Category: Social Media

4 online tools for engaging, connecting, sharing at conferences (part 2 of 3)

This is part two of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outlined needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two below, I list my  digital tools of choice. In the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

So what’s a way to address all of those needs without spending tens of thousands of dollars and hiring a team of iPhone wielding, Twitter buzzing social media peeps? If I were in charge of defining a solution, I would include these in my toolkit:

Note: I’m not covering Twitter, YouTube and Facebook here, though you definitely need them. I will discuss how to use these social media juggernauts together with the tools below in the next post.

Event Social Gymnastics: SCHED

SCHED is an interactive event calendar, personal agenda builder and social networking tool. This tool is simply awesome, and I know of no other tool in its category that comes close to its feature/price point. SCHED was originally developed for the king of conferences, SXSW. Look what you get for a mere $800:

  • Event calendar with colour-based categorization, live search, and detailed session pages. Filter events by category, date, venue, company, subject, audience, geographic area and most popular events. Highlight most popular events to help attendees figure out what to attend.
  • Attendees can create and save a personal schedule and share it with others. Export schedule to use in Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar or just print it out. Share via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks.
  • Attendees can better connect socially by seeing a list of who else is attending, including their network of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn friends. A group schedule of current friends is also automatically generated showing you the events your friends are planning to attend.
  • Arrange meet ups by viewing attendee’s schedules and contacting them through their personal profiles.
  • Attendees and presenters can discuss sessions by adding comments to each session’s page.

Sustainable bonus: instead of printing out schedules, attendees can print their own, customized to their liking, or just refer to it on their mobile device.

Administration bonus: manage list of published events using a familiar spreadsheet format

Toss in another $300 and your event gets its own iPhone app with a full schedule preloaded for offline use, with search and filtering capabilities.

View full list of SCHED features.

Agile 2010, the giant gorilla you are, please put this tool on your list to help nearly 2000 attendees feel less overwhelmed connecting with each other and choosing between 200+ sessions.

Online content hub: Posterous

I had my big a-ha moment with Posterous using it as a community blog for the 2010 Orlando Scrum Gathering. I needed a blogging tool that makes it super easy for several contributors to publish and distribute content, with a minimum of effort. Posterous is the answer.

The process is simple. Email a post, attaching any type of document, image, audio or video, or just link to the file online. Posterous handles media smartly, embedding videos, audio and documents, creating photo albums, posting PDFs. Hook up sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and have your content automatically posted to them. All with the effort of creating one email. Makes a one person social media team look mighty smart. 🙂

Live publishing: ScribbleLive

ScribbleLive is a free tool that a conference can use to capture the conversations, sights, sounds (hopefully smells coming in a future release) in real-time. Conferences like Mesh have used ScribbleLive to create live blogs per session. ScribbleLive will also (for a fee) create a custom portal listing all the live blogs related to an event.

Key features:

  • Super simple to use. I’ve shown people who have never live blogged before how to get started in less than 5 minutes. It’s like Twitter or Facebook – type in a box and update.
  • Pull in all tweets using a hash tag. People are already tweeting about your conference, this puts them all in one place, in real time, archived online. Any photos linked in tweets are displayed. Post ScribbleLive postings back to Twitter.
  • Self-organization. Set up the live blog links, and invite anyone logged in to participate as a live blog writer.
  • The iPhone app works really well for posting and watching content.
  • Upload audio / video for viewers to watch / listen to instantly.

Bring the online conversation offline: Twitter Fountain

I tried Twitter Fountain for the first time at the 2010 Orlando Scrum Gathering and it was a big success. People enjoyed conversing while watching the constantly updated series of Twitter posts and images. Like a big visible chart, it shows what people are saying and sharing without having to go online and check.

For consideration: timely, shared feedback: SpeakerRate

In my search for a decent feedback tool I recently discovered SpeakerRate. SpeakerRate is the one tool I’ve listed that I haven’t actually used, other than to check it out. I first discovered PodCamp Toronto using SpeakerRate to provide more details about topics and to obtain feedback for presenters. It’s simple enough to use, though registration is required (please integrate Facebook/Twitter logins guys). Reviewers rate content and delivery and can provide constructive feedback via comments. Presenters build up a rating over time if they use this tool for multiple presentations. Worth considering, though I’d like to see SpeakerRate integrated with another tool like SCHED for a more seamless experience.

Those are my tool selections that I believe a small operation can use effectively without a ton of effort to greatly enhance the conference experience. What would you add/remove as part of your essential toolkit?

