They Had Me At the Blue-Fur Hats …

We go behind the scenes of a successful webinar.

On March 5, four of five volunteer organizers of last month’s groundbreaking Event Camp NYC will give a behind-the-scenes look at how they pulled it off, in the free PCMA webinar, “Engaging Attendees Today: How to Combine Virtual and Face-To-Face Meetings,” at noon CST.(PCMA was an event sponsor.) If you missed the event, or the online conversation about it, it was a smashing success, from start to finish.(The “unconference” was born on Twitter; co-organizer Mike McCurry tells the story here.) The 70+ participants were engaged right off the bat, in a kind of communal state of flow which lasted all day. And its extensive virtual audience was no clumsy add-on, but incorporated as a seamless part of the conversation.

I was lucky enough to be there in person and two things stood out for me. One was the attention that organizers gave to providing relevant content to attendees. The schedule was created with online input from registrants, and was adjusted throughout the day, according to attendee interest. That kind of active listening also permeated the way that speakers and moderators related to the audience. You could just see that they cared.

And, two, in their efforts to create a truly innovative event, they didn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. They kept track of the basics, like breaking the ice and paying attention to pacing. By an online vote, attendees decreed that the conference should begin with the founders wearing blue-fur, horned hats, copies of the one that Fred Flintstone wore on lodge night (Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes Lodge 26). It made everyone laugh and relax, and organizers hauled them out again to close out the day.By wearing the hats, organizers made themselves a little goofy and very likeable — and instantly created a shared group experience.

The registration fee was very low – only $75 — and I wasn’t expecting entertainment at lunch, much less the excellence of The Three Waiters, a trio of comic opera singers. We happily would have blazed through lunch talking about events and social media, but the music gave our brains a chance to cruise along a different track. The whole day was like that – filled with surprises as well as structure.

If I had a blue-fur, horned hat, it would be off to the organizers. Don’t miss the webinar, on Friday, March 5.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.