Ellen Dudley left her biomedical engineering job in 2009 to design and organize events that would spark connections between people. Now, as co-founder of CrowdScanner, she experiments with technology to stimulate discussions between people in gatherings. She has a lot to say about harnessing the power of mobile devices at events and will share her insights at an Event Camp Europe session entitled “Hands On Mobile Gaming.”
I recently asked Ellen a few questions about her session and about using mobile devices for gaming at events.
JENISE: How are mobile devices and games being used at events to drive connections between attendees?
ELLEN: They should be used to address the challenges that attendees and sponsors face in connecting and communicating with the right people. Mobile games are at a really early stage, but we’ve seen from building PeopleHunt that it is possible to use them to spark amazing connections between attendees.
JENISE: Are event professional aware of this? It seems that we are just now learning that smartphones can add to a conference experience rather than being a distraction to attendees.
ELLEN: I think a lot of event professionals are accustomed to the old model of paying a lot for custom built hardware such as programmable badges, polling devices, NFC tags etc, which makes technical solutions unaffordable to most. Soon these solutions will be completely replaced by the software and hardware on smartphones, which makes solutions more accessible, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly.
JENISE: During your ECTC session I noticed that two of my online friends, one from Switzerland and one from Oklahoma, USA met and began to collaborate on a game. Is that a common occurrence? What are the circumstances that allow such connections to take place?
ELLEN: That was pretty cool! I’m still waiting for the blog post on that one to see what happened but we’re really excited about creating different types of interactions. The first version of our mobile game, PeopleHunt, was using BUMP where players had to physically bump their phone to find out if their guess was correct. We had challenges relying on their platform, so we decided to rebuild it. We wanted the interaction to remain synchronous, so that there is a real time conversation happening, but we decided that it didn’t have to be in the same physical place to qualify as a conversation. We are going to experiment more with this using Skype between us and the Pods at EventCampEU which should be really fun!
JENISE: What do you hope people will take away from your session?
ELLEN: I hope people will have fun, meet new people, and have cool conversations, as well as see the power of what’s possible with mobile games, and feel comfortable using them in their own events.
As founder and CEO of Beyounic, Nick Balestra understands the value that the sharing of information can bring to the events industry. He started creating a social network for the University of Lugano in 2004 around student parties and ended up building Beyounic as a start-up company.
Beyounic created Ohanah, an app that allows people to to easily create, publish, promote & follow events.
A big fan of freedom and collaboration over competition, Nick is an open source software advocate and will be sharing ideas for using the “open source” concept at Event Camp Europe Sept. 9.
I recently asked Nick a few questions about his session entitled, “Remix your event – From Freedom to Open Source.”
JENISE: What is open source for events?
NICK: Open-source is a smarter way to build software and collaborate on projects. Creating events can be somehow similar, so taking an open-source approach while thinking about your events can lead to smarter ways to create them. In open-source software, by releasing your code free to be read, modified and redistributed new opportunity emerge. Eventcamp is a perfect example of this, where all the participants, shares and contribute back to the creation of the event itself with the final goal to bring home new tools and approaches to build your next event upon.
JENISE: How can it help event professionals?
NICK: If event professionals start thinking about their events as open-source projects they will realize better all the stakeholders involved and how build an event around their contribution.
Furthermore sharing results, techniques and tools among event professionals in an open way may result in better events. Collaboration is the key over competition in this.
JENISE: Can you elaborate a little more on specific ways that events, such as Event Camp can use the idea of open sourcing? How is it different from the way that events are usually created?
The hive is started by a queen bee. The hive grows over time in terms of the number of bees, the size of the hive, and the amount of honeycomb in the hive. Each bee performs a function within the hive and collectively they all benefit, but (at least theoretically) any bee is free to fly away to another hive, as is the queen.
Open source projects can be described in a similar way:
- The core developers are often the founders of the project. Typically they do much of the development and design and also set the project roadmap. They act like like queen bees.
- The community participates in many roles and tasks involved in designing, implementing, and testing the software. The community benefits from the project and the project benefits from the community. The community members are like bees.
- There is no ‘Go To Market’ process in an open source project. This is why the barriers to the adoption of open source listed above exist. Open source projects create software, they do not create ‘whole product’.
- There is no specific marketing role in this model so open source projects gain mind-share and attract community members through technical articles, blogs, and word-of-mouth.
A few people have a negative reaction to the open source concept because they think it is in some way socialist or communist. This is not the case. Open source is effective because the motivations of all participants are naturally aligned (rather than artificially aligned with financial reward as a ‘pseudo-motivation’).
Event projects like Event Camp are very similar, and for this reason they don’t produce a final event product or tools to go to market. What is therefore needed is the creation of an ecosystem around this.
