The Contextual Event Amplifier

by | Jan 21, 2015

Could an event amplifier personalise your delegates’ event experience by responding to their context? In this post, we consider some very simple steps to improve a delegate’s day…

Over Christmas, I was reading Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.
I was struck by this scenario, taken from the foreword:

“Just a few months ago, I was headed out to a conference on the East Coast and tweeted from the plane… ‘Can’t wait to get to Boston. Staying at the X hotel. Hope to have dinner at Rialto and see the Sox play tomorrow.’
A few hours later, I walked into the hotel and was exuberantly greeted, ‘Welcome Mr. Benioff, we’re so glad you are here. We saw your tweet. The restaurant you wanted to try? We have a table for you. And the tickets for tomorrow’s game? They are on your nightstand, ready for you.’
Wow. Amazing. Dream travel experience, right?
Yes, alas, it was a dream. That is not what happened in the Boston hotel. Not at all. Instead, I checked in and they said, ‘Here are your keys.'”

The technology needed to create this experience already exists. Whilst much of the book examines technology emerging on the start up line in Silicon Valley, this particular scenario could be achieved by no more than a clued up hotel manager hooked up to alerts from social media platforms mentioning their establishment’s name.

This made me think: Are we listening enough when we use social media at events?

Part of my role as an event amplifier often involves being the ‘online host’ or ‘Twitter manager’ for a conference. I live tweet keynote presentations, post logistical messages, retweet highlights and look out for any issues. If there’s a problem, I work with the relevant member of the event team to get it fixed and report back to the delegate.

This is all very useful, and ensures that when the coffee is cold or the live video stream goes down, everyone is informed quickly and delegates are reassured that their concerns are being addressed.

But could we be more proactive?

Listening to the Audience

What would it look like if the event amplifier looked for ways to actively improve and personalise the experience for delegates who use social media?

1. Personalised Welcome

If the event amplifier can communicate with the front of house staff, they could pass on messages that allow staff to give a personalised welcome when a delegate arrives.

Delegates often share their travel experiences on the way to an event. Knowing that a delegate has been delayed means that front of house staff could reserve a seat on the end of a row in the auditorium, and escort the delegate there on arrival to minimise embarrassment and disruption. If the delegate tweeted that there was no catering trolley on their train, the front of house team could even get them a tea or coffee on arrival to help them de-stress.

For a small or mid-size conference (up to 300 delegates) this could be coordinated by an event amplifier who manually checks Twitter and any other relevant social media channels. The event amplifier would just need an agreed way to communicate with the relevant event staff, or a way to add notes to any online check-in system in use.

2. Reserved Workshop Spaces

When an event features a series of breakout sessions or workshops, delegates often discuss which they plan to attend on Twitter. Could the workshop/breakout session leaders receive updates from the event amplifier about who they can expect to see so they can greet them personally and check out their profile information before they arrive? This could help a workshop leader not only greet their attendees personally but also adapt their ice-breaker activities to take advantage of the skills/interests of their attendees.

There is nothing to stop a networked workshop leader from doing this now. However, an event amplifier could collect this information and provided it directly to the workshop leader either by email or in person, so they have a last minute briefing pack to use if appropriate.

3. Pairing Up Local and Remote Attendees

We often see tweets from remote attendees lamenting that they cannot be present. Whilst we may be covering the main keynote sessions effectively, breakout sessions and workshops are often only accessible to local delegates.

Could an event amplifier ‘pair up’ such a remote attendee with an appropriate local delegate? If willing, the local delegate could then communicate with the remote attendee to help them follow this session in whatever way works best for them – from an open Skype call on their laptop to tweeting the main points/questions to them.

This would devolve some of the event amplification responsibility, but would encourage direct relationships to form between remote and local delegates who may not know each other. Local delegates could be encouraged to sign up for this type of buddy system in advance, or answer a call out when the event amplifier identifies a remote attendee who is missing out.


Getting Personal

All of these ideas are enabled by technology, but involve real people reaching out and offering some kind of personal service. For the most part, they also help to improve actual face-to-face interaction – something event technology is often accused of eroding.

With this personalisation will inevitably come concerns about privacy. Unlike many of the ideas contained Scobles and Israel’s book – which involve collecting, storing and analysing data about users from their mobile devices, Google Glass-style devices and local sensors – these modest steps towards personalising the conference experience involve a human being listening to a public conversation and making decisions about how to improve someone’s experience based on their context. However, large events may employ machine intelligence to analyse social network and other data, reach a decision and authorise an action. How would we feel about this type of ‘good turn’ at a conference?

At this stage, I would suggest that event organisers need to consider the types of intervention they feel would really benefit their attendees and work with their event amplifier to implement systems for proactively meeting delegates’ needs that don’t entail extensively snooping through their online history. After all, knowing someone needs a cup of tea is one thing – knowing how they take it can seem a little creepy!

From a personal perspective, I would limit such activities to monitoring communications that include the event hashtag and viewing the delegate’s bio. I would also suggest to organisers that they publish an event amplification policy that sets out how they will collect, monitor and use tweets and other social media updates that include the event hashtag.


Personaling Your Conference Experience

This post includes just some of the most obvious ways in which a conference experience could be personalised a little bit by an event amplifier who listens and responds proactively to the context of the delegate to find ways to improve their experience.

As a conference-goer, how would you like to see your conference experience personalised? What would you like the conference organisers to spot and arrange for you? Or would you feel uncomfortable with the idea of someone watching your tweets and trying to second-guess what could make your day better?

If you have a view, I’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment below!


Need Help?

If you would like help managing your event Twitter stream, or need someone to produce a live Twitter commentary from your event, please contact [email protected] to discuss your needs and get a quote.

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