Last week, we talked a little about how to give a great presentation. But what if you’re not giving a talk, but hosting one? Maybe you have donors coming to speak about why they support your work, or students wanting to learn about careers in philanthropy. Maybe you’re throwing a book launch party for your executive director, or are presenting a panel on issues relevant to your organization’s mission.
I once rewrote a manual on conference planning that included such antiquated gems as “Allow your presenters plenty of time to set up their slide carousels.” While your speakers most likely won’t have a slide carousel (here’s hoping), consider going an extra step in your own event prep.
Encourage social media.
If people want to blog, post, tweet or send smoke signals, let them. They’re promoting your event and message for free. While you won’t be able to control the message, the risk is the same as any word of mouth would be, except louder and faster.
Any successful post will use one or more hashtags; usually a one or two word tag preceded by a #. Check out this handy guide to non-profit hashtags.
Create and display Twitter hashtags prominently on a board or sign in your event site as suggestions for your audience members. Check first to make sure they’re not being used by another organization. Keep them short, but verify the abbreviation isn’t offensive in another language.
In addition to your event’s hashtag, list some common ones such as #sustainability, #environment, #socialgood, #humanrights, etc. This will allow people who are searching for information on your topic to discover you. If you only use your organization’s hashtag for your event, you run the risk of only speaking to your audience already in attendance.
Designate a King or Queen of the Tweet
Assign one staff member or volunteer social media duties. This person will ensure your organization’s twitter feed will run throughout the event, giving your followers a steady stream to retweet, mention or reply to when they leave your event. They’ll also be keeping an eye on what other people are writing and be able to offer real time input. For instance, if several members of your audience are complaining about the length of a speech, the too-cold room, or that lunch is running late, your social media person may be the first to know. Additionally, the feed will prove to be valuable for use in communications materials, such as newsletters, magazines and donor outreach.
Prep Your Speakers
If your speakers are a little old school, or even if they tweet regularly, let your speakers/panelist know ahead of time that you’ll be encouraging folks in attendance to tweet, blog, send Facebook status updates, etc. Without the heads up, they may think your audience isn’t paying attention and become discouraged.
The Sound of a Keyboard = Good
Don’t worry if you occasionally hear clacking. People will only be tweeting things they find interesting, and not every member of your audience will be actively on social media. So while the fear might be that you’ll have an audience full of people with their heads down, the actuality is that only a small percentage of the audience will be seemingly ignoring your speaker, and those may be the ones with their ears open the widest.
If you’ll be live tweeting your event, your designated tweeter should open with a welcome and introduction, as well as introducing your speakers through their handles, if available.
Sometimes It’s Okay To Project
If you’ve staged your event in a room with a large AV set-up, consider streaming your Twitter feed live throughout the event. Set the monitor to one side so as not to be distracting. Note: I’d recommend this only for larger audiences.
How to Say Thank You
Before closing, be sure to thank (via tweet) your speakers once again, as well as anyone who may have been live tweeting your event. Doing this not only gives recognition for the free publicity they’ve been giving your event and your message, but it shares their handle with all your followers.
It’s okay to do a few of these to close, if you’ve had many followers (Congrats!). It’s also okay to simply list their handles without any message if you have a string.
Close with a Tweet-up
As the event draws to a close, encourage everyone, in attendance or not, to meet up at a local coffee shop, lunch place or pub to continue the conversation. Set this up in advance with the local establishment, and bring your staff and volunteers, even if no one else comes. It’s a great time to do a debrief, and you won’t leave the place hanging if they’ve saved space for you.
If All Else Fails
Even if you’re not comfortable with your audience members tweeting en masse, let them know your social media maven will be live tweeting and ask them, before the event begins, to let their networks know to follow along. A quick statement, “While we ask that our audience members refrain from tweeting during the event, we encourage you to share our twitter feed with your friends who couldn’t attend,” should do the trick. However, use this tactic only in the face of strong objections from speakers or organizational executives about live tweeting, and only after sharing the benefits of live tweeting with them.
If you still can’t convince them, I recommend checking out 12 Signs Your Organization Isn’t As Cool As You Think It Is.
Need more help? Connect with me on LinkedIn to view my “Quick & Dirty Guide to Social Networking for Non-Profits.”
Example of Live Tweeting
What follows are live-tweets from the Senator Bingaman event at the National Press Club on January 31. The event was filled with reporters, bloggers and live tweeters. I’m including my tweets to give a sense of what a live stream looks like at these events. But also check out #Bingaman to get a sense of the general traffic.
3. . ensure we have the necesssry financial infrastructure and tax incentives January 31, 2011 12:45:23 PM EST via web