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The Impact of Social Media on Meetings and Events

Impact_Social Media_Events

Social media is not a trend. It has fundamentally shifted the way many share personal and professional lives and the way we intake, process and act on information and ideas shared. It has also fundamentally shifted the way our events are designed, marketed and sold. Here, we will look at examples, successes and shifts.

Shift 1. Mobile sales

Let’s start with a “sold” example. Recently, tickets for a basketball game featuring the Toronto Raptors, Canada’s only national basketball team, to be played in Vancouver went on sale. It sold out in less than one minute. Does anyone else remember the days when you had to stand in line to buy a ticket for an event? Nope, neither do our participants. Technology offers the capacity to sell out an event to thousands or tens of thousands in literally seconds, with many sales completed in-hand, on mobile devices. Ensure your site is mobile-enabled.

Shift 1.5. Mobile sharing on social

Give your participants the opportunity to be your advocates, sharing their excitement about your event on their networks when they register. Ba-da-bing, your network is now marketing for you! Enable sharing.

Shift 2. Marketing—everything is visual

This started with images of our environments, events and the people attending—not on Instagram but in caves. We have been sharing our human stories through pictures since the beginning of time because our brains respond rapidly, viscerally and emotionally to images. We connect images immediately to feelings and with meetings and events powered by social media we have the power to share—positivity, change, inspiration—and have these images shared widely, creating a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). This drives marketing for the next program. Have an #eventhashtag to track your shares.

Shift 2.5. Video

We have always responded to video. With social media there have been several iterations, from the six-second Vine to the launch of Meerkat and Periscope, both recently trumped by the ease of Facebook Live, which is powerful due to its ease and sheer depth and volume of user base. Now Instagram has fully integrated video, and “everyone” has a YouTube channel with 300 hours of video uploaded every minute. We like video short, snappy, surprising and shareable.

Shift 3. Social sharing during the event

Using live video from the show hits all the buttons—friendly, shareable, engaging. IMEX America opened with a Facebook live feed with online host Gerrit Heijkoop taking the IMEX Facebook group on a trip onto the show floor, meeting guests from around the world and giving a taste of what was happening. Simple, immediate and setting the stage for more to come. During the show many booths have fantastic activations, and live video allows these to be shared in real time, as well as creating an archive for later marketing.

If you have not tried this with your event yet, what are you waiting for? Your participants, potential attendees and the members who can’t make it to the show (especially if you are a member-based organization) will appreciate you sharing, and will often start planning how they can attend in future years.

Shift 4. Moderated hybrid sessions

Not just a one-way live-stream of a speech, this connects your audience through a live chat with others sharing the same experience from around the globe with a host, special features and (typed) conversation. We have seen book clubs form in hosted chat room groups and people who have “met” virtually to find out they live a few blocks from each other. Video + host + social = improved reach and live attendance growth. Many industry case studies show increases directly tracked back to having first attended virtually.

What about a contest? A fun way to ensure your #event is perpetuated, build a list, engage existing and new constituents to your event and have some fun with the many mediums—text and responses, visual, video, hashtags—that are the basis of great social media engagement. When you attend IMEX keep an eye on social media throughout the show—lots of great contests come to life.

Shift 5. Designed to share

Participants want shareable content and strong, connecting visuals. We now design in 360 degrees with every element from main stage to transition areas to vignettes building on their story. Speaking of stories, don’t forget about Snapchat users, who collectively share over 10 billion views every day.

In Conclusion

Social media reality: “Everyone” is doing it. From Sundance to the White House, from film fests to fashion weeks, from MPI to IMEX, many are successfully using social media to grow a brand presence, to create depth for their members/participants and to create ongoing engagement between event dates. Why? Ultimately, as human beings we like to belong, from our family group to our workplace; we define ourselves by the teams we support, the groups and associations we join and the events we attend. When we choose the media we use to interact with these groups our sense of empowerment and connection grows. Include social media in your strategy and design from the beginning and plan for your team to engage. Then enjoy seeing your event through your participants’ eyes!


About the Author

Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).