Friday, October 19, 2012

Event Hashtags: Practical Tips for Organizers and Attendees

One of the best ways to follow a conference or meeting you can't attend in person is through Twitter. You can find out who is there, what they are saying and what people think about it. For the people at home this gives near real-time to the highlights  for organizers it raises the profile of the event and maybe attracts a few more physical visitors to the next session. It also provides valuable feedback.

But the Twitter experience of any event can depend very much on how effectively the organizers and attendees use hashtags. If everyone uses the same hashtag then it is easy to find relevant tweets and much easier to monitor the activity, but to make that happen there are a few practical things you need to think about.

FOR EVENT ORGANIZERS:

A HASHTAG FOR EVERY EVENT. You should define a conveniently short hashtag for every public event or meeting that you organize. It doesn't need to be a different hashtag every time. For major events like an international conference a hashtag like #BigConf2012 makes sense, but for an organization that has regular monthly events and always one at a time a repeated hashtag is easier to remember.

ANNOUNCE THE HASHTAG IN ADVANCE. As the organizer you should choose a hashtag, verify that it is not already being used for something else and then add it to your own tweets announcing and promoting the event. This encourages everyone to use the same hashtag. Using the hashtag early also reduces the risk of conflict with another user, because they will probably check if a hashtag is free before they use it.

POST THE HASHTAG AT THE EVENT. Live tweets from an event are very useful to build interest and also to gauge the feelings of the audience. You can make them more effective by making sure everyone in the room live tweets with the correct hashtag. Post it on the walls, doors and on handouts. Ask the person who introduces the session to remind people that there is an official hashtag.

ENCOURAGE LIVE TWEETERS. As the event organizer you should be monitoring live tweets from the event, both for the feedback it provides and also so that you can encourage live tweeters by retweeting selected tweets on the event account or responding to questions or feedback. This reaction motivates more people to tweet at the event.

FOR EVENT PARTICIPANTS:

LEARN THE HASHTAG AND USE IT. Find out what is the event hashtag and use it in your tweets. If there isn't an official hashtag try asking the organizers and if there still isn't one try looking at what other users are using before starting to make one up. When many people tweet with different hashtags it is very hard for people to follow the event.

SAY YOU ARE ATTENDING IN ADVANCE. If you plan to attend a meeting it is a good idea to tweet in advance that you plan to go. This helps other people decide if they want to go and helps people look out for you. Don't forget the hashtag!

TWEET THAT YOU ARE THERE. When you are in the room it is useful to tweet again that you are there. This generates some buzz for the event and helps your friends to look out for you. Again, don't forget the hashtag.

COMMENT ON WHO IS SPEAKING. A simple tweet saying who you are listening to will give people a heads up that the part they are most interested in is coming up and that there might be some highlights coming soon. And don't forget the hashtag.

LIVE TWEET SELECTED HIGHLIGHTS. You don't need to give a verbatim text of a presentation, just pick out some points that you found interesting and share them. This is useful for the people following the event on Twitter, it is useful for the speakers to see which points resonated and it is useful for the organizers to sense the relevance of the content.  If you are live tweeting a sequence of comments you don't need to put the hashtag on all of them, but always leave the speaker's name. After the first tweet you can shorten their name to save space; at that point most people know who it is and the others can view previous tweets.


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Monday, October 15, 2012

Why Consensus Decision Making is Usually Most Effective

In some cultures consensus decision making is the norm. Others prefer the majority wins approach. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, accepting majority decisions but at least trying to make this decision more acceptable to the others.

Proponents of the majority rule argue that it is the fastest way to reach a decision. Indeed it is. Yet there is a significant drawback: a decision taken quickly that is opposed by many will not be so quick to implement. The people who never agreed in the first place can delay and obstruct the implementation in every way possible, at least by a lack of enthusiasm.

This is one of the reasons I always preferred a consensus approach to decision making..Then I realized that it also has the advantage of being effective in a wider range of cultures making it especially useful for global organizations.

Now I learn  that there is another very compelling reason to prefer consensus decision making. Recent research at Brigham Young University and Princeton published in American Political Science Review has demonstrated that women speak less when they are outnumbered in decision-making bodies (see Why Women Speak Less When They are Outnumbered in Psypost for an executive summary). So even if they are sitting at the decision makers table they do not always speak out and thus have less influence than they should. But the researchers also noted that this difference disappears when decisions are made by unanimous vote rather than just a simple majority.  Clearly what is happening in the consensus decision case is that everyone is being involved, all information and considerations are taken into consideration and you end up with a better quality decision, and one that will be implemented with broad support.

