Behind the Scenes – Anatomy of Event Digital Engagement

Extend content reach

Amplify content re-use

Expand the conversation and dialog around the content of an event

Drive thought leadership around an event theme

Share a point of view to lead 

Engage a community in unexpected ways

Shape a new perception of your brand through digital engagement

To help you and your team plan and execute digital engagement around events, here’s an anatomy of the digital engagement executed by the IBM Social Business Category team around the #WeFirst Summit, held in Los Angeles, CA.

The WeFirst Summit, was a fantastic leadership event focused around helping purpose driven companies tell the stories of their brand’s good work. IBM was a sponsor and participant. We believe in the mission for the event and wanted to leverage our skills and expertise to help expand the conversation to a broader audience, to help more organizations rethink the purpose of their business and the way in which they engage their communities.

The focus of this blog post is to share with you some of the things we did, in the hope that this may help you extend the reach of your event to bring the content and the conversation to a broader audience. As you will see in some of the metrics I share here, digital/social engagement can significantly amplify the impact to business – that’s why I am sharing this.

This is a behind-the-scenes view….


– >20M impressions through Twitter chat, conversation and sharing – >100 images for re-usable raw content – 12 leadership video interviews – Thousands of reads/views to follow on blog posts and videos – Outside creative agency costs = $0 

Takeaways Build a team with digital skills. Key skills are: digital engagement and storytelling (through writing, images, videos, graphics, audio)



There were a few sponsors there at the event following the traditional “event model” of booth exhibit alone (no social, no speaking, no media).

They sat at their table all day for 2 days and had maybe 5 conversations (that I saw). 

= No impact, nothing re-usable, no amplification, no story

My recommendation is to not be one of those companies… rethink your event strategy and make social engagement central to your overall tactical plan.

the team

The Team

– Onsite hands-on team (the key here is to have people with expertise about the content) – One person: overall lead, arranging interviews – One person realtime social amplification – One person: video and photo capture – One person: session speaker, sharing thought leadership insights, perspectives, stories – The team: tweet chat from onsite, with event speakers

Key Having a skilled self-sufficient multi-disciplinary team creating, producing and sharing content on the fly, and re-purposing the content for follow on digital engagement

new rule bookImage capture

– Capture images of each speaker – Best from front row for large unobstructed shots – iPhone 5 or 6 (or comparable Android smartphone) can capture images of sufficient quality – DSLR is optimal – Digitally process images in Photoshop to make ok images good and good images great (the quality of the images matters and will differentiate us from everyone else at the event snapping blurry dark far away photos)

TIPS Frame speakers and screens to allow for later text overlays, create white space backgrounds. If using a smartphone, be sure to set the focus and exposure, then shoot. For iPhone, use MoviePro app over standard Camera app.

PS: Rick Ridgeway of Patagonia (above) is one of my lifelong heroes. I was so psyched to meet him.  

doing videoVideo interviews with presenters &  influencers

– Build interview schedule – Secure a ‘social lounge’ room dedicated for interviews (and as quiet as possible) – Allow 30 minutes for 5-10 minute interview – Prepare questions ahead of time – Adjust interview questions for each speaker as appropriate – Walk the guest through the flow first (so they know what to expect), then begin interview – Keep it short, less is more – Prep guest to keep it short and concise, pre-empt the rambling the guest – Use a tripod to lock down the camera – Use lighting (lighting is #1 key to good video) – Use lavalier or dynamic mic for audio (audio is #2 key to good video) – Get a business card for each guest – Get a release signature for each guest

TIPS Be consistent in how you setup the shot for each guest to build continuity as a video set. For iPhone, use MoviePro app over standard Camera app. Use the Rhode lav mic (watch your audio input levels – not too high). Be sure to always lock focus and whitebalance. Use a digital clapboard (e.g. on a tablet) to sync audio and to keep track of interviews (if many). Make sure everything is on AC (batteries burn down fast in video sessions). Go portable, keep your kit light, keep your kit mobile. Always have an extension cord and power strip.  