Coming back to the beehive in the wild we see that business can grow around them.
So projects like Event Camp and other event projects more in general (like barcamp concept more abstractly) need a way to create an ecosystem that can take advantage of it in term of tools created to support them and professional figures that can take from the project, elaborate some of its parts, packaging it, and market it.
For example, the hybrid wine tasting experiment that will be carried out at Event Camp Europe 2011, has been made possible by the contribution of it’s community. Event professionals, or even wine producers can then refine the idea into a final product, or even complete platform or tool to market it and offer it to their customers.
For example wine-bars across the world organizing hybrid wine tasting experiences where customers can taste wine and interact directly with the wine producer on the other side of the world, resulting in more sales, brand awareness and promotion of the wine in places that can be harder to penetrate. But because the system can be, for example, centered on direct wine resellers (like the wine bars for example) this can give instant benefit to them. Those professionals can then choose to bring back and contribute to the community and therefore the original project, their product, innovation, and solution so that the whole ecosystem can learn and leverage from it.
JENISE: What do you hope people will take away from your Event Camp Europe session?
NICK: Being personally and professionally involved in open-source for many years, I try to bring in my experience to give event professionals new angles and perspectives to think about when creating their events. My goal is to try to put everything learned during the day into remixable elements so that people can at least start thinking of how to implement them in their next event project. I hope people will then bring home a new mindset and approach to start remixing their event.
JENISE: How did you get involved with unconferences?
CRISTIANO: I moved to London in 2007 to finish my Computer Science Masters and as I didn’t know anyone here a friend of mine pointed me at BarCampLondon2, a big tech related unconference. I had no idea what to expect but I loved it.
This was at the time that Twitter was still brand new and I started following a lot of the attendees to see what else to go to. From here I got positively BarCamp addicted, attending over 25 of them, and eventually with a group of friends we decided to try and run our own: BarCampLondon6.
From there on out we got sucked into running events. We started with BarCampLondon 6,7, and 8 but we also ran an unconference for event organisers called Encampment, and we’ve ran 3 HackCamps which are 48 hour software developer events. In 2011 we started Geeks of London, an organisation to put all our efforts under and hopefully expand our team.
JENISE: What do you like best about them?
CRISTIANO: How random and open the events are. At a BarCamp you are allowed to talk about whatever you’re passionate about. You can walk out of a discussion on iPhone vs Android straight into a talk on how to make sushi. Because everyone is equal (speakers, attendees, sponsors, and organisers) it builds relationships you normally don’t get at any other event except for maybe team building exercises.
JENISE: How do you think these new formats will affect the event industry?
CRISTIANO: I’m not too familiar with the event industry as I’m pretty new to it, but I can give my limited view from a geek’s perspective. I’ve seen more and more tech people staying away from expensive, high profile events due to cost, lack of interesting speakers, and lack of speaker-attendee interaction. Instead they’ve moved to smaller events, more focussed events, and free/cheap events.
JENISE: What do you hope participants in your session will take away from it?
CRISTIANO: I hope to inspire people that there are benefits to treating your attendees as equals and letting them sort out what the conference should be. It’s scary as hell to let go of your reigns but possible and very rewarding.
Brandt has more than 15 years experience providing technology support for corporate meetings, conferences and events. He used that know-how to help pull together a complicated hybrid event production for ECTC last week that included live streaming, six remote pods, 2 different tracks and a mock studio for 2 virtual emcees.
But Brandt insists that you don’t have to be an audio visual geek to understand the basics of producing a great hybrid event. All an event producer really has to ask is, “What is the audience experience?”
Brandt recently agreed to answer a few questions about hybrid event production and his experience at ECTC.
JENISE: What was your official title or the role that you filled for ECTC?
BRANDT: Originally I was a volunteer, but later metroConnections came on as an official sponsor. Though we did not do full meeting production services, we landed on providing “production support,” among other services, which consisted of myself and one other tech from metro. In that new more official role I’d say I acted as a Technical Director, and on-site Producer. In the final weeks leading up to ECTC I had Sam and Ray lay out what they wanted to do, and I sourced the AV gear accordingly, which is how Heroic Productions was brought on board. On-site, I acted more as a Producer, with the headset on and trying to keep the show as on time as possible, call the AV cues, and act as much as I could as the single point of contact for the AV side of the world.
JENISE: What new things have you learned about hybrid events after your experience at ECTC?
BRANDT: There’s a lot swimming around in my head post ECTC that hasn’t quite materialized. I’m starting to think of the Pods in a new way. I think in the past we might have looked at them as an offshoot of the virtual audience, with limited glimpses into their world. Last year I think each Pod was only talked to twice. There was a desire to do more with the Pods this year, but obviously technical difficulties got in the way. I’m truly frustrated by that, because I think we’re very close to figuring this out in a meaningful way.
