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EXHIBITION NEWShead-to-head24MARCH 2011EXHIBITIONNEWS.CO.UKWith over 350 million people usingTwitter globally, and 50m onFacebook, it's only natural theseonline social mediums become part of anorganiser's marketing arsenal pre- and post-event. But are they also as useful in the middleof an event?ENasked individuals from the organiser andtechnology provider community to share theirthoughts and experiences on social networking'spotential application during an exhibition. Social media andnetworking platformssuch as FacebookandTwitter are increasinglybeing used in the lead-upto an exhibition or show,but do they have a placeon the exhibition floor? Paul ByromMD, UpperStreet EventsI am not sure a virtualtool can have aphysical place 'on' theshow floor but I thinkthat is the pertinentpoint. Facebook, Twitter and other such socialnetworks can be used pretty much anywhere,at anytime, by anyone and will be 'on' the showfloor whether you want them to be or not. Our view is that we need to better understandand embrace this fact and test a number ofways to exploit the opportunities it presents.Our starting point for all these ideas has beento accept that we can not control the contentbut we can try to direct, encourage andmanage it. For example, during our New Designersevent, we 'recruited' Twitter ambassadorswho are well regarded designindividuals. We asked them to simply tweetabout what products they liked, loved orhated during the show. Our only caveat was we wanted them toinclude the show name in the tweet. We felt the tweets were balanced and fair in the main but more importantly started a dialogue. We saw other visitors tweetingresponses to either agree or disagree withour ambassadors' views. We think this created a better sense ofcommunity engagement with the eventwhich encouraged others to attend. It wassmall scale but interesting; the key will behow we can recreate this sort of activity on alarger scale. Arran CooleMD, ASP EventsYes they do. You can'tstop the voice of thepeople, but you canenhance and nurturesocial media until youend up with that rareand profitable breed:The hybrid event. What is a hybrid event? Simply put, it is aphysical show with digital elements runningalongside it. Converting a normal event into ahybrid event, while still in its infancy, takes hardwork and is not just a case of creating a Twitterhashtag and posting videos post-event.Engaging facilitators and content tailored toyour online audience are crucial, as is utilisingmany tools in addition to Facebook and Twitter. As I answer this question I am at PCMA[Professional Convention ManagementAssociation] in Vegas, with a phenomenalkeynote speaker. I wasn't the only ASP personin attendance, as we had virtual attendeeswatching the live stream from Sydney andLondon, following the PCMA conversations indifferent ways. The result? I now have twopeople insisting they must attend future PCMAevents for education and networking. Thedigital element of the show is also a revenuegenerating centre - income is created throughan access fee with potential sponsorshipopportunity on top. Social media on the show floor is an indicatorthat the event has an engaged audience. It is asimple fact that your total potential audiencecannot all make it to your event - but as anorganiser, why ignore them?Enhance the buzz, globalise your audienceand grow your show online and offline bycreating a hybrid of your event. Fran McIntryeMD, QD EventsAs an industry, I thinkwe're still quite a longway from fully engagingand exploiting socialnetworking platforms,despite them beingarguably our closest'kin' in the media world. The power socialmedia offerings have not just to engage butalso to create communities is almost surelyable to convert into a live experience within anevent or exhibition environment. Having said that, if QD Events was ever tocreate [to use a crude example] a 'Facebookmeeting place' at one of our events, Iwouldn't expect a high percentage of theFacebook community to convert to physicalaudience. Putting logistics and costs aside, there is asafety barrier in place when anyone uses anonline forum: It's anonymous, spontaneous,distanced and 'safe'. To meet in personinvolves far more effort and commitment onthe part of the individual. This commitment isone of the main reasons why exhibitions offerfar better sales opportunities than online.There is also an element of risk inconverting social networking into livenetworking. We all welcome the open forumthese platforms give us, but in doing so, wehave to be willing to accept the openopinions, comments, views and challengesthat come with that - and accept these willno longer be expressed behind the closeddoors of an organiser's office, but aired infull view of thousands of 'friends'.If, as an industry, we have enough belief inour products, then these risks shouldn'tprevent us from taking live eventopportunities further.ENCan we better use social networking platforms during an exhibition, or arethey simply a nuisance? ENasks if organisers should make the most ofthings like Twitter and Facebook during their events. Harnessing social mediatools on the show floor Q