Jackie Mulligan – Social Networking Shaping Offline Meetings

Jackie Mulligan - EIBTM Presenter, Leeds University

EIBTM 2013 made abundantly clear that the meetings industry is embracing technology at all levels.  Applications range from tools to assist in  Pre-Event, Intra-Event and Post-Event management. 
Reed International(owners of EIBTM) selected Genie Connects Marketing Application as winner of the EIBTM Technology Watch Award 2013.  The App provided show attendants with information throughout the event. At the same time, it is clear off-line use of technology for meetings and events is still evolving. 
To get handle on the influence of technology on meetings and events, MICExchange spoke to Meetings and Event Researcher, Jackie Mulligan, presenter at EIBTM and lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK.

There are Five big social network ideas that could shape offline meetings”, said Jackie.
I am sure you hear a lot about how you can use social networks as part of the meeting ‘product’. Meeting professionals use the different media to lesser and larger extent to reach out to attendees – social networks are tools to build audiences, co-create events, engage and reach out. But they are not just tools, their very design can inspire too. Here are five big ideas that lie underneath the most successful social networks Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn that I hope might inspire you.

Single ideas put simply
Twitter works. It works because people communicate in single ideas. The 140 character limit means messages are simplified and if there are links to content, those messages are written to entice the reader. Single ideas help us to focus our thinking and can deepen our interest and widen both the number of voices that contribute and who we can hear. For group discussions, try to limit people to speaking in the equivalent of only 140 characters so that all get a chance to voice their thoughts. By building a session around a central and single idea, explore ideas at a deeper level. By reducing the length of time of a session, cover more ideas in short, sharp and focused discussions. Would such sharp bursts entice us to find out more? Studies show that people are meeting for shorter amounts of time. This does not mean that they are focusing on single ideas. More likely they are overloading content into less time. Twitter has something to teach us in how best to communicate in shorter spaces.

When topics become hot, they start trending. The concept of the hashtag is very effective because it not only denotes what is hot, but it supports us to navigate our social and interest-based searches. We can find people interested in similar topics through hashtags., It makes networking and getting information we need when we need it easier. What mechanisms are there to do this at meetings? I may know your name and your company. But I have no idea what you really want to achieve or even what you are interested in? Is it time for us to do more to help our attendees undertake social searches in our social spaces? Is it time to get our attendees to share more about what they want, need and are interested in so that they can meet the right people. We could set up ‘hashtag’ networks within our meetings if we knew more about the interests of our attendees in advance.

Personal brand
Online we choose photos that represent us. We even decide our names, share our backgrounds, even straplines. At meetings we have a badge and if we are lucky something to denote how we are defined by the meeting organiser eg ‘exhibitor’, ‘speaker’, ‘buyer’ ‘visitor’ ‘faculty’. Such general categories seem offensive. They limit what we can achieve or do and sometimes change the way we are treated for better and worse. At meetings should attendees decide how they would prefer to be known and defined? Is it time for us to design our own badges and lanyards?

Status update
How many times do meeting organisers ask attendees how they feel? Social networks are effective because they encourage us to share, they prompt us to say something. Twitter asks us “what’s happening?” Facebook asks us “how we feel?” LinkedIn asks us if we would like to “share an update” and tells us about people we might know. At meetings in most cases it is up to attendees to ask an official-looking someone for help. Perhaps the tables need to turn. Imagine what real-time feedback you would gain by having staff and apps using such tactics to encourage attendees to share more about how they feel during a meeting? The reason I share online is that I get feedback from others, sometimes encouragement, other times guidance. Imagine being asked at a meeting how you were feeling and then being responded to with guidance, encouragement and support in real-time.

Social networks are fickle. You can post a status update every minute of every day and get nothing, and then suddenly you might get lots of interest. You cannot often predict the reaction but when you get one it can be world-changing. At meetings, sessions run on time and if a particular topic seems to be getting traction, the programme continues regardless. Unless you are organising an open space style event, the likelihood is that the schedule is fixed. The problem is that online, attendees can go where their passion takes them. If an interesting point is raised or not addressed they can demand it gets attention. What about placing slack in the programme for particular ideas and subjects to emerge or simply extending a session because the attendees are loving it? It would mean allowing control to pass to attendees to drive content, to look after themselves and the consequences. But imagine what you could learn about your attendees by letting go of the schedule? More importantly imagine what your attendees could gain.

On that ‘letting go’ note I shall end this short and tweet.
Now is time to look online to see what we can learn. Social networks are not just tools. They are shaping expectations on how we connect in the real world. #140 characters

About Jackie Mulligan
Jackie is currently leading global studies for MPI on Corporate Social Responsibility in the Meetings and Hospitality Industry, the Future of Meetings, and Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) and is undertaking doctoral research on creativity in the meetings industry.  Jackie will be speaking at the “Breaking the Rules” conference in Belgium and at EMEC in Istanbul in February 2014.
Twitter ID : jackiemulls
Work :
{jathumbnail off}


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here