sure to tag the appropriate people in any pre-posts,  live posts, or post-posts.

#3 -- Add to the Experience 

Ask yourself if the information that you are sharing is adding to the event experience. Ideas for optimal live-tweeting include:

  • Share photos and videos from the event; do not rely solely on textual updates. 
  • Do not always feel obligated to jump into a conversation if you have nothing of value to add. Remember, when it comes to posting, quality over quantity. 
  • Do not forget about your other followers. Consider those who are not in attendance in your posts as well and share exclusive content that they will find useful and pass on. 
  • Increase your live-tweeting efficiency by setting up customized tweet templates with speakers’ information, twitter handles, and appropriate hashtags ahead of time so you can plug in relevant quotes throughout the event. This will make it much easier to pay attention while posting; plus, they’re great for re-tweeting!
  • Keep tweets and posts short and sweet. According to Salesforce's statistics, tweets that consist of less than 100 characters see up to a  17% increase in engagement. 

#4 -- Be Diligent 

Live-tweeting is fast paced, so it is imperative that you are diligent in checking your posts for spelling or grammatical errors. If you misspell the event hashtag, your post won't be seen in live feeds, and you will miss opportunities for engagement. It will be easy for others to find your posts if you utilize the proper hashtag.

#5 -- Engage and Interact 

Do not rely on your original content; be sure to retweet and reply to what other attendees are saying and sharing.  Engage in conversation, add your own commentary to retweets, and follow other relevant attendees you converse with.

#6-- Follow-up! 

Do not let the conversation die once the event is over. Thank the speakers, share blog recaps, and continue to engage in networking and conversation after the event has ended!

 

BEST PRACTICES AS AN EVENT PLANNER

#7 -- Chose an Appropriate Event Hashtag 

Choose a hashtag that is short and a good representation of the event. Make sure it's easily accessible for social media users, promoted ahead of time, and easy for attendees to remember. You do not want to end up with multiple hashtags for your event and content not properly aggregated.

#8 -- Make It Easy 

Showcase hashtags on decor and event marketing collateral. Make the public Wifi password readily available. Provide accommodating materials sharable on all channels and make the most of the anticipation and enthusiasm surrounding the event. Tell attendees where they can find the organizer and speakers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.

#9 -- Engage With Attendees 

Be a part of the discussion. Follow attendees back and thank them for attending your event. Encourage them to  utilize the event hashtag in their conversations. Retweet your attendees, reply to their tweets, and engage in conversations and ask questions.

#10 -- Designate a Team Member to Monitor

Be proactive, not reactive. Always have a plan in place in case anything on social goes awry.

Designate a member of your team to monitor event hashtags and feeds  before, during, and after the event. Respond to both positive and negative comments (and quickly). Having a plan and roles set in place before the event will aid in making the most out of the experience and provide an opportunity to learn more about the attendees and their needs while building your online community.

Event Courtesy and Selfie-Sticks

What do Disneyworld, South Korea and the White House have in common? (Don’t worry- no corny punch-line coming!) These three places have all recently changed their rules regarding selfie sticks. So how do you deal with attendees using selfie sticks onsite? Here’s some advice from our event team:

When it comes to events, every attendee has a unique experience- that’s the way it should be. But what happens when someone’s experience is hindered by another attendee’s? As the trend of selfie sticks is on the rise, celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Ellen DeGeneres have been caught “selfie-ing” at highly-publicized events which brings us to our issue: should selfie sticks be allowed at events?

One of our event professionals says, “Absolutely not! Attendees are here to experience things first-hand, and when they aren’t able to get the full experience because someone else’s actions, they’re unsatisfied. This is the reason we have onsite photographers and vendors focused specifically on capturing attendees in action.”

Another event professional says that they should be allowed during some events. “The attendee is paying to be there and if part of their experience includes taking selfies then we have to allow it. At the end of the day if the attendee is happy, that means the event is successful.”

We, collectively as a team, have taken the stance of ‘every event and every part of an event is unique’. While selfie sticks would be appropriate during one part of an event, like an attendee party, they aren’t always the most courteous thing to use under other circumstances, like a keynote.  

