To Build a Better Trade Show

I was recently asked by the good folks at The Hired Guns for "blue sky" thoughts on what might make a trade show or conference work better, in the future. It seems that people attending these days aren't getting enough to justify the couple thou it can cost to attend, and the sponsors and exhibitors and speakers are generating the interest they would like. Maybe the typical "panel speaks, then some networking happens in little segments" format is a bit tired.

I asked "how blue sky do you want? Star ship Enterprise holodeck? MIT Media Lab? Something else?" And was told to go with the Media Lab and maybe some more pragmatics. So here, with a little editing, is what I submitted, for all to share. Love to have your thoughts, as well, through this, Twitter (@dorianbenkoil) or, if you can access it, directly into my biochip implant.

What would, both in technology and other ways of conceiving, make conferences, events, trade shows that much more effective?

Conference/Trade show, Blue Sky thoughts:
  • Equip conference goers with a smart phone app that allows them to interact with each other at the conf across sessions, monitor the session they want, tap into Twitter feeds, etc. Later, aggregate those communications, and combine with Twitter hashtags and other parsing and sorting mechanism, to create an intelligent cloud of info that will inform coverage of the conf. Hook the app up to a private social network for cross-platform aggregation.
  • Enable GPS monitoring of above for a geographic overlay.
  • Equip conference goers with “ear-cams” small mounted cameras (and mics, perhaps) that record everything each of them see. Aggregate that video in a rich chat platform that allows someone to select an individual’s video. Allow those who pay to attend the conference special abilities to slice, dice, parse and access the videos both in real time and later. (This could also offer sponsors a further opportunity of a more packaged video product, honing in on their specific interests and target group.
  • Cameras in the hands of all, aggregated in a video chat displayed on site, and integrated with outside video, for a flexible, video chat conference that those in the panel can also interact in real time. Similar to above, but minus the "ear cam".
  • Audience cams. Point a handful of cameras at the audience, remote-controlled. Use these later, more packaged, as a service to sponsors, speakers, etc., to gauge the reactions to specific speakers, presentations, etc.
  • Allow remote attendees to select at will from an array of cameras, audio, etc. Aggregate it with Twitter and any other feeds, coverage, etc.
  • Have goers volunteer to be part of an attendee panel (panel in the media-measurement, not conference sense). Monitor their media consumption and communication before and after the show to see how the show influences it.
  • Rather than separate SF and NY and LA and Boston and ... conferences, have one, but conduct them with virtual rooms, so they interact with each other in real time. Today, teleconferencing and Second Life. Tomorrow, virtual chambers, holo-deck like, as the one that’s being developed at Media Lab. This is not a stunt, but rather a real-time interaction and a way to get the geographically influenced ideas cross-pollinating.
  • Discussion turned inside-out, where the participants are mic’d and the panelists circulate among them.
  • Panel interaction with Twitter (and any other real-time chat mechanism). Those on stage are ENCOURAGED to tweet, photograph, video, etc., for a multilayered portrayal of the event, and interaction with people in a more multi-dimensional way than panel speaks, question’s asked, panelists respond. So, for example, someone watching could see not just a camera pointing at the panel with that audio, but also click to see a camera of what a panelist sees, read his/her tweets, and so on.
  • Those at the event are tasked with specific brainstorming, and in breakout groups devise solutions, virtually, on site and virtual shared environments. EG, the question of the day can be “how do we come up with financial models for journalism — in 2 hours come up with a spreadsheet and mockups. Go group.” Or “Here’s the product. Spread it virally. Prove the concept. Go.”
  • My friend Luke Haseloff has suggested that events, rather than allowing people to rush the stage to talk to speakers, put the speakers quickly at round tables where they can lead a sort of after-panel discussion.
What else? What other ideas for panel/conference/discussion that will inspire and bring this all to the next level, with or without technology?

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