How the humble Selfie can transform networking opportunities at your conference
Trivial, self-obsessed, egotistic – words often used to describe the selfie phenomenon that’s sweeping the Internet, and boy do we love taking them.
They are the quickest and easiest type of photo to take and they’re part of how many people present and reinforce their personal image.
The Internet and Social Media is awash with them, and thanks to the devices on which we take them, selfies are easier than ever to capture and publish with the minimum of effort. They are so popular, even the premier online photography community 500px has hundreds of very classy photos tagged with #selfie.
OK, it’s just a bit of fun so let’s not to get too uptight about them, but how can we use selfies to add fun and value to our conferences?
Networking is everything – create and promote your hashtag
It’s worth remembering that in addition to great learning, communication and motivation, conferences are amazing networking opportunities. Here are some ways that selfies can be used at your conference to enhance your delegates’ networking experience:
Firstly, make sure that everyone at your conference knows the conference hashtag – this is the tag that will be attached to the photo when it’s tweeted or posted on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or other sites (including LinkedIn). The hashtag is the glue that holds your conference community together.
The hashtag should be promoted to delegates before, during and after the event. It should be highlighted prominently at the conference, in joining instructions, in the conference ‘brochure’, on the agenda, in delegate packs, on the screen, on the lanyards, on tables during tea, coffee and food breaks – everywhere. The more visible it is, the greater the likelihood that people will use it. I can’t tell you how many conferences I’ve spoken at where the hashtag is an afterthought. Conference organisers have to acknowledge that tweeting and posting is now a core part of events, so you might as well learn how to benefit from it.
And for the benefit of people who are not as familiar with social media, organisers should also make a point of explaining clearly what a hashtag is and how it is used.
Make it easy for people to share their networking experience – and make it fun
Next, include the Twitter handles of speakers on the conference agenda right next to the title of their presentations. From personal experience, delegates often take photos of themselves with the speakers, so make it easy for them to quickly tag themselves and include the name of the speaker.
Before the conference, organisers should plan precisely how tagged selfies could be used at the event. Perhaps they could be linked to the theme of the event, or as a competition which runs throughout. ‘Best Selfie’, ‘Funniest Selfie’, ‘Funniest Group Selfie’, ‘Most Creative Selfie’ are all ideas that can be used – with prizes that can be given out at the end of the event.
Unless your conference is particularly large and attracts a great deal of outside interest, the purpose of including selfies is primarily to enhance networking and the feeling of community at the event. For example, delegates can be encouraged to take a selfie when they find themselves sitting with someone they’ve never met before, and a selection can be shown on the main screen between sessions or on screens in around the registration and exhibition areas.
Another idea is to include a selfie photo wall at the event – most people find photos extremely compelling so you will always find a good crowd gathering round.
I’ve also seen selfies used instead of place cards as table settings. Again, it always raises a smile and adds an extra element of fun to finding your place at the conference dinner!
And why not jazz up the lanyard – have your delegates take a selfie prior to the event and include it in the lanyard as well as their name and Twitter handle. Again, it will raise a smile when people are meeting each other at the event. You can have a competition for the ‘best lanyard selfie’.
Get sponsors and exhibitors involved – It will benefit them too and they’ll thank you for enhancing the value of their sponsorship
Sponsors and exhibitors can be encouraged to take selfies too – indeed, selfies taken with delegates can be a highly effective means of engaging with attendees, again perhaps with a fun, competitive element included.
After the conference, it will also help delegates to recall the stands or booths they visited if they are reminded with a photo.
Add a charitable element
Conference organisers may also want to consider including a charitable element to the selfie initiative. For example a company or organisation can make a donation to charity for every selfie that’s taken at an event and which includes a particular hashtag. For corporates this is not only a potentially generous commitment, but can also dramatically raise their profile in a positive and altruistic manner.
Encourage your speakers to take selfies which include the audience
Speakers too can get involved. They can take a photo of themselves from the stage, endeavouring to include some or all of the audience. When I’m speaking about networking strategies and LinkedIn at conferences, I will often take a photo of the audience, post it to LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram and then encourage audience members to tag themselves. Engagement is usually very high.
And don’t assume that LinkedIn is above all this triviality. If we assume that most of your delegates are on LinkedIn, you as the conference organiser have a great opportunity to post pictures on your timeline of people who are attending your event. What’s more, did you know that the LinkedIn mobile app has recently been upgraded so that you can upload photos directly to the site from your device?
LinkedIn Company and Showcase Pages – perfect venues for your conference selfie initiative
And finally, utilise your LinkedIn Company Page – post a selection of selfies to your page and tag individuals. You could also create a collage of some of the best selfies taken at your event and upload them as your Cover/Header image. In fact you can create a Showcase Page for your conference which is better optimised for photos. The Cover/Header image (AKA Hero image) is huge so again you have plenty of room to play with.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that both LinkedIn Company and Showcases include statistics on the number of impressions, clicks, interactions and engagement levels. I guarantee that if you carefully plan and execute a ‘conference selfie initiative’ on your Company or Showcase page, you will see a spectacular rise in engagement level with your pages on LinkedIn.
Be bold and creative – get your delegates snapping!
Ultimately we are only limited by our own imaginations as to what we can achieve with the humble selfie photograph. It’s fun, interactive, enhances networking opportunities and fosters a greater sense of community at your event. It raises your event’s profile online and leaves a visual legacy for your delegates to revisit time and time again.
And one last tip – repeat the initiative at next year’s conference and have people compare their pictures over the years. More laughs guaranteed.
The selfie has always been about fun, so let your imagination fly and integrate them into your conference or event to add fun to your delegates' networking experience.
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