One of the key elements of amplifying an event is getting the physical audience involved with the online dimension of the event. This allows you to capture their insights and facilitate community building beyond the event itself. Some of them will be actively engaging in the online sphere whilst sitting in the conference theatre, whilst others may not. This may be a personal preference, or it may be that they simply don’t have an awareness of the wider community outside the room and the potential this gives for greater professional networking. A little encouragement during the event to raise the profile of the online activity surrounding the event can help to get more of your audience involved so they can dip in and out as they choose and glean whatever benefit suits them.

In the spirit of innovation and fun, as well encouraging awareness of the online dimension to an amplified event, one of my colleagues recently developed a prototype application for amplified events called Twitter Buzzword Bingo…
 

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If you have ever played conventional Buzzword Bingo at an event, you will be familiar with the basic concept. Prior to a particular conference plenary, we identify 16 buzzwords that we expect to be raised, which the application arranged on a grid and hid from the audience, allowing us to project a blank grid on a screen at the venue. Participants are encouraged to tweet about a session in an attempt to guess the buzzwords. Each time a buzzword is included in a tweet tagged with the event hash tag, a square lights up on the grid, accompanied by a little bird chirping sound effect. This is designed to alert the audience that a buzzword has been mentioned, but not to disturb the flow of the speaker too much. A designated Twitter account also sends out an automatic Twitter notification to say: “@whoever has tweeted the buzzword “example”. 15 buzzwords remaining #event” so that the online audience would also be aware which buzzword had been identified. When the final buzzword is identified, the programme plays a more intrusive tune to draw attention to the close of the game.

Twitter Buzzword Bingo was designed to encourage the audience to think about and tweet about the main themes of the presentation, thereby actively engaging them not only in the online dimension to the event, but also in the presentation itself in a more practical manner – perfect for that sleepy after-lunch slot.

We recently trialled the game in a light session presented by the event chairman, who was providing concluding remarks to sum up the conference. We found that in practice many people chose to play it as a game, tweeting just single words or strings of words in an attempt to get a buzzword, rather than reporting full statements, as we initially intended. However, it could be argued that this, far from being disruptive, actually had an educational benefit for those participants in the form of revision. In order to make potentially winning suggestions, they needed to have listened and understood the main themes of the event, and be confident with the key vocabulary used. We also found that we needed to give a clue for the final word (economic) to ensure that the game finished before the end of the session. This highlighted the need for key terms to appear in a pithy, quotable statement or in an obvious way if they are to be picked up and tweeted by the audience.

Overall, the game added an interactive, fun element to the session which seemed to generate good humour. Most importantly, the design of the game provided an equal playing field for both physical and remote attendees to join in with no handicap on either side.

Currently, Twitter Buzzword Bingo exists as a simple prototype Mac application. It provides functionality to change the account that tweets the buzzword updates, the event hash tag and the list of buzzwords. We also included functionality to exclude certain Twitter accounts (such as the live blogger’s account) so that the game is limited just to the intended audience.

Twitter Buzzword Bingo is obviously very much a novelty addition to a conference programme, requiring a particular kind of speaker and audience to work successfully. However, we are keen to explore how this experience could help us to design more innovative, interactive conference games that place the physical and the remote audience on an even footing and encourage not only more active engagement with the conference themes, but more connections between these two audiences.