Blogs, Facebook fan pages, Twitter posts and YouTube videos are some of the most talked about ways to nurture an event community year round as long as you don’t break the cardinal rule of new media which is “share, don’t sell.” Producing compelling content that stimulates community conversation (usually over the heads of most college interns hired to work the social media levers at some associations and event organizations) is a requirement no matter what platforms you use. There are some other tactics, however, that trade show and conference organizers are using to keep the love alive year round.
This discussion can’t go much further without talking about virtual trade shows. I wrote recently about the National Association of Broadcaster’s virtual event DigitalVision 2010 designed to kick off major interest in NAB’s large face-to-face exhibition and conference scheduled for April 2010. In my earlier post I wrote “Brad Williams, vice president member benefits and development for NAB, has been researching the virtual option for at least three years to address the need to create a year round experience for show participants. ‘We do a great job with the physical event, why not utilize technology to touch our audience year round? Exhibitors want to touch prospects year round and attendees want information year round,'” he says.
The use of virtual trade shows and conferences as “filler” between physical events is somewhat of a new approach for face-to-face event organizers. Several had erected 24/7/365 portals (courtesy of the BDMetrics 365 platform and others) that never met expectations. This new virtual strategy could be 365 “Lite” in that the periodic virtual event content is fresh and occurring live.
Crosstech Media (does the name Chris Brogan ring a bell?) is netcasting (television-like programming over the web) for their events. For example, their ITEC conference portfolio which delivers education and networking on hardware, software, networking & mobility technology for businesses is using what it calls ITEC TV. The weekly show, hosted by Bill Sell, vice president and general manager of CrossTech Media and general manager of ITEC and ExtremeLabs analyst Tom Henderson is a discussion of news items and interviews of guests from across the technology spectrum. ITEC TV does a great job of giving viewers (the same audience for the ITEC conferences) a weekly fix of technology news and watching them live (the casts are archived as well) and feels like you’re watching, well, TV.
Rick Calvert’s BlogWorld and New Media Expo is using an online radio program called Blog World Expo Radio on the WS Radio platform to keep the love alive with his social media community (aka potential BlogWorld and New Media Expo attendees, speakers, exhibitors, media). The weekly live show (Fridays at Noon PST) is hosted by Jim Turner and the topics revolve around “speakers, exhibitors, sponsors and news makers in the social media space,” says Calvert. Not surprisingly, BlogWorld Expo Radio was broadcast live from the BlogWorld show floor (brilliant way to get attendees at the live event to become fans of the radio show afterward) and from the bloggers lounge of the famous SXSW Interactive Conference (nice crossover audience).
The Takeaway: Virtual events (trade shows, TV and radio) are more interesting when they’re live. Although the archives serve a very important purpose, there’s some kind of mental connection (the kind you want to have with your community) when you know someone is at the other end of the line dishing it out at the same time you are taking it in. Precisely because of that intimate connection, NAB’s virtual show, ITEC’s TV show and BlogTalk’s radio show are great tools for community nurturing and ultimately for driving attendance at their physical events. They are also opportunities to deliver content to community members that haven’t quite mastered the social networking platforms like Twitter and Facebook (I think there still are some) but can easily work a browser.