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The Mob Rules

Crowd Sourcing is a hot topic amongst Event Peeps these days – for once, “feed back” in the middle of a production is a good thing! What is Crowd Sourcing? It’s an open casting call for ideas, observations and assessments. In short, it is broadcasting questions or germinating thoughts to a massive group of undefined [...]

Wine Me, Dine Me, Scan Me- How QR Codes Can Work for You

I was raised by Luddites. Not literally, but let’s put it this way: my father just purchased his first computer.  As a side note;  it’s better than mine. And he has no idea how to function it. So I have to help him get it all together. This is the Universe’s way of punishing me [...]

Just Checking In

I have a friend who “checks in” EVERYWHERE. Not kidding. He checks in when he goes to Chili’s for one of those two-fer meal deals. He checks in at the dentist. While I am glad that he is frugal and practicing good dental hygiene, I qualify the habit as a uber over-share. I’m a friend [...]

The Mob Rules

Crowd Sourcing is a hot topic amongst Event Peeps these days – for once, “feed back” in the middle of a production is a good thing! What is Crowd Sourcing? It’s an open casting call for ideas, observations and assessments. In short, it is broadcasting questions or germinating thoughts to a massive group of undefined people and l’assiez le bon temps rouler!It’s outsourcing everything from meeting content, seminar discussions and thematic focus to the general public-the consumers and end users.

The Author credited with coining the phrase “Crowd Sourcing” , Jeff Howe, installed the edict that “the concept of crowdsourcing depends essentially on the fact that because it is an open call to an undefined group of people, it gathers those who are most fit to perform tasks, solve complex problems and contribute with the most relevant and fresh ideas.”

Ahh yes, that’s all well and good, says the Planner or Event Manager, but if we leave it up to THEM we will only golf and eat buffet food and there will be no education, no content. It will be anarchy I tell you! The inmates will run the asylum! Indeed they will and when it comes to education and absorption of content sometimes it is best to give the people what they want. What they want is to participate in their process. They want to be leaders. When you provide a non-traditional conference atmosphere with cutting-edge technology and some strategic thinking you create a play ground for your participants. One where they will play well others, share their toys and eagerly make friends because they created the games.

How does one Crowd Source? Put out a call to action months before your meeting/event. Start a Twitter Chat. Send tweets with hashtags like #PowerPointsBoreMe or #WhatICryAboutAtNight. Avoid the topic #MyBossIsWhyIDrink but be creative. Get a roiling good convo going. Make a Facebook page of your event, Facebook LOVES them some events! Make a chat area available on your website so people have a place to convene and share and network. It’s the #1 reason people go to these things – not the rubber chicken. Then ensure that you have a Network Lounge where people can get together and hold little break-outs are own. Put a stage in there and create a “Speakers Corner” where they can throw ideas out to one another. Hold contests to get people thinking. Perhaps a Pecha Kucha contest where thought-leaders present their concepts on 20 slides in 20 seconds? The winners will present at the conference.

When you are setting up your event think about a non-traditional set up, one that involves the audience. A round stage perhaps plunked in the middle of the ballroom? Couches instead of those nasty, hard ballroom chairs? Let your attendees tweet responses to the program in real-time and let it scroll on the video screens. Make questions and answers an imperative. I did a program with a software developer that held a “Demo Jam” it was awesome! The owner and Chief Developer gave his little geniuses a chance to criticize the product and present their improvements – they had a few hours to put it all together and five minutes to present. The winners walked away with two large. It was fun, raucous and enlightening – especially for the owner. He found the cracks in his software and tasked his people to solve them in a relaxed and free environment. A smart move and a great example of Crowd Sourcing.

The fact is, people learn by doing and they become evangelical about a concept when they feel they are a part of its germination. When you let the inmates design and build the meeting of their dreams they will reward you with increased participation and a willingness to take the learning they absorbed into their everyday lives. And if they build it they will come – thus attendance is sure to increase! “Is this Heaven?”  “No,” says the Planner proudly, “This is the Cincinnati Airport Ramada. Welcome, here’s your badge. Now go play nice with the other kids.”

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Wine Me, Dine Me, Scan Me- How QR Codes Can Work for You

I was raised by Luddites. Not literally, but let’s put it this way: my father just purchased his first computer.  As a side note;  it’s better than mine. And he has no idea how to function it. So I have to help him get it all together. This is the Universe’s way of punishing me somehow. That said, I was not raised to be a tech-head, gadget geek or wired wunderkind. That said, I do love me some advancement of technology and QR Codes are something very, very cool.

Quick Response Codes have been around forever. Like bar codes on your grocery items, they are a Orwellian advancement that sends conspiracy theorists into paroxysms of “They are going to chip us all!” fervor. But really, QR codes are an easy to create, simple to use way to brand yourself and get your message out there.  Imagine your web address, Facebook URL, marketing message or business card details pixellated into a square of information that looks like this:

Production Plan-It

QR Fun Time!

