There has been a lot of dialog about crowdsourcing over the last few years and it seems that this planning process for meetings and events may start to take hold. However, is it the right option for each and every meeting and event? Maybe yes and maybe no. As attendees get more vocal and use the technology they hold in the palm of their hand, it will become very apparent that without their input, your meeting is probably doomed. But does it have to be an all-or-nothing approach? It really depends on the objectives and size of the meeting.
Lets explore the 3 types of crowdsourcing used in the event planning industry as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each crowdsourcing option.
1). DEVELOPING SESSIONS REAL TIME
Adrian Segar, author of Conference that Work – Creating Events that People Love, has used this real time methodology since 1992. Conference attendees sign up for individual session requests during the networking portion of the conference — and also indicate if they are subject matter experts on the topic. The sessions that have the most votes are the ones that are presented at the meeting.
Benefit: Total attendee participation. They not only drive the topics but they are the presenters.
Drawback: This could be a logistical nightmare. How do you plan meeting space, renting audio visual equipment, and seating arrangements if you don't know in advance what is going to be presented and how many people will attend each session?
However, this can be handled if you let attendees know in advance what event audio visual equipment will be available to them and you make the meeting rooms and seating arrangements uniform in each room.
Best Scenario: This method is best served in a conference with 10 or 12 sessions. For a very large convention, of say 400 sessions, this process could be difficult to coordinate. This would not work for a very small meeting because you may not have the right facilitator in the crowd.
2). USING AN ONLINE COMMUNITY
Event Camp Twin Cities used the Twitter community of #eventprofs for suggestions of novel session formats and content. Many suggestions were implemented and they created a very innovative conference.
Benefit: Anyone in the event community that follows that hashtag could contribute to the event content, whether they attended Event Camp or not, thus allowing hundreds of individuals to shape the conference.
Drawback: Sifting through hundreds of ideas took a lot of event meeting services time. A team of staffers and volunteers determined the best ideas which could have been risky, depending on their knowledge of the event.
Best Scenario: This method is best served for a conference that needs new ideas and concepts so it can be tagged as fresh, innovative, and attendee-driven.
3). PUTTING TOGETHER AN EVENT DESIGN TEAM
The 2011 Green Meeting Industry Council Sustainability Meetings Conference had such a team for their planning process. They gathered individuals from all walks of life and viewpoints in order to create a diverse agenda.
Benefit: This is much like the way our country is run, where a few hundred Congressmen represents the views of millions. It is a workable solution if your conference needs to be planned in a short time or has several thousand participants.
Drawback: Depending on how these individuals are selected could determine whether or not they represent a truly diverse group that can speak for the best interests of your attendees.
Best Scenario: For a large convention with hundreds of sessions where polling attendees would become unwieldy and/or too time consuming for them.