Tag Archives: events

Meeting Format – High Impact Storytelling

At the recent KMWorld09 conference in San Jose, CA; Nancy Dixon ran a session on the evening before the main conference began.  It was the true essence of “teaching-by-doing” rather than just “teaching-by-telling”.  She calls it, “High Impact Storytelling”.

In contrast, the majority of the sessions at KMWorld are traditional lectures with slides and a few questions at the end if there is time.  My open letter to the KMWorld organizers describes some ways to improve the conference.  I hope they will engage in a discussion to make KMWorld10 a better experience for KMer attendees.  One of my suggestions was to include more sessions like Nancy’s (eg. Buzz Sessions) and increase significant peer to peer interactions.

How the session goes:

After a brief intro, Nancy introduces herself and requests that people move into small groups (4-5 ppl).  Each group consists of chairs facing each other with no table in the middle.

  • Nancy asks each person to take turns telling a story on particular topic.  Ours was what was your best experience ever with KM.
  • Each person has 2 minutes to tell their story before a bell rings and you move onto the next person
  • Once you have made it all the way around the circle, she asks everyone to get up and find a new group
  • Everyone is asked to tell the same story again, but to a new set of people.  Of course, each of the other stories is new to you, even though it is the teller’s second time
  • She repeats this one more time so that everyone moves to a new group and then tells their story a 3rd time

To close out the session:

  • Nancy asks everyone to get up and put a hand on the shoulder of the person who they felt told the best story
  • The person who garners the biggest crowd around them is asked to tell their story one more time for anyone who may not have heard it.  Our winner was “2-5-1 storytelling
  • Then Nancy asks everyone to form one large circle and she facilitates a discussion about what was gained from the exercise

Here are some of my takeaways

  • Telling a story multiple times makes you significantly better at telling it
  • Because you want to get better at telling your story, you are not only listening to the stories of others, but also to HOW they tell their story in order to use their best practices to improve your own
  • There is a significant level of bonding that is gained from a participatory shared experience.  If one of your goals for a conference is to build relationships, this is a far superior format to sitting in a lecture.
  • Tables are useful to put things on, but they are also a psychological barrier between people

If you have other high-impact conference session formats, please share them in the comments below.


An open letter to the organizers of KMWorld09

Thanks for creating the environment where I can catch up with some old friends and meet lots of interesting new ones.  We used KMWorld09 as a platform to launch the new http://KMers.org community and it was very successful in that regard.

As requested from our in-person discussion, here are some specific recommendations for conference improvement.

  • Create an online environment where attendees can provide feedback about the conference.  Not a survey, but quick comments.  Use a tool that lets everyone see each other’s comments and vote on whether or not they agree.  Try crowdsound, uservoice, or ideascale.  All very cheap and probably free for KMWorld in return for the exposure they would get to KMers.   Your audience will help you improve if you give them the tools.
  • Create a physical Q&A room where speakers go after they finish speaking so that people can continue asking questions.  Put the Q&A room on the schedule.  If you don’t want to pay for another room, designate a table in the lobby where the speaker will hold court for an additional 30mins or so.
  • Create a track which has only collaborative type sessions.  Nancy Dixon’s session was a great example.  Here is a description of another good format called Buzz
  • Make sure that every speaker, speaks for a maximum of 2/3rds of the time slot.  Too many sessions I attended just ended with zero chance to interact with the content.
  • Simulcast the keynotes online.  This will create significantly more exposure and therefore likely more awareness for next year’s conference
  • Provide a place online where people can rate speakers and sessions.  Not sure how you were vetting sessions this year, but it seemed that everyone came from a reputable source, but some were downright embarrasingly poor at communicating.  I used to work at WSB so I know that the presentation is as important as the content for whether people enjoy and retain.
  • Kudos for being on Twitter and for pushing out blog content during the conference.  However, the hashtag should be a communal conversation.  The tweeters are people and should be connected with as people.  The way you used Twitter this time around is akin to walking into a cocktail party and just talking to everyone you walked up to, never listening, and never responding to their ideas.  The best conferences are listening to their hashtag streams and engaging wherever they see an opportunity.
  • Get the hashtag buzz going before the conference.  This will help with registration.
  • There are a variety of ways to use Twitter in sessions.  Here is an article that I wrote for MPI’s One+ magazine

There are some excellent meeting planners who have great ideas about how to make conferences better

Please let me know if I can help.  We all want KM to thrive.  Conferences are an important part of maintaining a solid community.

