September 29, 2009

This past week, I experienced a transition in what social media means for me. From its impact on forming a sense of community with “like” people and a basic appreciation of its marketing and communications applications in the event world, I have jumped to a whole new level of understanding of its usefulness and one that ties directly to the Creative Events mission of facilitating the communication of a quality, cost-effective and motivational message within every meeting or event environment.

An article in Meetings Net http://meetingsnet.com/social-media/0923-asae-center-association-leadership/ gave me some practical tips. One, attendees tweeting at my events will tip me off to situations that need my attention – whether that be the room is too warm, the music is too loud, or the beverage service is backed up. It is my responsibility on site to monitor those logistical details so that our guests are not distracted. I agree with Peter Hutchins at ASAE that I would rather know about the issue when I can act to correct it, than for it to become a negative mark on the event after it’s over.

Further, the ASAE article hinted at something much more important as it referenced Twitter moving from “interesting” to “useful” as it served as a means to relay questions between speakers and non-attendees. For ASAE, that was a signal to think more about two audiences – the ones that were physically at the meeting site, and those that are attending virtually through social communities of the attendee -and how the event organizer must do a better job of meeting the needs of both.

That provided a bridge back to an interesting podcast last week between Sue Peltier and Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation, LLC. In short, Mr. DeCagna suggested planners need to think differently about “social”- virtual has arrived. We devalue events when we do not allow opportunities for interaction, and create a show instead of an interactive experience. We need to integrate connectivity into our planning and encourage both face to face and virtual engagement for our audience. We should challenge our producers and speakers to get involved in this process. We need to create an environment in which the live and virtual community engages and wants to tell the story of their experience.

In the third point of that podcast – covering the need to nurture the learning mindset, it all came together for me. As DeCagna posed the question of what was a more “learnful” experience – to try to stay focused on the words of the speaker, or to allow myself to immediately share a point of interest with my community to discuss informally, peer-to-peer, with real time feedback, I finally moved forward to understand that social media is a powerful learning tool. It becomes the social interaction we once planned to happen after the message delivery to allow for peer discussion. We know that discussion is key to helping our audience to, not only understand, but to also create the memory joggers to recall the message once they leave our event. That is the key to behavioral change. For many in our audience, that social interaction is happening at the same time as the message is delivered-through the use of emerging media applications that allow immediate connectivity to a peer community.

As the event organizer or planner, we should not be concerned about that – we should facilitate it as we continue to support purposeful engagement.

As we reset after the damage of this recession, we will be facing a new economy – one in which every event has to have a strategy that is uniquely developed for its own purpose. As an industry, we need to understand that the adult learning model is changing and we must search for how we can best use tools such as social media to cultivate learning as the priority in our events.

And now, a new challenge for me. “Not enough time” can no longer be my crutch for not becoming better at using social media. There IS no excuse to limit learning opportunities!


  1. what a great site and informative posts, I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

  2. I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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