This is part two of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outlined needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Connect, share, engage: how to amplify your conference with an online experience (part 1 of 3)

This is part one of a three part series on creating an online presence to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline needs for information and to connect conference goers which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Last year I attended Mesh 09. That was the first conference I’d been to where I think *everyone* had a Twitter account. Sessions were filled with people tweeting and live blogging. I followed the conference hash tag to keep up with what was happening, sometimes switching rooms because of what others were posting. Events that use social media like Twitter and live blogging amplify the value of the “hallway conversations” that are often the best part of conferences. The conference felt more alive, and in turn I got more value from going.

Over the past few years I’ve volunteered to help a number of events use social media to amplify their value and impact on participants. From experience I can say that with a little effort and knowledge, integrating social media into the conference experience does not have to be onerous or expensive. All the tools I use are free, and there are ways to automate part of the effort. Remember, too, once there is an environment in which everyone can participate and share, you don’t have to generate all the content – grab your paddle and jump in the content stream with others.

If I were in charge of social media for a conference, I would start first by identifying the needs people have around information and connecting. For this round of research I sat down with myself for an in-depth interview. Well, I was available and close by.

I see four stages participants go through related to a conference. For each stage I’ve identified needs. While some needs span across stages, I refer to them once to avoid unnecessary duplication. I know you’re busy.

Should I go to the party?

AKA deciding whether to attend the conference or not

  • Sessions: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them?
  • About presenters: where can I find more detailed information about them? What do others think of them? How can I contact presenters with my questions?
  • Network: who else is going that I might want to meet?

Dress up: getting ready for the party

Getting closer to the event

  • Network: contact people in advance, organize meet ups, discuss what is coming up
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
  • Accommodations: find someone to share a room, airport taxi. What lower cost alternatives are there to the conference hotel?

Party time

Ok, we’re there.

  • Network: find people to connect with in real-time, organize meet ups
  • Sessions: decide which sessions to attend. What sessions are other people going to, especially people I know?
    • last minute changes to schedule, sessions
  • Feedback: timely, useful session feedback to presenters and conference organizers
  • Conversation: what are the hot topics? What are people thinking/doing/sharing? What stories are being told by the people at the conference?

The morning after

  • Feedback / telling the story: what are people saying and sharing about their experience of the conference?
  • Network: find for those people you met but don’t have contact details for to continue discussions, follow up on opportunities, request copies of incriminating photos.

My experience is conferences not social media savvy don’t address these needs well, and miss some entirely, especially when it comes to connecting people with each other. Fortunately, all it takes is a reasonable effort and cost to bridge the gap. In the next blog post I’ll list the tools you’ll want to use to become a conference social media superstar.

How does this list compare to what you need? Have I missed anything important? Add your comment below.

This is part one of a three part series on using digital tools / social media to enhance the conference experience. In the first post, I outline informational and connecting needs conference goers have which these tools can address. In part two, I’ll list my  digital tools of choice and then in the third segment I will discuss a simple strategy for using these tools.

Social Media @ Scrum Gathering by the numbers

Scrumming forward - open space banner @ Scrum Gathering

Last week I attended my first ever Scrum Gathering in Orlando. A big part of my voluntary duties was to enhance the experience through use of social media.

Just for fun, I tabulated some numbers on social media throughput by myself and conference goers:

The Twitter fountain was a big hit. We set it up in the conference hallway one day and inside the open space ballroom the next. People enjoyed seeing tweets and photos appear live on screen.

In a follow-up post, I’ll explain more about the why and how of social media at the conference, what worked in my mind and what didn’t, and what I would do next time.

10 Years of Innovation, SSM-style

I’ll be helping with live blogging the Innovation Centre’s 10 year anniversary. All the action is taking place at the Grand Theatre, 1 pm, Tuesday December 8. Can’t make it? Come back here to see live coverage, including photos. Rumor has it there will be a big cake and unveiling of SSMIC’s new logo.

More details on the event on SSMIC’s site.

Live coverage of SSMARt Awards 2009

On Wednesday, June 9 at 6:00 pm we’ll begin live coverage of the Sault Ste. Marie and Region Awards for Science and Technology. Come back here to see live photos and blogging of the event.

Sault’s Twittering class grows

Michael Purvis (@MichaelPurvisOK), report with the Sault Star wrote a piece on the growing local use of Twitter. I was the lucky one to get my photo snapped. He shares the stories of:

  • an elementary teacher connecting with experts in education
  • a naturopath sharing tips and suggestions on health topics as a way to promote her business
  • a professor who dialogues with students and connects with other parents of autistic children
  • the Sault Star which now posts links to a selected list of stories and events (Michael manages this, too)

I discover new people from the Sault on Twitter every week, and the rate of adoption is increasing. I’m following about 60 people from the area at the moment. Some of these people have become good friends, even though we’ve never met.

