This post is written by OPAL WADE, a student at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and an MPI student member.
The excitement grew as I dressed for the day: black slacks, black shoes and a bright red t-shirt with white lettering. Sure, not an outfit that screams fashionista, but it was crucial to the job at hand. I am a student of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, but for a week in October, I did not attend class, I walked into a new adventure. I met the team leader—a tall, friendly Dutchman in a full beard boasting a patch of grey—with a firm handshake. Eventually, more red t-shirts lined my periphery and we were briefed about our duties. I checked my smartphone one last time as I walked through the large doors of the convention center—it’s show time!
Talk about sensory overload: tall ceilings, bright colors, huge signs, amazing architecture and massive lights. I followed a sea of professionally dressed individuals scurrying about to their destinations, eager to talk business. The reason for the bright red shirt was clear: One can get lost in all this. The white letters on my shirt read IMEX12 Social Media Team.
This team was charged with sharing what’s good and gold at IMEX America via Twitter. Every time an exhibitor tweeted about something interesting going on at their booth, whether it was food, traditional dress, dancing or some other type of event happening, the social media team would descend upon it and tweet pictures and messages to drive traffic to that booth. All tweets were then shown on large screens throughout the trade show floor.
Now, I’m a Facebook buff, but I had not previously done much with Twitter. I needed to get on the boat quickly in order to do my job efficiently. Paired with a friend, we navigated the first day of IMEX America. As the second day began, I’d become more comfortable with Twitter, although my initial plan was to do all the talking as my red-shirted partner composed all the tweets. That soon changed as Donald Hoos (the aforementioned Dutchman) asked that I do all the tweeting for the day.
As I was embracing this new communications tool, I was also thoroughly surprised with how many others onsite lacked social media skills. Some representatives didn’t even know their own company’s Twitter handles/usernames. I understand that not everyone is on the social media bandwagon, but if companies are going to bother having Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare accounts then the entire company should be well informed on the basics, especially those getting out in front of potential clients and making contacts.
In school, a lot is taught on new ways to market and communicate through social media. I see this as a significant issue currently affecting meeting professionals. Social media should be a part of everyone’s business as some of the more traditional forms of media are becoming passé. With social media there is a whole other target market that can be reached. In an atmosphere such as IMEX America, the use Twitter is a great idea but it needs more people to utilize it to be an even greater success—it did bring more business to the booths and again opened people up to other markets. That might be bettered next time around if daily social media-related activities or contests are implemented and if attendees and exhibitors are increasingly made aware of the potential value they could experience through their involvement.
As a student I often wonder what I have to offer to this industry. After spending three days on the trade show floor with real meeting professionals, I realized that I can bring innovation and freshness to the business of meetings, whether helping implement training sessions to introduce more people to social media or coming up with creative uses of space at venues. Luckily, the possibilities for students coming up in the meeting and event industry are endless.
"Sensory overload" Image (CC) Xiao C