You see a similar effect when multinational teams meet to decide something. In a majority vote scenario people from consensus cultures often do not speak up. I found that when I chair meetings in these cases that I can only find out what they think by asking them directly -- a very effective technique for guiding the discussion in any meeting but especially valuable in a multicultural context. Once you switch to a unamimous vote consensus approach then everyone participates.

Combine these cultural and gender-balance benefits with the intrinsic advantage of a consensus decision and you have a very compelling reason to aim for a consensus in most situations but there are still a few situations where the majority rule is still useful. The most obvious is in an emergency, where a top-down hierarchical approach is sometimes needed to respond very quickly and in this case there is no time for a consensus. Another case is where someone from a non-hierarchical culture is leading a team of people from a strongly hierarchical culture who are at a lower level. In this case the leader's attempt at brokering a consensus could be viewed by the others as indecision or incompetence.


Related Posts About Culture

Three Non-Obvious Issues in Multicultural Meetings


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Monday, October 8, 2012

Office Politics: How to Become Credible in Your Workplace

One of the cornerstones of an influencing strategy is to establish your credibility in some area of competence; you have to convince people that you are an expert, or at least competent in the field.  Once you are recognized in this way people will listen when you talk about that topic. This sounds challenging but is actually much easier than you might imagine.

First of all you need to actually develop above-average knowledge of your chosen field  This is easier now that it has ever been thanks to the easier access to knowledge the world-wide web provides, but it takes some skill and experience to do this without spending an excessive amount of time on it.

Luckily there are some techniques for keeping up to date in any field that require only a modest effort. First of all you need to manage news sources efficiently so that you are always the first to know about new developments. Google's RSS reader is one essential tool, allowing you to scan headlines from many publications in one place, quickly and efficiently. Google Alerts is another essential tool, that allows you to see news in any field automatically.

Equally important is to follow the best news sources in your field on Twitter. You can find them by searching for keywords related to your business to find people who tweet on that topic. Then choose the most useful and see who they follow to get as close as possible to the sources of the best information.

Once you have access to the latest news share it freely with your colleagues but don't swamp them with a flood of low value information. Be selective and pass on things that are really useful. That way you add more value. At the same time you should be careful in your choice of news and other information to share. Perhaps you see an interesting news item but before you share it ask if it reinforces the position of expertise you are trying to build. If the answer is no then resist the temptation to share it. Focus on things that are coherent with the reputation you are trying to build or you will undermine your efforts.

Try this for a few months and you will perhaps be surprised by the results. If your plan was to become the office expert in social media you don't need to be an expert at the global level; you just need to be better than anyone else in your workplace. In fact you don't even need to be the best, you just need to be the best at sharing because an expert who doesn't share knowledge is not considered an expert. If you plan to be the office social media guru always be the one who has valuable knowledge -- like which of the many new sites is worth trying, or invitations to some new beta-test site -- and the one who passes on high-value information. Then people will recognize you as the expert and listen to you when you have something to say about the topic.


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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Attention to Details: How Police Academy Hurt Technology Demo

Recently Hitachi demonstrated a technology that allows data to be stored in blocks of glass that could last 100 million years. The concept was appealing and the demo very impressive. Up to a point. What undermined the entire event was the choice of sample data for the public technology demonstration. The data they chose to preserve for 100 million years was the entire series of Police Academy movies, in all their 1080p high-definition magnificence.

You might think that this choice might lead to some ridicule in the media and you would be right. Even the pro-business magazine Business Week mocked the choice in Live Blogging Hitachi's 100 Million Year Data Test in the 26 September 2012 issue.

Having worked in large organizations I can see how this could happen. First of all the people who arranged the demo might be technical experts who have a deep understanding of the technologies involved but understandably don't know how the media and other observers might view their efforts. It's also possible that they would have liked to have the Complete Works of Shakespeare but corporate cost cutting made that impossible. Most likely they just didn't ask themselves what might be the downside of the decision and nobody questioned their choice.

This teaches an important lesson: details matter. You might have an awesome technology, the public demonstration might be flawless but if the content you chose to use in the demo is tainted by ridicule in any way you are going to have a problem. People might have been entertained by Police Academy movies, but they are not going to win any major awards nor will they pass unnoticed. Hitachi might have had better results saving the complete works of the Beatles, the collected plays of William Shakespeare or any number of other things. But to chose the Police Academy series sent the wrong message because they distracted from the original goal of the demo. Details like this matter and they should not be left to the person who makes the initial technical demo. Once the decision is taken to make a public demo someone has to screen the content choices to weed out dubious images and videos that might be OK in the lab but are less than optimal in a public event.


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