Risks and Rewards: Crowd Sourcing an Event for 30,000 People

Have you thought about giving up more control of your conference? What is holding you back? There is no guarantee your attendees will achieve their goals and objectives, even if you continue to plan your event the way you always have.

Take a look at Social Media Week
Thirteen cities
Nine hundred eighty-eight events
Thirty thousand registrations
Fifty thousand people online
…crowd sourced content

Without seeing the financial reports, we can assume that corporate sponsorships generate 100% of the revenue for Social Media Week. It seems that the majority of the organizer’s expenses fall under the category of general administration. Each of the 287 venues hosts the space, AV, food & beverage (if any) and speakers. Most events are free to attend and open to everyone, unless the host of the event decides to charge or make the event invitation only.

It is organized with an open call for speakers. Speakers are matched up with the venues that offer to host events. In a city like Los Angeles, an attendee might register for one event on one side of town and another on the opposite side of town, which would be impossible with traffic and parking challenges. Therefore, the venues who hosted a full day of events got a lot of participation because it was easier to show up in one place and stay there all day. Better yet, a couple of venues within walking distance also made it feasible to attend events in more than one location. As a side note, it has been enlightening for me to attend events at venues which are not attached to hotels. Part of the cost savings comes from hosts like companies with internal meeting rooms, theatres, co-working spaces, retail stores and other venues that are not typically in the market to sell their space for meetings.

Because Social Media Week is mostly free for attendees, you don’t see too many people complaining about it. Like me, they probably figured that they would need to be flexible in their expectations for this type of experience. At many events, people are accustomed to sharing their thoughts on the various social platforms, like Twitter. Clearly, Social Media Week would not be an exception to that rule, given the demographic of their attendees. Therefore, the risks were high, given that this audience would be telling the world what they thought about the event. It seems as though it worked out for Crowdcentric.

An excerpt from the organizer’s website: “While it’s perfectly understandable for people to attach Crowdcentric to the conference and events businesses (indeed, we put on many killer events), it is important to note that we are primarily in the connecting business – which goes far beyond physical interaction. “Listening” is Crowdcentric’s primary methodology in knowing where, who, and what to connect with next.”

Are you in the conference business or the connecting business? Even if you don’t have the opportunity to move towards a less traditional way of creating the content and structure of your event, you always have the opportunity to listen to your attendees. Go beyond the evaluation form after the event and implement active listening tools during the event. Create a strategy for taking part in the conversation with your attendees during your event and make changes based on their real-time feedback. They will reward you for it.
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