All the best,

Virtual is BETTER than in-person for events

Heh, OK…..After reading that title, I can imagine chips being installed on reader shoulders all around the world.  🙂  I am not saying virtual is better in EVERY way, just in some ways.

Have you noticed that people who oppose virtual events often focus only on the ways that in-person events are irreplaceable?  I believe they are right, but that does not mean in-person is the ONLY solution to EVERY collaborative/networking need.  Just because A is better than B in some ways does not mean that B is not better than A in others.

This post examines all the ways that virtual events are better than in-person ones.

1. Multi-threading

In a virtual event or even in an in-person event with a virtual channel, there is the opportunity to multi-thread.  Think about it this way, verbally we can only watch/listen to one person at a time.  This is called single threading.  Everybody listens to that one thread.  In a virtual environment though, the technology allows for multiple people to communicate at the same time.  “Listeners” can then jump from one thread to another as they find something interesting.  I am not talking about different presentations here, I am talking about different conversations about the SAME presentation.

Twitter Chats are a great example of this.   Each Twitter Chat normally has a moderator who announces the topic.  From there different people submit ideas and different people reply or build on those ideas.  It is a free for all.  The most interesting ideas/threads get the most interaction.  The less interesting ones drop off.

2. Ease of switching

If I am at a conference and I don’t like the session, I have to make a visible show of walking out.  Perhaps there are other sessions, perhaps not.  I may have to wander into the lobby and see if the other few people milling around might want to engage in a discussion.

Online, if I lose interest, there are a myriad of other information sources to which I can turn for more interesting, educational, stimulating content.

3. Greater volume of content

This is obviously related to switching, but the sheer amount of content that can be made available via a virtual environment vastly eclipses what can be brought together into one physical location.  This allow much more choice and much better match with time spent vs. information sought.

4. Greater geographical diversity

Travelling costs money and takes up time.  The further people have to travel, the more of both required.  Thus, US events tend to attract US participants, European events tend to attract Europeans, etc…   Having spent some time working abroad, I have experienced first hand the value of opinions from different cultural perspectives.

While there are still timezone issues even online, we are much more likely to get an international crowd to our meetings

5. Niche topics

In order to maximize attendance, conferences often create a very broad topic.  The sessions then need to appeal to a broad range of the different types of people who are attending. Thus, niche topics are challenging.  Online, attendee costs are lower and they are not need to spend travel time.  Thus, our attendee pool is significantly larger.  This economy of scale can make more niche sessions viable.

We should be seeking ways to combine in-person and virtual experiences to best meet the needs of our audiences.  It is not “either/or”.   In person events should not feel threatened, they should be excited about new ways that they can provide value to their attendees.

This post was inspired by reading a Jeff Hurt blog post called “Since When Did Virtual Not Become A Live Experience?

Pre-Event Community Building

Don't let your events stand alone as isolated pillars

Some of the really great discussion lately on the #assnchat Twitter Chat definitely merits reflection.   Standard first stage use of social media for events are apps like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as a marketing mouthpiece to reach prospective audiences.

That is just scratching the surface of the potential.  Event owners and organizational leaders are quickly realizing that social media provides value well beyond the megaphone.

Thanks to a variety of communication methods (including SM), periodic face2face events are just one element of overall community management.  Rather than using one as a broadcast medium for the other, they can both be used in conjunction to enrich a community.

