SPEAK THE LINGO
• Twitter: a Web site where friends, family and colleagues can communicate
and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.
People write short updates, often called “tweets” of 140 characters or
fewer. These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your
followers, and are searchable on Twitter search. These updates can be
sent and received by SMS on a mobile phone.
• SMS: SMS, or Short Message Service, is the service that enables text
messaging on mobile phones.
• Tag: a one-word descriptor that you can assign to a photo, blogpost, video
or Twitter message. Tags are like self-assigned keywords that help people
organize content into categories. On Twitter, tags are prefaced by a “#”
and are sometimes referred to as “hashtags.”
• Flickr: a Web site for photo-sharing that enables social interaction. Users
can upload and store photos, find and connect to friends, add tags, and
form and join groups.
• Shortcode: special telephone numbers, significantly shorter than full telephone numbers, which also can be used to address SMS messages from
• Automagically: something that happens automatically, but that also has
some mysterious, “magical” element to it.
Bucchere: SXSW knows what its audience
likes — and what it doesn’t like — just
by listening to the chatter online. Word
of mouth that the technology empowers
also is a huge help with marketing. But
perhaps the best — and least-discussed
— benefit of an attendee directory like
my.SXSW is all the data, connections and
interactions that are captured. Organizers
can anticipate which session will be most
popular and they can answer other questions, like: What sessions did folks attend?
What feedback did they give? What’s going
to make people come back next year? You
can get a much more granular view of the
datapoints that matter. After the conference, you can import that data back into
your AMS and use what you learned to
help you refine your future marketing and
program development efforts.
in places like Facebook and LinkedIn, then
it’s a real uphill battle. But if you’ve been
listening and you find people gathering
and chattering — even to a small extent;
it doesn’t have to be the volume that SXSW
gets — then you have a real opportunity.
First, don’t try to do everything at once.
Focus on one or two things and do them
really well. Get your speakers and volunteer conference organizers on board first.
They can help get people engaged, at least
at the conference. And make sure if you
choose to do an attendee directory like
my.SXSW, that you choose a product
with good interface design and usability
at its core. We spent a lot of time testing
and perfecting my.SXSW so that the learning curve was easy. Finally, integrate with
things that people already know and love
(or hate) like e-mail and listservs.
FORUM: How does all this technology
affect the SXSW conference organizers?
Is there an advantage for them?
FORUM: Sarah Lacy’s 2008 SXSW
keynote interview with Facebook CEO Mark
Zuckerburg was famously disrupted by
hecklers using Twitter. Is this a case of the
technology backfiring on conference organ-
izers? Should we be wary?
Bucchere: I was there to witness that
debacle and it wasn’t nearly as bad as the
media made it sound. Moreover, I don’t
think the tool (Twitter, in this case), was
to blame. In fact, I would argue that
more transparency is actually better for
everyone, especially conference organiz-
ers. If it were my conference or my
keynote, I would rather know what peo-
ple thought than be kept in the dark.
FORUM: What advice would you give for
association conference planners who
want to unleash “cool” at their next event?
Bucchere: There’s most certainly a risk
involved in being “too cool” for your audience. My advice would be to figure out
what tools your attendees already are using
and figure out how to help them use those
tools at your conference. Do so in such a
way that you get more people engaged and
make sure to observe the interactions so
you can learn from the process. What was
“cool” six months or a year ago may not
be “cool” now, and what’s “cool” now definitely won’t be cool in six months or a year.
It’s important to constantly evolve the tools
and the process to make sure you’re staying ahead of the curve for your audience.
Since you’re not catering to hipsters and
uber-geeks, you will not need to be as cutting edge as SXSW to unleash the cool fac-