Tuesday, August 18, 2009

15 Thoughts from a Virtual Attendee (ASAE09)

First, the acronym: ASAE09 is the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) 2009 Meeting & Expo - held in Toronto the past few days. This year I was a virtual attendee. Meaning, I didn't go to Toronto - but tried to see what I could learn through social media, while it was happening; along with seeing what to possibly incorporate into my own organization and/or presentations.

What I learned about conference sites, materials, and preparing for social media users:

1. Conference site needs to change before, during and after a conference to reach changing audience needs.
2. Post handouts early. Helps attendees decide what to attend. Great for virtual attendees too. [Note: Great handouts posted anyone can look at now too!]
3. Keep schedule and speaker bios posted so virtual attendees know what/who in the world the Twitter users are talking about when they shorten session and speaker names to "Li" and "Jeff DC".
4. Don't over-complicate it. Those attending virtually likely already use social media.
5. Live-stream when can, and if on video post on YouTube as soon as possible. Loved those.
6. Try UStream for individual sessions. It's free and it worked. One speaker, Jeff De Cagna, totally engaged virtual attendees by conversing with us on UStream and taking twitter questions while live audience did group exercises. [Note: fast forward at least 15 min if you watch the video]
7. Have your meeting rooms prepared for attendees with electronics - wireless, extension cords, outlets.
8. Surveying attendees. Live attendees got an electronic survey. Virtual should too.
9. Consider prize drawing. Trade show and live attendees had prize drawings, announced on Twitter. Maybe there should have been one for virtual attendees? (and NOT for "most tweets")
10. Add Twitter to announcement options - ASAE announced range of lost & found items on Twitter. Also posts with links to names of award recipients and names of prize winners. That's easy to do.

If you are tweeting a conference: (and want to be nice to virtual attendees)

1. Use your camera phone more. I was dying to see what the Build-A-Bears that created huge lines in the ASAE trade show actually looked like (the bears themselves, not the line); the "cool" business cards mentioned; and who Velma is (the incoming chair of ASAE). No pics. Although I did find Velma [Hart] on ASAE site.

2. Thank you for using the hashtag and adding links. Found so much info due to the correct use of hashtags by attendees using Twitter. There were 500+ who sent at least one tweet. Many were likely tweeting for their own followers - but all virtual attendees could benefit from their use of links to handouts, etc.

3. Be careful with big twibbon (or adjust your photo accordingly). [Sorry: new word alert - click and you'll recognize a twibbon] Noticed Livestrong, anti-Michael Vick helmets, a planet-theme globe/ball and words Yap and Star image across an opaque gray bar. Virtual attendees may not know you, so don't obstruct your face [Note: on TweetDeck twibboned image can look like a star is coming out of your nose or a ball coming out of your mouth.] A clear unobstructed photo or avatar will help virtual attendees see you.

Lesson: Twibbons can be a great way to show a cause. But try them out for size. Less is more when dealing with extremely small images that display.

4. Keep showing us tips. Really appreciated when tweets included very specific tips - that's what we hope to leave any conference with - even virtually. Will post my favorite tips in separate post tomorrow.

5. Teach by example. A few attendees announced on Twitter they wanted to share a cab from/to airport. Good idea. I'm always scanning cab lines seeing if any chance someone at same conference to share a cab with. Will try a "who's in line at O'Hare" tweet. As we watch how ASAE and its attendees use so many communications methods, it's helpful in learning what to do (or not do or change) in our own associations.

Thanks to all involved!


Ashley Spitzer said...

As a fellow virtual attendee, I could not have said it better! Great post, thanks for sharing your keen observations. The association will certainly benefit from your input.

jkhewett said...

As a virtual attendee myself I too enjoyed participating. My comment is for those who Tweet ... please make it meaningful! When you say, "great session" .. tell me why? Share URL's and photos. It was frustrating when a resource was mentioned and I had no way to follow up. My experience is making me re-think my conference websites and the content listed.

I am surprised myself at how much I gained just by tweeting from WV! I do hope to be in LA next year.

Maggie McGary said...

Another virtual attendee here--great post! Love the idea of a drawing for virtual attendees--what would exhibitors have to lose? Whatever info they could collect from onsite attendees they could certainly easily collect from virtual attendees--for the price of postage required to mail prize to virtual attendee they could probably get a bunch more leads if they did a virtual attendee drawing. Not to mention good blog/twitter coverage from the entrants and/or winners.

Kevin said...

Cindy, sorry you didn't make it this year, but were your ears burning the other night? I was at a party and chatting with a realtor association exec (whose name and affiliation are lost to the libations, I'm afraid) and I said, "I know there are so many realtor associations, but do you know Cindy Butts? She's really great ... well, we've emailed a lot, but I've never actually met her personally ..."

And she immediately interrupted me and said, "Oh my god, Cindy Butts? She is awesome. I don't know her personally either, but I have such tremendous respect for her. She's just amazing."

Anyway, just thought you'd enjoy hearing that even as a virtual attendee, you were being talked about.

Cecilia Satovich said...

Thanks for the feedback on the tweets! You've offered several strong points about how to make the content more useful and relevant for everyone.