BizBash C.E.O. David Adler: What the Inauguration and Women’s Marches Teach Us About Events

Using social media and new face-to-face organizing techniques may enhance future mass-movement events.

The Women's March on Washington drew historic crowds to protest the inauguration of President Trump.
The Women's March on Washington drew historic crowds to protest the inauguration of President Trump.

David Adler (@DavidAdler) is the C.E.O. and founder of BizBash.

As event professionals, we sometimes underestimate the responsibility and importance of the skills that have been perfected over thousands of years of human gatherings. This past weekend, inaugural activities and the women’s marches around the world showcased the power of new styles of event organizing that combine both digital and face-to-face as well as the pairing of all different types of events to create the emotional connections that spark movements. The inaugural events went according to plan and were executed with the professionalism of the hundreds of nonpartisan companies who have perfected the event over hundreds of years. The march in Washington out-performed even the most optimistic projects using the best of social media to mobilize.

In fact, one takeaway is that an event is really a series of events that has a life cycle that continues far after the experience ends. An event is a living, breathing organism where the organizers curate community, content, and context to achieve a result both on a macro level and on a personal level for the participants.

Event organizing has no political affiliation, but has the potential to impact and influence millions. An event is no longer just the day of an event, but the entire process from strategic planning and the digital footprint to leaving an event site in pristine condition. Event organizing also now heavily relies on both the digital and face-to-face realm. The pairing is as important as choosing a great wine for a meal. It is the challenge of both sides of the digital and face-to-face divide to learn from each other and to create better ways to integrate for an enhanced experience.

I heard from event organizers who participated in the Women's March that the face-to-face experience was emotional, but from an event and budget perspective, it left a lot to be desired. Logistics were stretched beyond any reasonable expectation, including the fact that most attendees were on their own with little to no instructions. However, most participants knew what they were getting into with an event of that magnitude.

These and other logistic issues actually pointed out the need for more open-source organizing tools that are not dependent on the deep pockets of the brands or PACs that normally come to the rescue of important causes. Even yet-unthought-of solutions around sound, video, people-moving, and communications could be the natural extensions of the digital solutions that are being innovated daily.

Modern thinking in events is that most of “social physics action” doesn’t happen on the stage and on the formal platforms, but rather on the bus getting to the event, on line waiting to get in, or even going to the restrooms or sitting down next to someone new.

In fact some organizers now judge an event not by number of people who attend but the amount of conversations that are being curated by attendees. So, smart event organizers need to be as concerned about those conversations as much as the logistics for maximum impact of intent.

Scott Heiferman, the co-founder of Meetup, always says that when people have a conversation they inevitably get to the word “let’s”—as in “let’s go to lunch,” “let’s solve a problem,” or even “let’s start a revolution.”

So, while we recognize everyone in the event industry who organized, secured, schlepped, planned, wrote, tweeted, stayed up all night, served, directed, wired, hoisted, designed, shipped, painted, volunteered, photographed, cooked, cleaned up, broke down, loaded-in, loaded-out, applauded, celebrated, drove, programmed, and participated, we also urge everyone to take the responsibility of event organizing in the 21st century more seriously and stay up-to-date with the fast pace of change that is influencing events as well as everything else.

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