Twitter tips for planners of conferences and meetings

Planner Tips

Attending conferences is something I enjoy, but driving into an unknown region or city is not.  I recently attended a conference for marketers at a university, and the one thing that quelled my driving fear wasn’t the smiling face of the conference organizer; it was her usage of social media.

Even though I have a GPS, college campuses can become more like a dead zone, where street names don’t register with satellites.  I spent a good 25 minutes circling the campus, looking for the lone parking garage on campus.

I tried calling a campus hotline, but the student on the other line kept basing his directions off of buildings on campus, none with which I was familiar.  He seemed annoyed, so I hung up and kept circling.

But in minute 24, I had a breakthrough.  I remembered the email I had been sent that week about the conference’s usage of Twitter.  They had created a hashtag and shared their handle for all of us Tweeps to discuss the conference.  With one little tweet, I could poll the audience of attendees and see where they had parked.  Surely, someone would be able to tell me how to get to the parking garage.

I pulled to the side of the road, whipped out my smartphone, and tweeted, “where’d everyone park? #integrate2011”  To my delight, one attendee tweeted back directions to the parking garage and the conference organizer tweeted back a phone number for campus parking.   Thankfully, those tweets led me to the (hidden, I tell you!) parking garage. 

Lessons learned as an event planner

While my first instinct was to search online for a campus phone number, in the end, it wasn’t the most useful solution.  Try giving directions to someone who’s completely unfamiliar with any building, business, or even road they’ve passed; it’s a tough job for anyone!

When planning your next meeting or conference, consider Twitter an extension of your customer service.  Create an official conference Twitter account, designate a hashtag that your attendees can use, and publicize it in all of your materials.

By enabling your attendees to talk to one another, you’ll expand your help desk to include your expert attendees.  In the end, it’ll take some of the pressure off of you, and it’ll deliver better customer service to your attendees.

What do you think?  How many of you have used Twitter for your conferences?  What sort of feedback have you received from attendees?