Each event manager should evaluate a few things when considering making restrictions:

1. The audience- to see if selfie sticks are a popular item being brought onsite. If your audience signs an NDA before attending, or if it’s purely an educational conference, it’s less likely that any attendees would bring selfie sticks onsite.
2. The event venue/layout- to see if the use of selfie sticks would affect anyone else in the audience. If there’s stadium or lecture-hall rooms, selfie sticks might not hinder someone else’s view, but if your audience is all on one level in theatre seating, you might want to consider a large viewing screen to help alleviate these issues.
3. The availability of content- to ensure attendees that they will be able to use pictures or videos posted from the official event page or social media accounts. If there is professional-grade photos being taken of attendees, and videos of any content/presentations available to attendees, then there really isn’t a need for selfie sticks onsite.
4. Consequences- what happens if attendees disregard the rules? This is a tricky situation for event professionals and security. Do they lose their selfie stick, lose their invitation to next year’s event, or possibly get kicked out of the current session/event?

We’d like to hear what you think. Are you over the selfie-craze? As an attendee, what would you do if your experience was being interrupted by a selfie-stick user?

Event Giveaways for a Cause

Almost all events have some type of swag or giveaway involved in them. Whether it’s for all attendees or if it’s a raffle for one lucky winner, giveaways are a strong contender in the event industry, but we’re seeing a big change in what these giveaways involve.

Whereas in the past, attendees have preferred branded tangible gifts they can take home with them, attendees now prefer charity-driven giveaways that give back to the community in one way or another. Here’s a look at a couple of our favorites so far: 

At the WBENC Conference in June, all attendees at a reception were given a Donors Choose gift card which enabled them to go online to DonorsChoose.org and choose a classroom or project that they could put their preloaded gift card towards. Instead of trying to fit a branded water bottle or endless supply of pens in their carry-on, attendees were able to jump online and donate before they left the conference or could put the gift card in their wallet to use after they got through the onsite bustle.

Another giveaway we’ve seen in the working: the Glassybaby. Glassybaby is a Seattle based company who gives back 10% of all sales to the glassybaby white light fund which gives financial and emotional assistance to those in need. These ornate and unique gifts are very popular for west coast events and are a hit with high-level executives.

Any others we should be on the lookout for? Tell us in the comments below! 

For more information on either of these giveaways, please go to their websites: http://www.donorschoose.org/  http://glassybaby.com/ 

Viva Europa!

Meetings & Conventions Magazine recently published a supplement called Global Planner 2015 and predicted that “Europe will remain at the top spot for international meetings in 2016”. This got us thinking about our international events and why we plan events in the cities that we do. Here’s just a peek at some of our favorite European cities and venues:

London, England: the London Eye By renting a private capsule, up to 25 people can enjoy the breathtaking city views from above. With so many different dining packages, this is a go-to for VIP events and executive board meetings.

Dublin, Ireland: The Guinness Storehouse This legendary brewery has been the home of Guinness since 1795. From learning to pour “the perfect pint” to eating in a true Irish pub, guests can enjoy all seven stories of the Guinness Storehouse.

Prague, Czech Republic: Obecni Dum Prague is rich in history, and this venue is no different. The Obecni Dum is centered in Prague and is multifunctional for almost every group. Offering a variety of halls and lounges, Obecni Dum is by far one of our favorite venues.

Madrid, Spain: Castillo de Vinuelas This seventeenth century castle is one of the most ornate and detailed venues we’ve experienced. The architecture of this building alone draws us (and our clients) in event after event. Every hall and garden has a unique feel that is sure to captivate guests. 

The Challenge of SWAG

Everyone struggles to find that perfect SWAG (stuff we all get) item to give away at events.

Last fall, we were given a challenge from one of our clients- to find some gift options for their upcoming technology event. They wanted the focus to be on unique items, San Francisco-centric gifts if possible, and swag items that were wearable or fashion related. There were 2 types of attendees at this event which took place in San Francisco; judges and participants. With help from our many vendor partners, we came up with these winning ideas:

For Judges:

  • California designer passport cover
  • Bottle of wine from a local California vineyard
  • Ghirardelli chocolate that supports local San Francisco non-profit
  • High quality mini speaker

 

For Participants:

  • Proof brand sunglasses made from sustainably sourced wood
  • Online subscription to tech magazine
  • Leather luggage tag
  • Vintage San Francisco post card set
  • Ghirardelli’s chocolate Golden Gate Bridge
  • Dowdle painting puzzle of San Francisco
  • Recycled felt laptop bag

 

Do you have any items that you would add to our list? Comment below! 

