Not so long ago, in a land not so far away, all events would start with a familiar phrase..."And before we begin, please switch off all mobile phones". Speakers could judge their success and the resonance of their message through body language, eye contact and the number of hands raised at the end of the session. Times have changed. Now, we actively encourage attendees to use their phones at events and often (although not always!) the best speakers can be identified as those whose audiences are hunched over, tapping away on their mobile devices.
Being physically present at an event no longer provides the maximum opportunity to learn and to network. The most successful attendees are those who can multi-task - be present in the room while simultaneously making an impact online. However, there is a fine line between making positive impact and a negative one. It is vital to do your research, know the audience attending the event and adapt your social media style accordingly. Also it's worth keeping in mind whether you're representing yourself or your company, keep your tone and content within any guidelines which may have been set. If in doubt, check with your communications team and add a "personal opinions" disclaimer to any non-corporate accounts.
Originality is key to making an impact on social media, and this goes for events too. At some point or another we've had an event attendee clog up our feed by endlessly repeating quotes from speakers. If a speaker has something interesting to say, quote them, but add your own comments too - this way you're enriching the content, demonstrating your expertise and standing out from the crowd. If you see another user making an interesting point, don't be afraid to start a conversation with them, reach out and connect!
Of course, it's not just the attendees who have had to expand their skill set. Event organisers now need to think about creating an online space to match the physical event. Hashtags are essential for any successful event, making it easier for attendees to connect and share thoughts, while branded hashtags have the added advantage of increasing brand exposure to an online audience who may not be able to attend in person.
More and more organisers are preparing online content in advance so that attendees have access to important information on the day and also making speakers' content more shareable. While on the day, they're dedicating a resource to monitoring the conversation online and resolving any issues or answering any queries.
While maintaining a successful social media presence at an event can be hard work, the rewards are there too. Not only does it increase your opportunities to form valuable connections and gauge the event's success - it also lives on long after the event is over. Post-event analysis of social media coverage can be beneficial to both the attendees and the organisers as there is time to review, recognise successful strategies, identify opportunities and follow up.
However, one thing above all, is worth remembering when it comes to social media at events. While positive social media impact can be beneficial - don't ignore other attendees at breaks or networking sessions in favour of sending extra tweets. Remember to be as charming in real life as you are online!