Friday, February 11, 2011

How to Design a Kick @ss SmarComm Event

For the past few years, I've been going professional development/networking to the tune of at least 5 a month.  And that's a conservative estimate.  I am able to do this largely because I am not, married and don't have kids (yet) but also because Ottawa has offered me so many great opportunities to learn and meet new people.  I do my best to maintain a list of events I go to here.

During this time, I have attended large events and small ones.  I have attended loosely organized events and events that were clearly pimpfests for somebody selling a product or service.  Based on my experiences, I have learned a few things that I believe are key in designing a kick ass Smarcomm event.  ("smarcomm" represents the convergence of social media, marketing and commincations).

1) Think outside the box: try and figure out a way that you can go outside the traditional presentation and questions format with the speaker giving their 15 minutes and the audience asking questions.  There are so many different twists like having a presentation of different case studies, panel discussions and "speed dating"type formats that can be used.

2) Keep it small: Lately, I have found myself preferring smaller events to larger ones.  A recent Community Managers Meetup here in Ottawa only had 5 of us show up and it was great to sit around and chat freely about what we're up to and where things are going.  I have come to realized that events are often about the number of butts you put in seats but for the reasons I outline in #3, I am finding smaller events are helping me push my knowledge boundaries much more than large ones.

3) Go past Smarcomm 101: By now, we've all read "Trust Agents" (if you haven't, go get it right now) and we understand the reasons why we need to thinking about the "new reality".  Some may not agree but frankly, if you're still not getting in early 2011, you probably never while I'd have to wonder where you've been for the  past 5 to 10 years.  Personally, I think the big events tend to stick to the 101 stuff and the smaller events give me the opportunity to push into specifics and get guidance on "what now?".

4) Keep it informal: You can be professional and be informal at the same time.  I think an event where there is an eye kept on the time and the flow of the event is a must but that doesn't mean that you have to be a robot.  Hold your event in a cool restaurant or a neat bar that encourages people to relax while learning. I usually go to events at night and after hammering it out at the office all day, it's nice to combine an after work beer with the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.

5) Twitter: Frankly, this is Smarcomm 101 itself but if you're doing anything local in this space, you gotta beat it up on Twitter.  Get the hashtag going, build awareness and encourage people to connect on Twitter before, after and during the event.  I don't see enough people trying to get feedback on their events so they can make them better... why not use Twitter for this?  I can't tell you how often I find out from people that they didn't find out about something until the last minute because they saw it on Twitter... which tells me that is how people find out about events in this space so don't wait until the last minute to get it going.

I'm sure some people might see things differently and that's fine.  I still go to all kinds of events but I am finding more and more that that I am enjoying the events that really do the above 5 things.

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