That may sound good, but leave you thinking, “how the heck do I do that?”.  To some degree the answer depends on your audience (members) and your history with them.  However, since “it depends” isn’t very helpful, I will attempt to provide ideas from which you can pick/choose a-la-carte for your situation.  This post was inspired by @MichelleBruno‘s blog post about additional revenue at events.

This first post covers pre-event ideas beyond the expected “create a webpage”, “create a Facebook page”.  Stay tuned for parts 2 (during events) and 3 (post-event)

  • Show the buzz
    • Select and promote a hashtag EARLY.  Your attendees will collect there and create more buzz.  You can use a widget to bring those posts into your web environment for more exposure
    • If anyone writes about your upcoming event, give them a way to submit their blog post so that you can showcase it to prospects and attendees.  There is nothing a blogger likes more than exposure.
    • Give them online buttons they can use to proudly display on their site/blog that they are going to your event.  Give them a bonus if someone came to register through their button
    • Post links to any articles that were written about previous events.
  • Ask your members what they would like from the event.  You don’t have to DO everything they say, but at least listen
    • crowdsource speakers, topics, session-formats, locations, etc…  try these tools: uservoice, crowdsound, ideascale
    • Provide a way for your attendees to communicate with your speakers.  Many speakers will customize their speeches if they know what questions people have.
    • Run info/Q&A sessions using live stream providers eg. Audio: blogtalkradio, talkshoe Videoustream.tvlivestream.  Make sure you combine the live stream with a twebevent to make it collaborative and to add more activity to your hashtag.
  • Inform prospective attendees who is already registered
    • Post a list that grows automatically as people register.  Don’t just put names, include organization name and title.
    • If your online community has profiles, display that they are attending as a badge on their profile and all their community contributions
    • Profile key people who will be attending including interviews with them about why they find the event valuable
  • Give prospects and attendees a taste
    • Make sure you have more than just a short bio of your speakers, connect relevant posts from their blog, videos they have posted, etc…
    • Get your speakers to do some custom content for your event (community): podcasts, blog posts, videos, etc… all about the session they are going to do at your event
    • Run some web events talking about the event and previewing content from presenters
    • Show some of the fun/education that happened last year.  If you are not already taking lots of video at your event, you should be (more in next post)
  • Open up some pre-learning
    • freebie samples to get people excited
    • Some of the presentations that did not make the final selection for in-person
    • content that they can get immediate access to once they register for the event
    • design some at-event sessions around the pre-event content.  Since the common foundation will be established pre-event, the face2face time can be used for greater collaboration
    • Provide an option for attendees to pay a greater amount to receive extra online content.  Some might want extra content, but can’t come a day early for your extra session.
  • Help attendees find each other – If you have a quality online community, members can find each other easily already.  This is especially important before an event for people who want to maximize networking  Tools: Crowdvine, SocialCollective, Pathable
  • Allow people to indicate sessions they want to attend.  Show everyone who is going to what sessions.  This is another way to determine the size of rooms, whether to run a session twice, or cancel a session.
  • Provide a virtual expo.  There are software providers for this, but even a single webpage with links to a few brochures and their website per sponsor, helps to narrow down where attendees want to focus their time at the event.

I know many of my fellow #eventprofs and #assnchat colleagues will have more suggestions.  If you liked this post, please Re-tweet it on Twitter.

twebevent – video and Twitter

twebevent_faviconEvents have been hit hard.  The perfect storm of the down economy, the stigma of business meeting travel, and the advance of technology have led to a sudden change in the events industry.   Less expensive unconferences and virtual conferences are booming.  Virtual components are being added to in-person conferences to help reach those who cannot travel.