The reality though is that only about 5% of Twitter users really understand how to use and benefit from the tool. Many give up before getting to that point.

One way I’m trying to give back to the community is by sharing knowledge of how businesses and individuals can benefit from social media. I’ve given one course on Twitter as well as a session on social media for small businesses. I’m considering offering the course again, so please contact me if you are interested.

There is also an upcoming Tweetup for people using or are interested in Twitter to connect. Register now as seating is limited.

Read the full article: Sault’s Twittering class grows (via Sault Star)

Twitter Essentials: Examples and Steps to get Started

Too engaged in Twitter to look up and smile.
Having too much fun with Twitter to look at the camera.

Twitter is an amazing networking tool, but for many people, it’s hard to “get” Twitter at the start. My experience is people (including me) struggle with the benefits of Twitter and the value in using the tool for 3-6 months, sometimes more. Many just give up before reaching the “a-ha” moment. Last night I had a great time introducing Twitter to 8 eager students in my first ever public class. The goal of the course is to reduce the time to get value from Twitter, and to get productive right away by bootstrapping people with tools and know-how.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the experiment. We covered everything I had hoped to in the allotted two hours. People had lots of great questions. By the end, everyone was active on Twitter and had learned the basics of posting links, replies, re-tweets and direct messages. We used PeopleBrowsr so everything they did in class would be available to them at home or work.

A few lessons learned:

  • Double-check that you’ve packed the power chord (battery expired with few min left).
  • Class of 8 worked well for assisting people. Beyond 12 or so, have an assistant.
  • Use high contrast colours on slides when you can’t turn off all the lights.

The slides from the course are at the bottom of the post. I’ve posted references to items mentioned during the course:

Twitter examples mentioned:

Tools for building your Twitter community:

  • Twittgroups has all kinds of groups by topic or location. I set up a Sault Ste. Marie group a few months ago. Find new people to follow and add your own Twitter profile to the page so others can follow you.
  • Use Twitter advanced search to do specific searches by location, keyword, person, time line. I find people in the Sault area on a regular basis
  • Mr. Tweet looks at who you follow, what you tweet about to come up with a relevant list of new people to follow.
  • We Follow is a user-generated Twitter directory. Find people to follow by topic. Add yourself to the directory under three topics using hashtags. You can find me under Agile, Sault, coach.
  • Twubble is a simpler version of Mr. Tweet that looks at who your followers are following and recommends people.

Tools for improving your Twitter profile:

Gerry recommends PeopleBrowsr Twitter app for managing your tweets. To get the most out of PeopleBrowsr, click on the Tutorial link at the bottom of the screen after you log in.

Come meet other Saultbies on Twitter at the next Sault Tweetup event, May 19 @ Cafe Natura.

View more presentations from gerrykirk.

Helping Sault businesses use Social Media in a Crowded Marketplace

Last night I had the privilege of presenting a session on social media, the final installment in the Economic Development Corporation’s 3 part series on online marketing strategies. The audience was small but engaged, making for a fun evening. I spent about 1/3 of my time just answering questions. The group was diverse, including an Alpaca farmer, a manager at a local bank, a newcomer to the Sault, and someone from Sault Tourism.

Reasons people came to the event:

  • Expand network
  • Connect more with people
  • Create awareness about business
  • Promote in a new market
  • Learn how to present product
  • Learn social media tools
  • Engage people, and how to manage the effort
  • How to use social media tools efficiently
  • How to reach a young audience

The group finished up the evening by coming up with a top 10 list of tips for a small business using social media, based on what was presented. Here is there must-do list, in no particular order, with some additional comments from me:

  1. Update content constantly. You are only as good as your last post / tweet / comment.
  2. Be honest. You can’t hide deception online.
  3. Start small. Pick something, try, learn, assess.
  4. Find a sustainable pace. Don’t burn yourself out.
  5. Stay focused. Have a clear message.
  6. Know your audience.
  7. Use tools to (your) fullest potential. Keep learning, experimenting. Read about what others are doing.
  8. Be open and transparent in your communication. Let people get to know both about you and your business.
  9. Work hard to keep customers happy. Address negative comments and turn frustrated patrons into your evangelists through over-the-top service.
  10. Choose the right digital channels. There are lots to choose from, and you can’t do everything.

