I am writing this because someone asked me how an event could be better. Events are a highly specialized and skilled form of organizational management, but as a sub-class of organizational management, some general rules apply.
My question is this: if apply the four basic rules, do I arrive at any insights of value?
1. Make it easy to join in
If we stumble on the sign up, or forget our passwords, nothing more will happen.
The basics are having the event at a place we can reach with public transport, on a day that isn’t filled with competing events, etc. You get the point? I can move on?
2. Make it easy for people to connect
I still go to conferences where I cannot see in advance who is attending, let alone connect with them. And the attendance list does not include email addresses or twitter handles. There is no way to find anyone at the conference once we get there. We are under-utilizing the social, or connect-potential, of the meeting. Grossly.
I know why we continue to organize like this. It is not technology. Amiando and Meetup have full social capacity. It is the ‘control-freak’ nature of British-society. We like to dis the government for being control-freaks, but it start with us.
Maybe we should give every meetup a control-freak rating? Anyway, it is time to stop. I don’t come to your meetup just to meet you! I want to meet other people too. I don’t want to meet up with 1% of people I could meet. I want the full potential!
3. Find a way for people to learn
We learn whenever we ‘do’. We are learning animals.
But just as there are levels of convenience in #1 and levels of sociability in #2, there are levels of learning.
When I introduce myself and the other person struggles to understand what I am on about, I learn.
I also learn when Twitter feeds go up on a big screen. Those big screens can be distracting though. Sometimes they are just a techie gimmick.
Whether they add value or not seems to revolve around ‘feedback loops’. Which feedback loops can we add to highlight great examples of what we do? And is there a way of making data available so people with the skills and inclination can mash it up, dress it up, and present it back to us?
A raffle in which we put our business cards in a bowl for a prize is an example of this principle. The pile of cards grows and we feel good to be at a popular event. The lucky winner is highlighted for being present (and being lucky). I am sure the organizers are looking through the cards too, to see who came (with cards and who will have a gamble)?
What else can we amplify in this way? How can we help people learn?
4. Find a way for the event to add meaning
We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. I don’t mean belong to a group bigger than ourselves. We want our group to fit into a wider landscape in a meaningful way. The existential purpose of the group must be clear. Not just the instrumental purpose or the social purpose.
How does this group fit into the wider community? Why would the wider community be happy that we are there? Why would they mourn if we were not there? How does our meaning change with our activity? How does the wider community thrive and flourish because we thrive and flourish?
This is the big ask. So many old organizations feel rotten because they are no longer connected with the wider well-being of the community – in the community’s eyes, that is, not their own. Does the community see them? How does the community see them? What is the symbiosis?
What is the symbiosis between our event or startup and the wider community? How do they see us? When they talk about us, or our activities? Which parts of our work bring a light to their eyes?
Social media has raised the ante in events management
Tough. In the olden-days we were a star to get #1 right. It is not enough any more. We have to step up through the levels. So point me to good examples, please, because I am still learning too.