Thanks to many great online tools, it is possible to collaborate and contribute in meaningful ways without attending in-person.  There are higher-end tools like The Social CollectivePathable, and Crowdvine that have a nice feature set, but also an accompanying price tag.  Twitter is free and can be used without those tools, but takes some organizing:

  • blog post about a study of how Twitter is being used at conferences
  • paper: comprehensive academic view of Twitter use for conferences
  • great post from Travolution Summit 2009 about their Twitter use experience)

If you want to provide a virtual audience with content richer than Twitter’s 140 character information nuggets, there are new products emerging.  They not only harness the power of Twitter, but also combine a video/audio feed so that everyone can discuss the same content from wherever they are.  Your virtual audience will have a much stronger “feel” for your conference content.

twebevent_logo twebevent.com is one such product.  It allows you to present your brand as the host, stream the live or recorded video, and combine it with a Twitter Chat using whatever Hashtag you prefer…..all for FREE.   twebevent is a new start-up so you may encounter some blips, but if you use the customer feedback (blue button on the right edge of their page), you can give your opinions for product direction.

twebevent provides the :mashup” environment, but a host still need to find a way to video capture and stream. Companies like Speaker Interactive can help with those logistics.  Products like ustream.tv and livestream.com can handle the live streaming.  Qik will even live stream from your phone.  YouTube and Vimeo are two good options for uploading recorded video.  In any of those cases, just copy the embed code to a twebevent and it will appear for your audience.

If you prefer to keep things really simple, avoid the complexities of video and just open up a phone bridge through providers like talkshoe or blogcastradio and connect the audio stream embed into the twebevent.

If anyone has any questions or comments, I am happy to connect.  If you want to read more, check out the lessons learned from the first twebevent live trial or try my previous blog posts re: “Future Conferences”  part 1 and part 2.

Future Conferences – Part 1

Live pay-per-view has been around for decades primarily for sporting events: mainly boxing and now ultimate fighting (UFC).  On-demand is another variety of content revenue which cable has come to embrace:  allowing us to pay for movies and shows that we want to watch on our own schedule.  Audiences have begun to use these functions, but because of the interface and the low tech-savvy of the TV audience, they must have a very simple user experience (UI).  The internet conversely provides a better interface to search/find content, but so far is not well tied into the HD larger screen viewing experience that we get through TV.

Movies and concerts through TV and online don’t have much to do with Future Business.  However, there is another content type that could be available on-demand which does support business: conference content.   This post will view how conferences could (should?) evolve over time to support Future Business.

I have always found it strange that conferences have two primary and often conflicting goals:

  1. Impart best practices knowledge
  2. Connect attendees who are in the same Community of Interest

Conferences often do not give enough time for #2 (networking).  Hours are spent in powerpoint sessions sitting and listening.  Yes, there is usually time to ask/answer questions, but even that is usually very “one-to-many” broadcast oriented.  Some of the most interesting time at conferences is spent at meals, in the lobby, and at cocktails.

This is not a new issue.  As far back as 2005 Vicki Suter, Bryan Alexander, and Pascal Kaplan wrote an excellent paper on the topic.  Luis Suarez and Matt Simpson recently discussed this problem on their Sweettt podcast.  Sean Bohan also discussed the topic on his blog earlier this month.  I have heard the same complaint many times myself.  It is certainly important that conference goers have a common frame of reference in order to have valuable discussions, but building the frame to the exclusion of the discussions misses the point.

So, what are the alternatives?  Travelling is getting very expensive and conferences are often one of the hardest hit industries in a downturn.

In the short-term, online conference content would be valuable to people who cannot make the conference and would provide an additional revenue stream to conference providers.  Not only could content be video-streamed, but it could be paired with asynchronous online collaboration together with the content.

In the longer term if attendees absorbed some of the presentation content on their own time pre-conference, they could make better use of the networking that is best done face to face.  In fact, interacting with the information before the conference would allow for some asynchronous online collaboration even before we arrive.  We would have a head start on identifying some of the people with whom we would like to have in-person conversations.

With some pre-knowledge, attendees arriving at the conference would be ready to attend sessions that are more discussion oriented.  They could ask some of the questions that have been plaguing them and work on some of those that their colleagues contribute.  Far more time could be spent asking/answering questions based on the pre-conference learning rather than having that content broadcast with us all in the same room.

Part 2 includes some of the providers who are improving the way conferences are structured and some specific recommendations about potential conference improvements