Best of 2011: Elizabeth Glau on Paying Attention to What Attendees Say Online

December 12, 2011, 12:07 PM EST

Attendees at meetings and events are using social media platforms like Twitter to do three things: share what they are learning, give instant feedback to the organizers, and socialize with other attendees.

Five years ago, people started using Twitter at events. The hashtag was created, and it helped attendees communicate what they were learning. They would tweet nuggets of information they heard from speakers or anything newsworthy they saw. Their Twitter followers would learn vicariously through them—and learn about your conference.

They would also start to connect with the other people tweeting about the same event. The tweet-up was born: “Hey! Let’s get together after the last session and meet each other in person!” Let’s fast-forward to your conference next year. Some attendees who met online and then in person at your event have developed relationships. They are accustomed to Twitter messaging each other. They do it at your conference, and they include the event hashtag because they want everyone to know they are friends. These messages have decreased educational value but increased engagement value.

They have also started to give feedback about the event. This is where it really gets interesting for you: People tweet the good, the bad, and the ugly. Often, someone will tweet something that they would not say to your face—or write on an evaluation. Here’s the catch: The person responsible for the logistics of the program does not have time to monitor the social media channels where their attendees are conversing.

This is why you need a full-time social media moderator at your event. If the attendees are complaining about something, they expect you to do something about it—now! You have the opportunity to solve a problem while it is happening. Having someone monitor the Twitter feed is like giving attendees your cell phone number so they can call you at any time. A good social media moderator knows what to say on the feed to apologize on behalf of the organization and knows when to bother the logistics team with problems.

Would your event get better if you had real-time, honest feedback from attendees?

There is a clear progression of what your event’s Twitter commentary will look like year after year. If you are not monitoring and moderating it, you are missing out on learning the following: Which presenters are speaking ideas worth sharing? What’s going wrong logistically that you can fix before it’s too late? Which of your attendees has the most online (and offline) influence?

Meetings and events that compete within the same industry are being created every day. If you are not viewing your event as a customer service opportunity, your attendees will find someone else who will.

Elizabeth Glau (@elizabethglau) is the owner of Building Blocks Social Media in San Diego and director of special events for the Southern California chapter of Meeting Professionals International.

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