Meanwhile, I’m trying now to start at the other end of the spectrum and figure out how we can try and make their experience more like the “In Person” experience. I’m trying to put the tech out of my mind and start at the end instead of the beginning. From there, we can back into the tech. In the end, I think we’re talking about three completely separate experiences. The In Room Experience, the Pod Experience, and the Virtual Experience. That’s going to be a lot for the meeting planner to keep in mind!
JENISE: Why is experimentation so important when it comes to hybrid events?
BRANDT: It’s how we learn, put simply. It’s going to be one of the central themes in what I’m talking about at ECEU. If you do it the way it’s always been done, the experience is never going to improve. We have to try every communication tool available to see which one works. Almost all of this can be done away from the meeting hall, in your office, with as many laptops as you can get your hands on. Unfortunately, though, some things need to be tried full scale.
ECEU is doing something brilliant in my opinion. They’re having a pod on-site. Ostensibly, it’s so that the attendees can experience what it’s like to be in a pod, but there’s a wonderful side value. Good experiments require good observation, and having a pod on property means if we want to know how something looks or how something sounds, we can actually just go downstairs and find out. I’m practically giddy about that prospect, and even though I’m only speaking and doing a little consulting for ECEU, my wife is going to have to pull me away from not hanging around as they set everything up!
JENISE: What takeaways do you hope to give participants in your session at ECEU?
BRANDT: Hybrid Production: We’ve virtually got this figured out…
1. Establish that hybrid and virtual production need not be a scary thing.
2. Start with the audience experience and the tech will follow
3. Experiment, test, try. Experiment, test, try. Experim
When Ruud Janssen, Lindsey Rosenthal and I first discussed the possibility of organizing an Event Camp in London, we were just three event industry optimists riding on the adrenaline of opportunities and possibilities we had discovered through our individual efforts to network, learn and market our businesses online.
We had JUST met in person at The Special Event in Phoenix Arizona, although we were familiar with each other from online interactions.
Amazingly enough, when we all returned home, a plan started to take shape and after adding British friend Paul Cook to our team, we got down to the nitty gritty of remote collaboration. What is that, you ask? Well it’s what happens when people from different locations (in our case as vastly different as California, Washington D.C., Switzerland and London) work together on a project.
We were determined to make Event Camp Europe a reality. And believe me our path has been rife with obstacles. The first that comes to mind is time differences. To give you an idea, there’s a three hour difference between Lindsey and me, an 8 hour difference between Paul and me, and I can’t even keep track of the difference between California and Switzerland, where Ruud lives.
Then there are the different ways that we all approach our work. Some of us are very big on ideas, others are more practical, some of us wanted black and white guidelines, others wanted to remain flexible. Add to that the different cultural backgrounds and the limits that our methods for communicating imposed and you can see how determined we’ve had to be.
The methods that we’ve used to collaborate have been audio only group Skype calls, Google+ Hangouts that include video and audio, email, Twitter direct messages and a site called Central Desktop which gave us a place to share and store our work.
Next week we will all meet for in person for the first time, just three days before our event is scheduled.
We’re excited to see how Event Camp Europe will materialize after so many months of preparation. We hope you will join us for this fascinating experiment that is sure to provide great insight into how events will come together in the future.
A lab rat is not the most appealing of titles but this is exactly what we need. Well alright, how about guinea pigs then and not a lab rat? Any better? Well not much. Better still, we are looking for people who:
- Want to get fully involved in an event
- Are willing to experiment
- Are willing to be honest about their experiences & learning
- Want to understand more about hybrid and innovative event formats
- Like drinking a glass of wine
- Want to be part of a ground breaking event
- Will be excited to be coming to Event Camp Europe
- Have energy
- Understand that they are critical to the success of the event (no passengers on this journey)
10. Want to join us on our journey of learning
3 Ways to be a Lab Rat:
Join us at the main location of Down Hall, UK
Join us by being in a POD
Join us as a remote attendee.
C and C
Come and connect with passionate people who want to experiment with different event formats
Come and connect with people who are helping to make change in the events industry
Come and connect
(Photo by SMercury98)
Event-o-phile. If it existed, that would be the word I would use to describe my friend, Paul Cook. Paul has worked in England to support event professionals in many different ways over the years. When he has seen a need, he has taken action.
Paul founded Clarity Event Insurance in 2006; created and maintains the online event planning resource, Planet Planit; has served MPI in many roles and recently wrote a book on risk management for events entitled “Risk It!“. In an effort to help young people coming up in the business, he organized the Young Acheivers awards last year and repeated it successfully this year. This year he also organized a successful speakers showcase in an effort to connect planners with quality presenters.
