The first thing I did after becoming an Entrepreneur in 2012, was listing down the weak areas of my startup. I found that there was a lack of awareness about it. So I thought of getting into offline engagement also. The next four months I attended some very well known as well as some ‘not so trending on Twitter’ social media events in India organized by WAT, India Social, LinkedIn India, MTV, etc.
Since I was covering the event at my site, I was given free passes. Some of these conferences provided me with an opportunity to connect with people whom I knew online and also an opportunity to think differently but otherwise there was no other value addition.
Most of the speakers were repeating the same old case studies of Dell, Zappos , Faasos, etc. Not that I have a problem with these examples but as a speaker who is considered to understand the market better, should provide more Indian stories rather than talking about what Mashable posted some days back.
It’s not just me but participants who had invested money in these events had more or less this thought – The event was good but everyone talked about ‘What and Why of social media’ but nobody spoke about ‘How it is done’.
After giving a great deal of thought on how these events can improve, I am listing down my thoughts below as a participant:
1. Start on time: We inherit this in our genes! Barring a few, most of the events declared in bold letters that they would start sharp at 9 A.M. but eventually participants who turned up at 9:30 A.M. didn’t miss much. Either there is a venue management problem or an eminent speaker is stuck in traffic. Respecting time is a taboo in India and the poor participants who took the day off have to suffer.
2. Get Social: At one of the events I was attending, the speaker’s names were not displayed and a friend pointed that out when he wanted to tweet about the speaker. I understand that not many will have a Twitter account but these events can invest on a social media presence. I have noticed some events that have opened a social presence for the sake of it while some did just a few days before the event.
LinkedIn India did a smart thing by creating a group regarding the event but within days after the event, the group had no activity. The event hosts should invest on the social presence that has already been created since they would be doing an event again, wouldn’t they?
3. Check the Speakers: A speaker can make an event interesting or can make the participants yawn. One should do a complete study about the speaker and also go through her presentation way before the event. In a recent social media event, I saw tweets from participants that said the speaker was repeating the same presentation that he had shared in another social media event a month ago. You can’t cheat audiences since social media has made all of us smart.
This also brings us to the point that should we see the same old faces in every event and listen to the same boring stories, when what we want is more of case studies.
4. Information Overload and give breaks: Can you sit in a place for 2-3 hrs continuously? I can’t. So what is the point in stuffing sessions and creating an information overload? It is too strenuous on the participants to have four sessions before lunch and four post lunch.
Besides this, events should have proper breaks so that participants could get refreshed before other sessions. Breaks are mostly sacrificed when an event has started off late, which takes us back to point 1.
5. Give ample time for Q&A: One of the events started taking questions from the audience only when participants started expressing their annoyance through tweets. Giving 5 minutes or telling the audience to engage the speakers after the session, is not an excuse for not giving ample time to Q&A. Participants come to an event majorly for two reasons and one of them is trying to get answers for their problems. So event should provide ample time for Q&A and not rush it since it didn’t start on time. Point 1 again!
6. Ask Speakers to Engage after the talk: At another event, the speakers disappeared after the sessions, leaving no opportunity for participants to engage with them at length. As a speaker, you need to also interact with the audience. I understand that you are running companies but isn’t the core concept of social media based on sharing.
7. Target Your Audience: Events should be clear with objectives and state the audience about takeaways, prior to the event. In most of the events, half of them have heard about Facebook and some are like me who want to know beyond likes and numbers. So social media events should target the audience well and not have one just to show their clout.
It would be ideal if events get in touch with the participants to ask about areas that need to be touched upon or better still if events are organized based on the level of their understanding.
Do you have anything to add to this list? If you are an event organizer, what are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear them.
Prasant Naidu, Founder and Blogger at Lighthouse Insights. Loves to experiment in social media and believes social media is a game changer for SME's.
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