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6) Good SWAG On Sale, Bad SWAG. Banned. 7) Better ... Create appropriate spaces for people to work, with charging points for laptops/tablets/phones, tables ...
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8 Trends For Better Events In 2012 by Gianfranco Chicco

There are more events than ever taking place, and 2011 has seen all kinds of them.

Trends: 1) Being Present 2) Audience Curation 3) Open Content 4) Better Networking 5) Better Storytelling & Coaching 6) Good SWAG On Sale, Bad SWAG Banned 7) Better Integrated Sponsors 8) Experience Design

Many are still playing it safe in an industry which is heavily influenced by outdated principles of the pre-internet era. Others, still few but growing, are challenging business as usual to create new kinds of experiences that attract media, crowds and businesses alike. During this year I've organized, spoke and attended several events in 8 different countries, big and small, including international conferences, seminars, meet-ups, gatherings and university lectures. This report presents the eight most relevant trends from those events that are shaping the industry for better and how you can use them in your own conference.

1) Being Present

Online before, online after. Face2Face during.

Technology has spread wildly throughout most of our professional and personal lives, and suddenly many of us realize we cannot be without checking email any given minute (and let's not mention Twitter and Facebook). While this is an unstoppable force, the best events I attended during 2011 were those that masterfully communicated online before and after, but kept the presence of technology during the event to a bare minimum or at least invisible. Online communications help you reach new audiences, stay in touch with your event's community, sell tickets, share interesting information, publish videos of what happened and tons of other useful things, all great things before and after people are able to physically gather. During the event they become a distraction from what is happening on stage, in the corridors, etc. The most innovative events are using ad hoc mobile apps less and less, and when they do, they limit them to the most useful features (e-ticket, program, speaker profiles, messaging between attendees and meeting scheduling). The key is to make more meaningful the action taking place at your event than the urge to check emails time after time. To do so you have to first realize that you're fighting against anxiety. A delegate will get nervous when she cannot connect to the internet to routinely check her email. So DO provide a great wireless internet connection, no excuses accepted.

Action Points Become intransigent with boring presentations, which are the biggest time waster at your conference anyway [see trend n.5]. Create appropriate spaces for people to work, with charging points for laptops/tablets/phones, tables, comfortable chairs, and a tranquil enough area for conference calls Eliminate unnecessary distractions. Tech events pioneered the use of a "backchannel" or “Twitter Wall” (a projection of tweets connected to a particular hashtag) and have also been the first to remove them from the conference room. It's distracting for the audience and the speaker, who moreover can not take part in it if she's delivering a presentation on stage. Besides, anyone can have their own backchannel in his/her mobile or tablet by just tracking the hashtag on the preferred Twitter app Active participation. Workshops, intense Q&A sessions (at least 50% of the length of a presentation and not just a few minutes at the end), participatory formats (like Barcamps, where audience and speakers have interchangeable roles) and fast paced presentations (like Pecha Kucha or Ignite) make people more active and makes being present more valuable Involve more senses. There is a visual overload and strong competition for attention but innovative events are stimulating the five senses of the audience in a more holistic way, increasing the emotional relationship with it. Mixing different kinds of content and how it's delivered not only makes for a better experience but also keeps people alert and interest