 humanity moves

Memes highlighting themes & takeaways

– Capture shareable quotes for each speaker – Use short quote, tip, insight, stat in a meme – Meme text should be catchy, memorable, interesting, unexpected… like a sound bite – Use a pre-designed event meme template to speed the workflow at and post event – Use the captured images of the speakers Use memes for all post-event social sharing and amplification – You can do this at the event, on the fly… but requires someone’s dedicated attention

TIPS Make sure the speaker looks good in the image. If they are happy with it, they will help amplify it. Use a consistent font that matches the look and feel of other brand content


twitter chat

CrowdChat/Tweet Chat

– Schedule a tweet chat during the event – Schedule for 1 hour, during a lunch break – Secure a room/table at event to gather around for in-person live team tweetchat – Promote in pre-event digital and social engagement and amplification – Include 1 or 2 speakers as featured guests to ‘lead’ the tweet chat – Engage the growing conversation participants – Use related hashtags to pull people into conversation from related topic streams – Use a tool like CrowdChat to manage and archive/capture the Twitter conversation for later amplification – Post in chat to 120 characters or less, allowing space for retweets and responses – Be sure to always include the chat hashtag with each post (many tools like CrowdChat do this automatically)

TIPS Prepare answers to the chat questions ahead of time to free up time to engage and react, not type. Use a dashboard like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to watch the overall stream and as backup if Crowdchat gets too slow


with social collaboration

Thought leadership 

– A thought leadership speaker will drive greater impact than a booth – Bring in an SME with strong speaking and communication skills/experience – Take a TED-like approach to thought leadership content, heavy on visuals & light on text… focus on story– Make sure speaker has their social IDs in visuals to enable digital engagement 

TIP Have the speaker give you their top 3-5 quotes so that you can share more easily via twitter live


rather than handout
Looking for opportunities to partner and align

– As you meet people at event, look for opportunities to setup post-event interviews or guest blog contributions in joint thought leadership content – Immediately connect with people via social: LinkedIn, Twitter – Look for people or organizations with a cause, purpose, mission aligned to your organization

TIP Listen for problems and challenges IBM might be able to help solve

Empty Chair

Behind the scenes

– People love to see behind the scenes… capture images to share – Share internally with your teams and use as opportunity to learn (like we are here) – Sometimes the best content is captured behind the scenes – Behind the scenes images are a great way to bring people into the content

TIP Candids and ‘action’ shots are great or what it looked like behind the ‘curtains’


Post recap blogs

– Use the images, videos, memes as content for blog posts highlighting key takeaways from the event – Share stories, insights, perspectives from event – Always add value, extending the event themes in context, for your partners, for your clients, to your point of view – Publish/Syndicate to as many blogs as possible to maximize audience reach and diversity

TIPS Lead with a story. Start with the why, to provide context and understanding.


Content re-use

– Capture once, deploy everywhere – Scale the content across platforms (Connections, Slideshare, Blogs, Twitter, G+, FB, eBook, etc.) – Share the content in your enterprise collaboration platform (like IBM Connections) so that other people across network can re-share and re-use

TIP Create ready-to-share small versions of content for social amplification



– Share and spread – Centralize content into an employee amplification program so a network of employees can share with their networks – This is a rippling of 1 to many to many-squared – Share across all appropriate social channels – Amplify key messages, insights, memes, videos, blog posts, etc. For 2-3 weeks following event to extend the reach, extend the conversation and pull people into engagement funnels – Measure performance of shared content to see what resonates (and then re-share the top performing content) – Learn from what resonates to guide future content investments, future story themes, future messaging

TIP Share findings/learnings with broader team so everyone can see what resonated most


Bonus Event Tip

How to make lots of friends at events >> bring a small powerstrip. People always need to charge their devices and there is usually a shortage of outlets.



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