It’s a fast-changing world and those working in the meetings and events sector have to keep up to remain competitive, says Ray Shaw.

It is interesting how society’s perspectives subtly change over time. For example as a Baby Boomer I grew up with the mantra “Live and Learn” yet my Gen Y son honestly believes it is “Live and Earn” and today he is probably right!
My journalist hackles raise when I hear new ways of murdering the English language – an erudite person lecturing on content capture was using the non-word “digitalise” – the correct word is “digitize” (to convert to digital form).
And even smart phones can now read aloud a text message – interpreting internet slang like LOL as “laugh out loud” and CUL8R as “See you later” – glad “something” knows what those ever multiplying acronyms mean because I certainly can’t keep up. See www.internetslang.com for a comprehensive listing of abbreviations and emoticons that are lamentably finding their way into everyday use and horribly distorting the English language – just plain JARRIN D00D.
What does all this mean to the meeting and events industry? Well it helps me introduce a single new “techno” phrase that has more potential to impact on us than any other.

word of mouse (WOM)

I first heard this used in mid-2012 and over the past few months it has increasingly been liberally used by e-marketers and digital experts.
The idea behind “word of mouse” is, like its namesake, that people trust opinions from friends (and even strangers – now conveniently called faceless “frenemies”), and if they see something on the internet – well it must be true. It is why viral marketing works so well. Monkey see, money do!
Secondly, because the internet is now almost ubiquitous (mobile smartphones and tablet devices will outnumber desktop computers soon) and pervasive (WiFi, wireless 3/4G and better data access everywhere) – opinion spreads rapidly via blogs, forums, chat sites, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and more. Unlike placing an advertisement in a superb printed magazine (AKA micenet) many companies are beginning to move to digital media (and micenet is embracing that too). Not because it is cheaper but because it is faster and can give almost immediate and measurable results.
For face to face events WOM is fast becoming the perfect promotional tool because each participant has the potential to become an expert “referrer” – which means that you need to do everything you can to encourage live tweets and develop viral marketing campaigns using your participants and their networks.
The recent World Public Relations Forum organised by MCI Australia shattered attendance records driven by a clever social media campaign developed by MCI’s MarCom Zone. A key feature of the pre-event promotion was the appointment of a number of digital partners (mainly sponsors and speakers) to help generate interest in the event. During the event it reached the top Australia Twitter trend and the blog and apps were constantly being updated and used. For the first time MCI has real evidence that properly designed and managed social media campaigns can work for the right event and audience.
Web 1.0 (static web pages) took a decade to move on to Web 2.0 (interaction), less than two years to graduate to Web 3.0 (Social web – Facebook et all), and I expect that by the end of 2013 we will see that replaced by Web 4.0 – “mobile” web which has a whole new set of rules when you add smartphone and tablet capabilities like “user profiles” including location and preferences to the mix.
To me (a veteran of the web who is concerned about its potential to do harm) it is scary when you realise just how much personal information is able to be used to tailor web responses to your individual needs. But to Gen Y and younger it is all about the web serving them – “live and earn”…

After 34 years of running one of Australia’s premier meeting and event management agencies, MCI Australia (formerly Event Planners), Ray Shaw (ray@im.com.au) has set up as an independent meetings and events industry consultant and journalist. Based in Sydney he offers advice and guidance to corporations and associations on meeting and event improvement and world’s best practice.