The applications for these little mystery squares are endless. Recently, at the SXSW festival in Austin, TX; QR codes were included on everyone’s registration badge. According to their website:

“When you meet someone at an event, let them scan your badge with their smart phone, and they will automatically be following you on [the conference's social network] my.SXSW, where they can message you or access your contact information. Hopefully, this will cut down on the paper footprint of SXSW by reducing the need for business cards.”

From that site, you can export all of the info you would have collected to your e-mail contacts, address book or contacts management system of your choice. Pretty groovy!

Facebook is also experimenting with this technology. According to Fast Company magazine, “Leaked screenshots indicate Facebook’s experimenting with profile or status QR code generation on fan pages, according to TechCrunch. Imagine a QR code that instantly makes the person scanning it a fan of a brand, company, or personality on Facebook without ever typing a URL.”

Apparently, QR Codes are all the rage in Japan and just starting to trickle here to the US. Like SMS messaging, it takes us awhile to get on the band wagon. But the use of QR Codes is as limitless as your imagination.  First, you need to know where to get one made. Go to QR Stuff, http://www.qrstuff.com/ and check it out. Type in the info you want and you can create a free low-res QR code instantly and e-mail it to yourself. The web address you enter will be shortened, or bit.lyed, but is still serviceable.  For a nominal $3.95 you have a 24 hour subscription which will be instantly upgraded to on month. With that, you receive unlimited access to Hi-Res images and your full URL displayed in QR. You can also take that Hi-Res image and make T-Shirts made courtesy of zazzle.com. Or you can get really creative.

Once you have created this little nugget of techno wonder you will need to make sure you have the app on your Smart Phone to read them.  There are many apps available for – we have Optiscan which is available for the iPhone at a measly $1.99. Go the iTunes and get it. I-Nigma is supported by Apple, HTC, Black Berry and Palm devices, amongst others, and is one of the more popular decoders. For some great QR Code tips go to Social Media Examiner.

Just recently, The West Volusia County Tourism Advertising Authority in Florida announced the use of QR tech to create a tourist-centric scavenger hunt of the counties hot spots, historical areas and restaurants.  Sunglass, Hut, Ralph Lauren and Hearts of Fire have used them in advertorials and in direct mail postcards. The uses are endless. What will you do with them?

Just Checking In

Event Check In

The Power of the Check-In

I have a friend who “checks in” EVERYWHERE. Not kidding. He checks in when he goes to Chili’s for one of those two-fer meal deals. He checks in at the dentist. While I am glad that he is frugal and practicing good dental hygiene, I qualify the habit as a uber over-share. I’m a friend and I don’t give a flying squirrel – what must his 5,000 other friends think? Wow he get’s around. He is the Mayor of Chipotle on Foursquare and what does he have to show for it? Actually – he gets a free Burrito Bowl.

The check in is one part of the Social Media revolution that initially puzzled me. In the realm of personal life, checking in seems to be a narcissistic “look at me” moment. When Kim Kardashian checks in at some Hollywood party gifting suite to pick up a free pair of Joe Jeans and some Persols it’s obnoxious, right? Or is it? Think about it this way: Kim Kardashian name-checked the party, the suite and the brands all through the use of simple application.

Foursquare is an easy to use application that allows people to share favorites with their online community and friends, earn points and rewards. When someone becomes Mayor of a destination they are given freebie and discounts. Free Chips and Salsa for every check in is a small price for Chili’s to pay to get their brand out there to my buddy’s 5,000 friends. Many major brands, like Pepsi, have aligned themselves with Four Square to create loyalty programs like Pepsi Loot  that work in conjunction with a reward program. Designer Marc Jacobs did the same thing – giving tickets to his fashion show to loyal Foursquare checkers. Event planners looking to create brand loyalty for their evergreen events and trade shows could use check-ins to create that same sort of attendee loyalty. Imagine incentivizing attendees to check-in when they arrive at your event and rewarding those that do with a special discount or product or branded swag? With a simple Badge they can tell the world that they are at your event. Creating check-ins for the various programs within the events keeps the communication going. If you have a high regard speaker at your event, a check-in for their presentation would do the trick or maybe having the Speaker themself check in. A contest for the attendees that post the most check-ins, or perhaps a social media scavenger hunt utilizing the check-ins? The possibilities are endless.

In March of this year Face Book announced that it has “has begun testing a check-in button for event pages accessed by iPhone users. A spokesperson for Facebook explained in an email, “We’re currently testing this and it will be available with the next iPhone release.”  Imagine creating a Facebook page for your event and then allowing those attendees to check in on that day. A great way to generate some buzz for your gig without spending a dime.

Meeting Planner’s today have so many applications and media with which to incentivize, reward and publicize it simply takes a little “out-of-the-box” thinking and embracing the innocuous simplicity of a check-in. By the way, I am now the mayor of my local Tapas joint. Viva free tortilla!