ASAE 2009 — A Virtual View From the Cheap Seats!

Mike at podium alternate 800X800By Michael M McCurry, CMPExperient

This week I attended the ASAE Annual Meeting in Toronto, but the cool thing is I didn’t have to fly there.  I was a virtual participant!

While I obviously was not able to experience the normal networking and social opportunities that go along with physically attending a conference I was able to at least experience a significant portion of the educational content. Utilizing a live Twitter stream, marked by Hashtag #ASAE09, I attended three General Sessions (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday) following the tweets posted by virtual and live attendees.  It was a very positive and interactive experience!  Sunday’s opening session featured Gary Hamel, and was outstanding, and I wrote a blog article recapping it from the tweets that were posted.

To their credit ASAE made a significant effort to embrace and utilize social media tools to enhance the quality of this conference.  On Friday I posted an article on my personal blog (McCurry’s corner) outlining all the innovations introduced at the 2009 ASAE meeting.  To view that article please click here.

Sadly, one major component was missing from the ASAE conference, a live webcast of their general sessions.  In my opinion this adds a blemish to what could have been characterized as a “technology homerum” for ASAE. During the conference I posted a Twit Poll asking attendees if they felt ASAE should have offered these sessions in a webcast.  Unanimously, all respondents answered “yes.”

The only session offering a webcast was one led by Jeff De Cagna (Twitter handle @pinnovation) entitled Associations Next: Serious Questions for 2010 and Beyond.” Jeff actually webcast his session independently of ASAE, using a personal video camera.  To view an archive of this session click here.  The quality of the video is so-so, but the quality of the content is top notch.  In addition Jeff did a really nice job of connecting with the virtual audience!  One tip — when you open the video please fast forward by fifteen minutes to avoid some tech issues at the beginning.  From that point it is excellent!

It is really exciting to see the meetings and events industry demonstrate innovation and adaptivity to new ways of doing business.  Congratulations to ASAE for leading the pack with their 2009 Annual Meeting!  Not only did they serve their live & virtual attendees well, but they showed thought leadership and a commitment to the future of the industry as a whole!

This situation is a classic example of great customer service!  Many ASAE members/non-members were not able to attend ASAE in Toronto, but due to the innovations deployed by ASAE at this event, they were able to virtually connect with attendees and enjoy “cliff notes” of the education content.  I know, from my perspective, experiencing all this motivates me to find a way to attend the event live next time around.  I am gonna start saving my money now!

If you were a virtual or live attendee at the ASAE 2009 Annual Meeting how do you view the experience?  What did they do well and what could be done better?  If you did attend virtually does this experience spike your interest/desire to attend next year’s meeting live?  Please share  your thoughts with us?

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5 Responses to ASAE 2009 — A Virtual View From the Cheap Seats!

  1. Bob Stewart says:

    Mike, I was also a virtual participant and agree that the flow of tweets made it a very valuable experience. Jeff De Cagna’s (@pinnovation) presentation was particularly intriguing as it raises interesting questions about the traditional conference model as well as event management control. By the way, Jeff’s approach of looking into the webcam and talking directly to the virtual participants was extremely well done.

    With Jeff’s presentation we had people sitting in the room who had paid money and those looking at a PC or mobile device who were attending for free. Yes, there’s a difference in the total face-to-face experience and networking opportunities that you’re paying for, but in the “paying hundreds of dollars” versus “free” decision, I find free to be a much better deal. Disincentive or incentive to attend the next event?

    Also interesting about Jeff’s presentation is that it appears that he did it on his own without ASAE participation or approval. Charlene Li and Clay Shirky told us virtual participants through tweeter surrogates that in this new social media environment we have to stop trying to maintain control. Do event managers give up control and allow a speaker to broadcast his/her presentation however they think works? What if you have an attendee holding up webcam or video device in the back of the room broadcasting via UStream or Qik.com? What should an event organizer control?

    I also applaud ASAE for using so many social media tools and approaches. They also did a very good job in attempting to train potential users via YouTube videos. Mike, I agree with your point about streaming the keynotes which also brings us back to the “free vs. paid” point.

    They also attempted through the ASAE Hub to create one-stop shopping for all the social media generated content. From where I (literally) sat the Hub didn’t work all that well as it was overwhelmed by the Twitter stream. I think that there are some improvements to be made so that other social media feeds such as blogs and videoblogs don’t get lost in the shuffle.

    But back to your question about whether the content delivered via social media (plus the ability of participants to more easily connect outside an event via social media) increases or decreases face-to-face conference participation. For me it’s a two part answer that taps into the age old event quantity/ quality equation. On the quantity side I feel that social media represents a fundamental change in the way we interact and conduct business and will lead to lower conference participation. By how much, you ask? My gut instinct is by double digit percent decreases over the next 3-5 years. But on the quality side I think that the confluence of social media and events (including the inclusion of virtual participants) will lead to a significant increase in the value derived from face-to-face conferences both for the f2f and virtual participants.

    • Bob,

      First I apologize for the untimely response to your comment post!

      You raised some really good questions and points relative to this whole subject of virtual events and their impact (positive or negative) on face2face events.

      I agree wholeheartedly with you about Jeff De Cagna’s session at ASAE. It was fantastic how he interacted with the virtual participants in such an upclose and personal way!

      Regarding controls of speaker content I firmly believe the less controls the better. As long as the thrust of the presentation is “above board” and aligned with the value proposition of the original paper presentation it would seem that allowing speakers freedom to innovate is a good thing. (within the constraints of the orgs budget)

      With regard to your predictions regarding future conference participation I am curious where your (projected) statistical numbers originated?? Have you seen a trend such as you are describing with some events which already occurred? I would love to see some examples to support your opinions/perceptions.

      I completely agree with your final comment of the post… virtual event components in concert with face2face conferences will ultimately continue to enhance values for all attendees, virtual or live.

      Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts with us!

      Mike

  2. aditya452010 says:

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    ASAE 2009 – A Virtual View From the Cheap Seats! |

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