Monday, September 27, 2010

Work *with*--not against--a live audience that's using social media

Live audiences have been quicker than those who organize them to incorporate social media tools into the event experience, be it at a theater, speech or performance.  But the border between social media and live events is sometimes a ragged one.  Some organizers, speakers and performers see it purely as a threat or distraction, and fear they're losing, not engaging the audience. How to manage it smoothly? 

Success here lies in incorporating audience sharing into your live event, whatever it may be.  Beth Kanter's recent blog post on engaging Facebook fans shares a great tactic from the Anchorage Concert Association. She notes:
...before each show begins they make an announcement from the stage.  They ask patrons to pull out their smart phones, take a photo of the person sitting next to them, and post on their Facebook page.  Then they ask them to shut the smart phones off.
You get the best of both worlds:  Audience engagement in the live setting, fan-page postings from the event, and yes, silence during the performance.  But if you're not doing a live performance and can allow people to use social networking tools during a speech, presentation or other live gathering, why not build it into the action?  Ask for volunteers to take photos. Offer a prize for the best photo posted by the end of the day, or the most re-tweeted live tweet from the speech. Ask people in the room to describe something for those not present, but watching virtually.  Encourage Foursquare check-ins or hand out some ultralight camcorders so folks can help record the event for use on your website.

What are you doing to make social tools part of your live events? What's working--or not? What are your reservations or encouragement for the idea?

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TJ Walker said...

Excellent tips! Too many speakers are afraid that audience members will be tweeting "this speaker is boring," often for good reason.

Erin said...

This is an interesting post, one that I thought about most recently when I attended a live music event. So many people on the iPhones, I wondered if they were really enjoying the concert, or telling friends about it, or live tweeting it. Sometimes I think that social media can get in the way of actually enjoying a particular event...but I can see the other side of the coin as well. Personally though, if I'm out doing something for fun, I leave the social media out of it as to not distract myself from the event.