Experiments With Online Technologies at IWMW Events
A video summary entitled Use of Social Media at IWMW Events is available on YouTube. The brief video (which lasts for just over one minute) explains how since 2005 we have tried to make use of a new online technologies at UKOLN’s IWMW (Institutional Web Management Workshop) events. The video clip describes how the availability of a WiFi network at the University of Manchester, the venue for the IWMW 2005 event, provided our first opportunity to explore the benefits which use of communications technologies could provide at an event. Back then we were using IRC, which was available to a small number of people (about 18) who had brought along a laptop with WiFi capabilities.
I was one of those 18 people, and was therefore one of the first to hear the news of the London bombings. It was a strange experience to be aware of the news, but not the full extent of the news, whilst most people in the audience were listening to the speaker. I waited until the speaker had finished before announcing the news, with many of the London based participants then using the coffee break to ring home.
The incident brought home to me the importance of online communications at events, not only for significant incidents but also for more mundane occurrences such as missing keys, speakers delays and problems with public transport.
In addition to the need for event organisers to be able to communicate with speakers and delegates, the experiments a few years ago demonstrated the value of peer-to-peer communications using popular technologies such as Twitter for enriching the experience of events by allowing open discussions and questions to take place.
This Year’s Experiment: The Bizzabo Mobile App
Since mobile technologies are now mainstream, especially amongst Web professionals, this key we are experimenting with Bizzabo, a mobile app we are using to provide access to the IWMW 2013 timetable together with the event’s Twitter stream, as well as providing a communication channel for IWMW 2013 participants and other interested parties.
As can be seen from the screenshot, the opening page for the event shows its name and location, people who have signed up to the community, and recent tweets with the event hashtag.
The agenda for the three-day event is also available and you can bookmark your favourite sessions and add details to your mobile device.
One limitation I have found with the Bizzabo app is that the number of parallel sessions if limited to ten. As the IWMW 2013 event has eleven parallel sessions on Wednesday 26 June and ten on Thursday 27 June this causes a slight problem as one of the slots has to be allocated to the main plenary sessions.
However this isn’t an insurmountable problems, and won’t be relevant for events which have fewer parallel sessions.
For me the success of apps such as this is whether they will be actively used by sufficient numbers of people. As described on the Bizzabo blog:
The community is the most important part of Bizzabo and what we’re all about. Once you join the community, you’ll be able to see all other members, go through their profiles, discover mutual connections and interact with the people you want to connect with.
Note that the Bizzabo app is available for the iPhone and Android environments. The event organiser’s interface is available using a Web browser, which enables the event organiser to provide details about the event (name, location, programmes, times, etc.) as well as information about the speakers. It should be noted that speaker profiles can include details of the speaker’s Web site, blog, Twitter account and LinkedIn profile.
The programme for the IWMW 2013 event is also available on Lanyrd, which also provides a mobile interface. It will be interesting to see how Bizzabo compares with Lanyrd. The latter, to be fair, is more of a social directory for events, allowing you to see participants at events via their Twitter ID. However it will also be interesting to make a comparison between a responsive Web site (Lanyrd) and a dedicated mobile app (Bizzabo). From a provider’s perspective it can be advantageous to provide a single source of information which is available for both desktop and mobile browsers. However might users prefer a solution which could exploit a mobile phone’s characteristics more effectively and, arguably, is more easily found via the phone providers’ app store?
Bizzabo provides a simple way of ensuring that an event programme is available in a format suitable for viewing on a mobile device for free. However for me the important thing is whether the community aspect of Bizzabo takes off. I’m willing to give it a go. If you are attending the IWMW 2013 event, or are simply interested in the event, why not download the app and give it a go. Your feedback would be welcomed, including comments on the mobile app versus mobile web approach to providing information about events.
As mentioned above a brief video summary of the history of use of social media tools at IWMW events is available on YouTube and embedded below.