I had the pleasure of exchanging emails and/or speaking with three headliners for the upcoming Expo! Expo!, IAEE’s Annual Meeting and Trade Show. The event is being held this year in Atlanta. The resulting article was titled, “If You Tweet It, Will They Come?” and appears in E2: Exhibitions and Events’ November/December 2009 issue.
There was more revealed in the interviews (some via email) than I wrote about in the article. The article focuses on social media marketing because their presentation is called The Art of Social Media Marketing. However, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki and Rick Calvert had some interesting thoughts on the place of social media in the events industry, revenue models, using social media in event execution, the renewed focus on customers and beaming oneself through the universe.
Brogan (as an event organizer himself) offers some perspectives on social media’s place in the event industry. “BEFORE even showing up, social media is finding me many more attendees, and giving our exhibitors a chance to build relationships before the event. This requires the exhibitors to act civil and treat the attendees like new relationships instead of sales leads, but should everyone play nicely, the opportunities are great,” he writes.
Kawasaki makes the “why not?” argument. “Social media isn’t a savior, but it’s sure a great marketing and engagement tool. Associations can use sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote events, engage people during events, and then make the event last longer after it’s done. These services are fast, free, and ubiquitous. Not using them is foolish, he comments.
Revenue models is a dodgy subject for the three celebs. Calvert believes the revenue model for face-to-face conferences is broken (especially in view of the emergence of virtual events) and “the pricing structure has to change completely.” Brogan thinks pay-per-view online content could work. “…Even if you had a $599 show, you might get another $99 per seat out of people who want access to the live stream,” he says. Kawasaki on the other hand says, “New media isn’t going to create new revenue streams for your members in the next few years. What it can do is increase the effectiveness of marketing of existing events. I would be surprised if people would pay to view conference content [online]. I know I wouldn’t.”
Brogan believes in the value of social media platforms for facilitating the execution of face-to-face events. “I’m a big fan of how social networks and blogs and all these tools allow us to make scheduling easier, find speakers easier, communicate with audiences with less friction, and to correct on the fly, should there be a problem encountered along the way. Social tools let us execute our Inbound Marketing Summit events with a lot of fast moving parts and far fewer emails. I mean, who really wants more emails?” he writes.
Brogan also advocates a renewed focus on the customers (attendees, exhibitors and sponsors) as an important way to harness the power of social media. “Focusing on tighter matches to niches matters. Deeply integrating the exhibitors to the content and to the experience of the attendees is important. Sponsors don’t want to pay and hope any more. They want to know that they will experience a tighter opportunity to build relationships. But with these requests come also the opportunity to fulfill those requests using social media tools as the glue,” he comments.
Rick Calvert doesn’t call “them” customers anymore. The collection of attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, media, thought leaders, speakers and bloggers, et. al that support his BlogWorld and New Media Expo are his “community” and he addresses their needs as such.
In the end, is this entire discussion all for naught? Kawasaki may think so. “In the short term, the primary use of innovation is to better market events including after-event engagement with video archives and the like. In the medium term, events can save money by hiring speakers to do virtual appearances—though probably not the plenary session speakers. In the long term, everybody will be beaming their bodies around the universe ala Star Trek, and we’ll be back to pressing flesh though without the need for airlines and hotels,” he says. He’s kidding right?
The Takeaway: Everyone, even the experts, is still trying to figure out the social media/live event connection even if they’ve had success on some fronts. If you can see these guys in person in Atlanta, I think it is a meeting not to be missed. The Twitter back channel will be priceless.