Steal these social media ideas for your next conference

Do you have a conference coming up? Are you a meeting planner looking for tactics to raise awareness about your event, a sponsor thinking of ways to bring more people to your booth or a speaker trying to find a way to make your session more interactive? Perfect! We have some ideas for you. We hope to inspire you to use social media in new ways to engage your attendees and partners before, during and after your events.

There are a number of industry events that Sparkloft Media team members attend as speakers, sponsors or students. Since we consult clients on making social media work for their conferences, we continuously study and analyze how attendees, organizers, sponsors and speakers use it during the events. Apart from observing, we like to learn by doing. So whenever we get a chance to test our concepts and new tools in real life, we do it. This year we tested a number of social media activation strategies at the WACVB Tech Summit and are happy to share our learnings with you.

Get attendees to create visual content and increase the volume of conversation about your event

Instagram Walk

We kicked off the conference with an Instagram Walk, a guided field trip that involves exploring a destination by taking photos with your smartphone and sharing them on Instagram.

Before heading out, we hosted a mini-workshop sharing some how-tos of Instagram and tips on how to take better photos. This brief photography and Instagram overview before the walk helped to define and clarify what we were about to put into practice. Right after the workshop, we broke down into small groups and took over the host city of Portland with our smartphones at the ready. City guides accompanied each group giving little facts that attendees could include as comments on Instagram along with their images. We also ensured that we had at least one social savvy staff member or attendee in each group to answer technical questions.

When planning your own Instagram walk, think of the spillover effect for the conference. Schedule it in the beginning of the conference to maximize the benefits for the event as a whole. Attendees will become accustomed to using the conference hashtag and will learn some photography tricks to apply throughout the event.

As a result, there were 640 photos with #WACVBTechSummit hashtag this year (487 during the Instagram Walk) as compared to 1 photo in 2012 and 53 photos in 2013. More importantly, attendees, conference organizers and the host destination all benefited and loved it! Triple win.

Social Hub

Our team worked with Postano to set up a moderated social hub showcasing social media content with the event hashtag. While social media hubs like this are nothing new, attendees love seeing their tweets and Instagram photos displayed on a big screen. They fuel the wall with more content. Some even tried to break the wall by posting a photo of a photo of a photo of a tweet:

Postano WACVB 2014

All in all, the total number of tweets this year was 476 as compared to 236 last year!

Bring attendees to your booth

Instagram Gallery

As a follow up to the Instagram Walk, we printed the best photos and set up a real-life Instagram Gallery at our booth. Attendees could leave likes in the form of heart-shaped stickers to vote for their favorite photos. The photo with the most votes won a small prize. The Instagram Gallery brought a lot of traffic to the Sparkloft booth. The authors would bring their colleagues and often strangers campaigning to get more votes. Then they came back again and again to see how their photo was doing.

Real-life Pinterest Board

Another interactive display that we set up at our booth was a real-life Pinterest board. Attendees could choose out of many photos of Portland and Oregon on our desk, fill out “pinned by ____” field and pin a photo to one of the four feeling-based boards which asked attendees how the photos made them feel. Adventurous? Inspired? Or perhaps hungry?

The idea was to showcase a slightly different approach to planning going beyond the typical “eat, stay, do” categories and into how different places and experiences make one feel. The Pinterest board was a good way to grab attention and have people stay at our booth a little longer interacting with the board. We heard some great feedback from a couple of attendees saying that the board provided some extra inspiration to stay in Oregon one extra day.

Make your workshop session interactive


One thing people always complain about at conferences is bad coffee or the lack of coffee. With the conference taking place in Portland, we couldn’t let this happen (especially during our 90-minute afternoon session on metrics)!

Since we treat our sessions and coffee seriously, we came up with #SparkloftCoffeeRun concept that we used as a case study example in the session itself. During the presentation we offered attendees to tweet us for coffee. Attendees could tweet their coffee preferences to @Sparkloft with the hashtag #SparkloftCoffeeRun. And they did! 36 attendees got coffee delivered right to their seats.

This tactic helped spread awareness and definitely won us some extra points on the customer satisfaction side. We aim to please!

Note that all these activations had a real life component using social media as a way to amplify and not substitute social interactions between people. Conferences are by their nature social, so it should be all about the social in using social media for events.

Finally, here is a short video recap of WACVB social activations:

What are some fun things that you’ve seen at meetings and events recently?