Rethinking the Optimal Session Length

Some sources say that the average adult’s attention span is 20 minutes, others say it’s down to 5 minutes, and many claim it’s just 8 seconds—literally less than that of a goldfish. With a push to shorten meetings in the recent past, do event professionals need to rethink the length of sessions?

The 45-minute meeting movement was introduced in 2010 and focused on everyday meetings, but it hasn't quite hit the event world yet. The movement was a push to shorten hour-long meetings to 45 minutes, to increase productivity.  Participants would be able to use those 15 minutes to review meeting notes from the prior meeting, prepare for any upcoming meetings and perhaps even arrive to their next meeting on time! With 15 minutes to regroup, the days of employees coming late to meetings feeling frazzled and leaving with more questions than answers are numbered. Making time to recap and disseminate key takeaways is important for not only our everyday meetings, but also our annual conferences and events.

So how would that effect the event industry? If we’re going to look at shortening sessions, we’ll need to know our audience mix. Millenials on one hand, favor making sessions shorter, more meaningful and relevant to their ability to be more successful.  They also have a tendency to oppose ice-breaker activities as well as monotonous introductions while Baby Boomers seem more tolerant of formal meetings and are more apt to follow protocol. When it comes to finding the optimal session length, you really need to understand your target audience, how inclined they are to actively participate, and what you want them to do with the information they've acquired.

As an attendee, maybe you can answer the outstanding question: What is the ideal session length? (Or, did we lose you at 8 seconds?)

The Top 5 Benefits of Online Event Registration

Online Registration is the most effective way to complete the event registration process, offering powerful benefits for attendees and Event Managers.

First impressions count. For attendees, the Registration process is where they form their initial opinions about the quality of an event, and getting off to the right start is imperative. The event “experience” begins the moment they decide to register (or even before), and continues through post-event communication and feedback. Without a doubt, online registration has become the most effective way to complete the event registration process; attendees expect it, and any other method is perceived as “old school”.  While many of the greatest benefits of online registration are realized by attendees, we can’t overlook the powerful advantages it offers Event Managers and their teams. 

Milligan Events’ Online Registration solution offers these “Top 5” benefits:

1) Convenience: Attendees get one-stop shopping for event registration, hotel reservations, and air transportation, plus a single resource for comprehensive event information. It’s fast and convenient, providing 24/7 instant communication, which has a positive impact on the attendee’s impression of an event.

2) Real-Time Feedback and Reporting:  Knowledge is king—and online registration provides the Event Manager with essential data in real-time. With accurate and up-to-the-minute head counts, attendee meal preferences, hotel block information, and flexible reporting options, Event Managers can plan more effectively. Integrated survey features provide real-time event/session feedback that promotes agility and responsiveness.

3) Constant Marketing Communication:  Maintaining contact with attendees throughout the event cycle keeps them informed and involved in the event community. Online registration makes frequent and automated communication easy, with the ability to send email blasts that generate interest, provide event updates and reminders for cutoff dates, and announce session changes or featured speakers.

4) Cost Savings:  With all of the data at your fingertips and integrated into one tool, online registration allows for better forecasting and facilitates decision-making for event owners and Event Managers. Marketing budgets are dramatically reduced by the use of email communication, avoiding the high production, printing and postage costs of “snail-mail” promotions. Further savings are achieved through automated communications and reduction of input errors as attendees register themselves using forms with required fields and field limitations.

5) Elevate the Event Brand: From headers and banners to event logos, each page of the online registration site can be customized and fully branded to complement and elevate an event brand—familiarizing attendees with the event’s identity and helping to build buzz and community.

Learn more about Milligan’s Online Registration offering, and how it can benefit your next event.

Creating Successful Events from Start to Finish

Milligan’s new service offerings deliver innovative and comprehensive event solutions.

A successful event requires exceptional attention to all of the details. As Milligan Events has grown, we’ve expanded our service offerings to provide a one-stop solution for our Clients—and bring proven expertise and fresh ideas to all aspects of the events we support.

The Milligan team brings together trusted, proven talent with deep experience in:

The result for our Clients?

Confidence in having chosen a trusted partner with the expertise to lead all areas of event production and deliver a memorable attendee experience. A team of passionate experts committed to fully realizing each event’s potential, while bringing fresh new ideas to the table. And, the budget expertise and trusted vendor partner relationships to bring fiscal accountability to every event we support, and cost savings to the bottom line.

Find out how Milligan can help you realize your event goals. Contact Janell McGill at 208.387.0770 or janell.mcgill@milliganevents.com