Here are 5 additional resource links for small businesses trying to use social media:

Social media isn’t what I do for a day job. I don’t consider myself a social media expert. I like to use the term ‘social media swimmer’. I’m a fish navigating the rivers of online connectedness, and have been splashing in the waters heavily for some time. My desire is to help people and organizations in Sault Ste. Marie benefit from using social media, which is why I do these presentations.

Next month people can learn about Twitter in an interactive, hands-on session I’ve put together at Algoma University. Course is limited to first 20 registrants. Cost covers my costs plus some of my time taken away from my regular work to prepare for it. If you’ve wondered what Twitter is about and how to make the best use of it, you won’t be disappointed. You can register and pay online. How easy is that?

The slides from the presentation are below. Huge dose of gratitude to Fred Roed of WorldWideCreative for giving me permission to use some of his slides from a similar presentation. Sharing ideas FTW!

My first ever public training class: Twitter Essentials

Update: course date is April 21. Only first 20 registrants accepted.

Twitter logo

“Facebook is for people you used to know. Twitter is for people you want to know.” – Tim O’Reilly
“Twitter is the water cooler for connected free agents.” – Mark K
I like Twitter – a lot, and feel Twitter can benefit businesses, organizations and individuals here in the Sault. That’s why I am putting together a course on Twitter. Read on for more details.
I had signed up to Twitter long ago, but didn’t “get it” until I used Twitter during the last federal election while promoting the vote swap / vote reform campaign (more info and video of presentation). Since then, I’ve been using Twitter extensively, building a network that is generating work opportunities, helping him find quick answers, get support on products, make new friendships and take part in exciting initiatives. Some examples of Twitter goodness:
  • Coaching & training a web development team based in TO in Agile
  • Volunteering for and, both which may turn into longer term paid gigs. Attended inaugural ChangeCamp in TO, got involved in organizing, expanded network of TO contacts
  • Recruited a passionate volunteer for, who wrote on his blog, gave media interviews and poured in countless hours in final week of campaign
  • Many useful links and tips on Agile, helped many others with Agile questions
  • Organized all-star panel for Agile 2009 conference from people who responded on Twitter.
  • Made many new friends, both locally and around the world.
  • Learned about the Hudson plane crash moments after it happened. Saw first photo of plane crash on Twitter before reaching mainstream media.

Twitter, at first glance is a simple tool to master, but without guidance it can take months to start getting real value for time invested. The purpose of this course is to avoid the time suck to ramp up on how best to use your time on Twitter. Participants will learn by doing:

  • How Twitter differs from other social networking tools
  • How Twitter is being used by citizens, business people, government officials, media and others
  • How to create a suitable presence on Twitter
  • How to use a Twitter client to better manage conversations and relationships
  • How to find people they want to converse with
  • Proper Twitter etiquette
  • Examples of Twitter postings
  • Discover 3rd party tools to enhance their Twitter experience

When: April 21, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Where: Course will take place at Algoma University, using a computer lab where everyone will have their own workstation.

Size limited to 20 participants. Course fee is $50. Register and pay online.

Course Outline

2 hrs total, though may stretch to as much as 2.5 hours

15 min    Intro: What is Twitter?

15 min    Examples of Twitter usage
15 min    Setting up your account
15 min    How to find followers / people to follow, conversations of interest

10 min    Break

20 min    Twitter client tools show and tell, with focus on PeopleBrowsr
10 min    Apps that use Twitter, apps to help you benefit more from Twitter
10 min    Questions, concerns
10 min    Conclusion, wrap-up

Reblog this post [with Zemanta] – How I did it

At the start of last fall’s federal election, I wanted to bring attention to the non-sexy electoral reform issue. Thanks to Google, I discovered pair voting had been used in the U.S. but not in Canada. Seemed like a novel idea that might interest and inspire people. After a few hours of effort, was launched and then I went away for the weekend. Upon returning, over 50 people had registered to swap votes and national media was asking for interviews.

Social networking and free tools are game changers. Who would have thought one person could use free, online tools to launch a vote swapping service and thrust voting reform back into the spotlight? In the presentation below, you will see how one person using Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Skype, Google maps and a mailing list garnered thousands of registrants, dozens of media interviews and most of all the growth of a grassroots movement for electoral reform.

You’ll learn about people like Kris, a person discovered through Twitter who became a key contributor by writing online, giving interviews and devoting countless hours in the final days.

If you are relatively new to engaging people online, you will discover ideas and tips you can use in your own work and volunteer efforts.

Watch presentation in full screen.

Original presentation delivered to TAG audience at Sault College, January 28, 2009. OT: the multimedia centre has cameras that follow the speaker, very cool indeed.