As you may have heard, the Glasgow troop (and a few of our Manchester siblings) were lucky enough to be involved in this year’s TEDx Glasgow event two months ago today - some of us volunteering and others watching in the plush seats of the theatre, taking full advantage of the culinary delights on offer. This year titled ‘A Disruptive World’, the day was filled with fascinating talks, thought-provoking labs and inspiring exhibitors - if you haven’t read our post on everything on offer, have a read here.
While I was ever-so-slightly jealous of my colleagues watching from the stalls (mainly as they had a chance to taste all the lush food on offer), I couldn’t have been more proud to have been part of the team of volunteers on the day - particularly working on comms, headed by our own Cat. If you’ve read the original post, you may have heard we were trending in the UK for over eight hours on Twitter (even beating the fact it was national fish and chip day!) and I managed to blag myself a bottle of whisky from NullMighty for having the most engaged with tweet (though it was one of the inspiring speakers who I actually have to thank for that). While it may have come at the expense of looking like the most unsociable of keyboard warriors on our phones for the entire day, it was an incredible experience that was completely worth it and, after a successful day, I had a fair few takeaways (digital is a never-ending learning trip, after all).
Live event communications management isn’t easy, but it’s an incredibly rewarding activity if you get it right. Here’s my takings from the day and advice for anybody planning their own.
At events I’ve previously been part of, we’ve perhaps had one main tweeter or social media expert to manage the entire event. However, at TEDx Glasgow, our troop of seven were split across multiple sites at multiple times and - perhaps to all our amazement - it worked nearly flawlessly, with minimum disruption and crossover.
If it’s at all possible, having a team works fantastically well for the day (even if there’s just two of you). It gives you a chance to swap and change roles so it’s possible to digest more of the day than you can do solo, with different eyes viewing every aspect of the day from alternate angles. Having more than one of you also prevents the tone from becoming ‘boring’ or dominated by one person’s opinion - something crucial at an event to inspire community like TEDx.
What’s more, engagement online was through the roof during the entire day. So much so that we needed at least one person at a time managing replies and retweets alone on Twitter. Having a few people working on the channel at a time meant one person could focus on replies and engagement, while another focused on the talks (and others snuck backstage for sneaky moments and shots).
Have a timetable, system and agreed rota
That said, the reason having a team worked so well for us lay in proper organisation and planning. We had a rota, timetable, plans, and places we needed to be throughout the day. If you’re opting for more than one of you, this is crucial - as is communication before and during.
Whether it’s walkie talkies backstage or the more modern (and definitely easier) group chat on your phone (which we opted for), finding ways to communicate with the team throughout the day is crucial for success. Things can and will change, and issues will pop up you won’t have planned for - being able to adapt your plan, rota and strategy will ensure you get the experience of the day, regardless if you’re working solo or as a group.
Oh, and don’t forget the portable phone chargers - you’ll be lost without them!
Set the example
You should always plan a hashtag prior to your event and use it in communications before, during and after - get it ingrained in people’s head and, most importantly, use it yourself and monitor it.
If your event’s going well and you’re getting a lot of people tagging your account, it might be difficult to remember to take a look at the hashtag. Remember, however, that’s it’s the thing that’s going to introduce what’s happening to new audiences - others won’t be able to see private replies to you. With just 140 characters on Twitter, using a hashtag in your own communications can be difficult but if you don’t, no one else will!
Similarly, provoke debate (if your event warrants it) and ask people their opinion on matters - as British citizens we can be terribly polite, not speaking until we’re spoken to. If you want people to engage with you, engage with them first - strike the match that starts the fire, and monitor it throughout to keep it burning at just the right level.
Capture the moment
If you use social media fairly regularly, you’ll probably understand the impact of visuals on your posts. Make sure you use them at a live event - quotations and reports of what are happening are great, but to many they’ll mean nothing without a visual reference of something.
Phone photos and videos are more than adequate to capture what’s happening during the day - ensure you’re showing those who can’t attend what’s going on as much as you’re telling. It will aid your engagement throughout the day and will give you resource for reflecting in your event afterwards. Likewise, give your online audience a taste of behind-the-scenes, and allow them to see those bits - social media is fantastic for allowing people to feel involved, even if they’re not. Tweet photos of set-up, backstage and in-between moments - it’s about capturing the whole experience, not just one part.
Don't be afraid for plans to change
The joy(ous dilemma) of a live event is that things will change. Something will go wrong (or ‘different’ if we’re going to use positive language), the unplanned will happen, and at least one piece of technology probably will fail on you. It’s ok - the best communications plans (whether live or everyday) are always willing to be reactive. Some people suggest scheduling tweets throughout the day. This will depend on the type of event you’re running, but I’m very rarely a fan of this precisely because of the unpredictability of a day. At TEDx Glasgow, we had a fire alarm during registration which knocked the timings for the rest of the day off - planned tweets would have been useless in terms of timings for speakers. Consider this when you’re thinking of the best way for you.
Got any of your own thoughts on live event comms? Let us know on Twitter @afterdigitaluk.