Social media has raised the ante in events & conference management

I am not an events manager.  If you want information on events management, follow @tojulius and @carmenhere.

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.

Events management from the point of view of a participant

I am choosy about events

Well, I am easy-going in the sense that I will pitch up and help anywhere if I can, but I distinguish in my mind between events where I am just being obliging and events which I really enjoy.

Seeing events from the point of view of a participant

I’ve been asked about why I enjoy some events and I’ve tried to articulate the whole process of event participation – the flip side of events management.

When I am being choosy,  I look for three things.

#1 When I look at myself in the mirror of the event, do I feel more vital and more alive? Do my dreams seem more full and more colourful?  Do my dreams seem to belong and do I get the feeling that if I choose, I can make my dreams come true?  So not all events are for everyone.

#2 Does the location, timing and pace of the event allow me to be relaxed and playful?  Do ideas start connecting in unusual ways?  Am I likely to end the day having made new connections that I could have made at home or at the office but won’t because it is too busy there?  An event that doesn’t allow time to unwind will just be work.

#3 Was I able to be heard at the event?  We often don’t know what we think until we hear ourselves aloud.  Sometimes the simplest things aren’t getting done because we didn’t label the task out loud.  Sometimes priorities have shifted and as soon as we say so out loud, our action plan is startlingly clear.   When I hear other people, do their lives provide sufficient insight about my life that I get an “aha” experience.  Actually, I am greedy.  I want many “aha” experiences.  I want to get an inkling that an idea is worth pursuing.  And then I will  pursue it away from the meetup – much richer for realising there are interesting possibilities in places that I had never thought to look.

What is likely to be part of an event that I really enjoy?

#1 Style. I am sensitive to chi and like to feel it flow.

#2 Good food.  I don’t mind the style of cuisine and it can be very simple but I like it to be done well.

#3 Competence.  I love listening to competent people and watching them work.  I like mixing with competent people.  I like admiring competent event managers.  I cannot do what they do.  But I watch them as happily as I will watch a Wimbledon Tennis Final.

#4 Voice.  I want people to be able to speak up and be heard.  It is hard to organize an event where everyone is heard.  It is a big ask and I think it can only be done when all the other factors are in place.

#5 Connections.  Surprising connections bring astonishing futures.  The right people, who are interested in meeting each other and helping each other, generate possibilities we couldn’t imagine until we got together.  We attend new events hoping this ingredient is there.  We go back when it is right.

Creating atmosphere as a competency

Now, none of this is too hard, is it?

I jest.  Creating a good atmosphere is the most mysterious of competences.  Good Headmasters and Headmistresses do it.  Good Presidents and Primeministers do it.  And so do event managers.

Maybe this is the age of event management.

Are YOU able to bring 100 interesting people together in a party in London?

How do Julius and Carmen find these venues?

Last night, Spicy Networking met up at The Livery on Wood Street, just off Cheapside as we exit St Paul’s tube.

To be honest, in the ordinary course of events, I would never have noticed The Livery.

It is on a side street
It is ultra modern with clean strong lines
It is long, with the seating all the way through to the back.
And to be be very honest, had I noticed it, I wouldn’t have even gone in.  It wouldn’t look like a place that you just drop in.

As a function venue, The Livery is magnificent.

It is near a major tube (St Paul’s, Central Line). It is on a side street so there are fewer fumes.  The ultra clean look is great for a reception where we are moving around the room a lot and shuffling our bags between our feet.  The long bar opened up into a wide area at the back that was reserved for us.

There is evidently a ‘mental model’ that the hospitality industry and event managers understand that allows them to spot these things.

And then, of course, they make the event happen.  We need more than a good room.  We need the right food.  And, we need the right people.

The food at events organized by Carmen and Julius is always fantastic.

The people are exceptional.  In 18 months or so in the UK, Julius and Carmen have built up a network of business people, entrepreneurs and post-graduate students.  Everyone you talk to at these events is interesting.  And energetic.

A good event. A sound business.  An exciting career.  The magic is in getting the right people together.

That is where the real magic lies.   Getting the right people together.

I don’t know how to do this. I could coach you but you would be working it out for yourself as you go.

If you need it done for you, you need to speak to Julius and Carmen.  They know how to do it.  They have done it.  They do do it.

And if don’t have time to help you, they may know people who can.

Check our restaurants like The Livery which are on the side streets!

In the meantime, pop in to The Livery for a beer and light meal.   And imagine it full with 100 of the most interesting people in London.

I’ll be going back, not to relive a great evening, but to see how it sparks my imagination about the magic of life and work around St Paul’s.