Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 08 2012

How to Make the Most of Attendee Social Media Addiction

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

As the industry continues to evolve, a new four-letter acronym is having a serious impact on which tools planners should carry in the meeting toolbox: FOMO. The Fear of Missing Out.

A recent survey from JWT Intelligence collected responses from 1200+ consumers from the US and the UK to dig deeper into the phenomenon. According to the results, more than 70 percent of respondents indicated that they completely or somewhat relate to the expression. The feeling seems to be the greatest among one key demographic: millennials.

Understanding the Four Letters of FOMO
While consumers have arguably always had some concerns that their friends and colleagues might be doing something better at any given moment, the rise of social media has exacerbated these worries. You're at home in your pajamas, and your friends upload a beach photo to Instagram. You're finishing work on a Saturday, and you see a status update from a friend who had "the best Friday night ever." No matter what we're doing, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are reminders that, well, maybe we should be doing something else.

"Email, social media and calls or texts from friends and family are all distractions for attendees," Mary Reynolds Kane, Director, Online Marketing, PCMA, says. "In order to combat too many distractions, planners must focus on programming smart meetings that entice their attendees to look up and engage in the topic."

As planners work to attract the 18 – 30 age bracket, that strategy relies heavily on understanding FOMO to overcome its challenges and harness its energy.

The Challenge: Creating an Experience that Breaks Through the Online Clutter
Whether it's a three-hour event or three-day convention, making the message resonate with an audience means pulling them away from their smartphones and tablets. Consider these three key recommendations for helping millennial attendees focus on what's in front of them at your next meeting.

Make information easy to digest. According to the survey, 66 percent of Millennials say they never have ample time or energy to delve into topics or endeavors and often only get to skim the surface of new interests.

Give them structure. The JWT results reinforced one of the key findings from the Millennial study commissioned by the PCMA Education Foundation: millennials need an itinerary. Seventy-seven percent of the JWT respondents indicated that they think they can squeeze more than they possibly can into one day.

Give them career connections. That same PCMA Education Foundation study uncovered that one of the main drivers of millennial attendance is networking. If you can facilitate opportunities to create professional connections, you'll take a big step toward getting their eyes away from their screens.

The Opportunity: Making Your Meeting THE Place to Be
However, you don't want attendees to completely disconnect. All those posts, pictures and status updates represent an opportunity to build buzz around a meeting. The JWT survey showed that more than half of Millennials feel left out when their friends or peers are doing something that they aren't.

So how does a meeting become that "something" that everyone wants to be part of?

"Planners should embrace the technology of social media and make it work for them," Reynolds Kane says.

She recommends planners consider integrating gamification into an event to allow attendees to use their smartphones and tablets in the meeting - - instead of using them to take them out of the meeting.

Consider these three additional tips for making the most of FOMO.

Let attendees do the work. With recommended hashtags for a meeting or event, your attendees can be your biggest social advocates. Encourage everyone on-site to let their circle of colleagues and friends know where they are, what they're doing and most importantly, why those who aren't there are missing out.

Reynolds Kane also points out that hashtags can help address potential on-site problems. She recommends that the host hotel or convention center monitor Twitter feeds to proactively resolve issues such as temperature, cleanliness or other areas that might turn off attendees.

Be content-centric. From pictures of keynote speakers to quotes from on-site attendees, approach your next meeting or event with a focus on collecting shareable content. Post them online throughout the duration to give off-site fans and followers reasons to wish they were part of the experience.

When the meeting is over, think of your content arsenal as those photos from last night's big party. Create a photo album that will generate excitement for your next experience.

"Seeing photos of friends and colleagues enjoying themselves is a great motivator for future engagement," Reynolds Kane says. "You'll leverage the FOMO effect for what every planner needs: increased attendance at your next meeting."

Give the globe a taste of your meeting. If your meeting or convention features panels or Q & A sessions, invite off-site followers to submit questions. You'll increase the chatter around your event while fueling your on-site experience.

Millennials Aren't Alone
While millennials appear to have the biggest struggles with FOMO, other audiences aren't far behind. The study showed that Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers relate to the fear factor, too. As social media connects the gaps between generations, planners will need to be ever mindful of addressing FOMO and turning it into fuel for stronger and more successful meetings and events.

More on the PCMA Education Foundation Millennial Series

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