I met Paul on Twitter nearly two years ago. His open, warm and supportive social media persona impressed me from the beginning and, as is often the case on Twitter, our friendship evolved into a collaboration as co-organizers with Ruud Janssen and Lindsey Rosenthal on the upcoming Event Camp Europe, Sept 9 in London, England. Paul recently agreed to answer a few questions about the state of the event industry in Europe and what Event Camp Europe will offer event professionals.
JENISE: As a very involved event professional you’ve seen a lot of change in the industry, I’m sure. What do you think are the issues that are impacting European event professionals the most right now?
PAUL: This is a great question and it is hard to know where to start to answer this. But I think that the shorter lead-in times to events is key as this has been becoming less and less which creates its own demands. Finding a niche event or show to differentiate you from the competition is always a key issue regardless of where the economy is, whether in good times or bad, and finding ways of communicating and connecting without turning people away will always be a challenge.
Then we have the evergreen issues of ROI, value for money, sustainability and now we have the issue of the relevance of social media. So for an event professional there is always something that will require attention, either from trends, fashion, political change or legislation requirements.
JENISE: How are these issues being addressed?
PAUL: By using the educational resources available to event professionals through associations, communities, peer to peer exchange, lobbying government, specific training and understanding the issues via media and exhibitions. There are numerous associations all offering broadly similar advice but there is no one cohesive body at present. Maybe one day that will change but for the moment the experience of event professionals and their desire to learn is key to how many issues can be addressed.
JENISE: How can learning about hybrid events help event professionals?
PAUL: Learning about hybrid events can help all event professionals whether they are working in venues, planning corporate, association or other events. It is not just event planners that need to learn but also the suppliers. Otherwise how can venues offer their facilities as pod locations? How can the technology companies know just where event planners in their understanding and what is needed next? My belief is that there is a lot of talk about “hybrid events’ but I am not sure just how much deeper experience and understanding there is in general in the events community. It is easy to use the terminology but what does it really mean?
Learning about hybrid events will show people what options there are for broadening events which can only be to their benefit.
JENISE: Do you find a lot of resistance to hybrid events or virtual events in general?
PAUL: I think there is resistance when people don’t fully understand what benefits there may be to them. Often the issue of cost can be used as an excuse. So I wonder if the technology companies could come up with a way of demonstrating the value of the hybrid or virtual against the cost aspect. It all seems a bit grey and mysterious at the moment.
JENISE: Are new meeting formats such as open space conferences having an impact in Europe? Why or why not?
PAUL: This is a tough one for me to answer as I have spent much time at European and USA based conferences where open space has been a component so I am used to conferences that include these formats. What, I know though is that each meeting may not always require an open space element. Again this will depend on the objectives of the meeting. I have seen open space/un-conference formats used very effectively in both corporate and association environments.
I think new meeting formats are relevant to all event professionals regardless of where they are based geographically.
We know that attendees require more interaction rather than the traditional speaker and classroom style based event. People are demanding more which has to be good for our industry.
JENISE: Are techniques that increase audience participation gaining ground at European conferences?
PAUL: Absolutely yes. Again this is not geographic specific. People are asking for opportunities to be involved and to be heard. Some events will need changing, e.g. panel sessions should re-think and re-invent if they are to become valuable. A series of talking heads, effectively talking to each other just will not leave attendees feeling satisfied anymore. In fact the combined experience and knowledge in the audience can add a huge benefit to overall discussions.
JENISE: What do you hope participants at ECEU will take-away?
I would like participants; whether remote, in a POD or with us at the venue of Down Hall, to go away inspired and exhausted. Inspired because they will have been actively involved in the event and can see how some new ideas could help with their future events, and exhausted because we will have worked them as ‘guinea pigs’ and looked under the bonnet/trunk/hood of hybrid events with them. Anyone who thinks they can come and watch and not participate will be sadly mistaken.
Get your hands dirty at Event Camp Europe, after all we are all experimenting and learning together to progress our industry.
Registration is open for Event Camp Europe, a day-long conference for event professionals exploring innovative formats and technology for meetings and events to be held in London Sept. 9.
The conference will focus on hybrid event technology (the use of online streaming to add a way for remote attendees to participate in a live event) as well as innovative meeting formats and techniques.
Event Camp Europe will also be a hybrid event and will offer opportunities for remote participation via PODs (groups that agree to attend the event together at a remote location) and for individuals viewing from their home or office.
Cost for the event is £100 for onsite attendance, £250 per POD for participation including a full instruction kit and case study on How to Set Up a Remote POD for Your Event. Individuals are invited to participate remotely at no charge, but registration is still required. (space is limited to 5 PODs for this first EventCamp Europe).
(Photo courtesy of TNOC)