Crowdsourcing content and why you need to know about it

Gone are the days of spending hours pouring over speaker lists and worrying if they are right for your audience. Crowdsourcing content can make planners' lives easy, and delegates' experiences more valuable.

Crowdsourcing content can make event planners' lives easier and give delegates what they want (photo credit: Christian Chan)
Crowdsourcing content can make event planners' lives easier and give delegates what they want (photo credit: Christian Chan)

Event planners sourcing content for festivals, conferences and educational events may soon have a much easier job due to the rise of crowdsourced content. Event tech platforms such as SharedXP, a start-up set to launch in the spring, can take suggestions from the guestlist on what they’d like to see when they get there. Disparate suggestions are aggregated through an algorithm, which spits out informed content suggestions at the other end.

Those who provide their suggestions online before the event are rewarded through a leadership mechanism. Rewards, such as money off ticket prices and merchandise, can be gained by the more contributions they make through the platform.

For James Morgan, co-founder of Event Tech Lab, this is a no-brainer. "If you’re paying for a ticket to an event, you already have a vested interest in what you want to see there," he says. "They’ll get more value for money by contributing to it before they go.

As for the pitfalls: "They might take the time to suggest stuff and not see it at the event, but the leadership mechanism will have rewarded them anyway. It’s part of the sharing economy - in practise, crowdsourcing has always existed, but technology is making it much easier, more prevalent and more rewarding."

Morgan cites Microsoft’s Unconference, which asks what the audience want to hear about on the day itself, and SXSW Festival as two big events that are leading the crowdsourcing pack.

The latter uses its own branded Panel Picker process to curate the line-up for SXSWedu, SXSW Interactive, SXSW Film, SXSW Music and SXSW Eco conference activities, including presentations, panels, discussions, demonstrations. In place since 2007, the online scheme consists of two steps - a proposal stage, and a comment and voting stage. An advisory board and SXSW staff also contribute to the final line-up.

Hugh Forrest, SXSW Interactive Festival director, says of the system: "Our experience has proved that the PanelPicker interface is an invaluable way to connect with the thousands of professionals and informed consumers that make up the worldwide SXSW community. Not only does it help generate fresh ideas, it gives our participants an outlet to share with us what is most exciting, timely and relevant to them."

Keeping everyone happy

Crowdsourcing content doesn’t mean that the majority vote gets the final say all the time. In fact, by asking an audience ahead of time what content they wish to see, planners can attempt to give everyone what they want.

They might not even have to go through a process to do so; data that brands and agencies already have on their hands can be used pre-event to personalise a guest’s experience.

As Ben Turner, managing director of Wonder London, explains: "One of the things we’re going to be seeing more of is pre-programmed content. For example, consumers can enter details into a smartphone app and when they’re at the event, they can interact with touch points that know who they are."

Crowdsourcing the lo-tech way

For brands and planners not wishing to outsource algorithmic formula, crowdsourcing content can easily be done in-house.

  • Use social media. Twitter is the fastest way to communicate with guests if you make sure they send you their handles when registering. Create a call to action but keep it light - ask who their dream speakers would be at the event and why. Even if they come back with suggestions that are unrealistict, at least you’ll know what kind of thing they’re after.

  • Use registration forms. This means that the moment they register they are contributing their thoughts right away. And asking who and what they’d like to see at next year’s event on a feedback form will give you plenty of lead time to source your content.

  • Talk to people - at the event. Delegates will be much more receptive to giving their feedback to someone in person, while they’re immersed in the experience, than through a cold call while they’re at work. Get staff out grabbing guests for two minutes on the final day of the event and asking them what they think what would make great content for next year.

More: Blog: 2016 - the year the event and tech worlds collide

Event TV: Top event tech at Event360

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