When it comes to mobile I am anything but an early adopter. I actively resist the invasion of technology into what I consider my personal space. I had a mobile phone that did nothing more than make phone calls until 2010 and now I’m in love with Siri. I swore I’d never give up my paper books but now I never go anywhere without my iPad and Kindle app. Texting just annoyed the hell out of me. For the love of god just pick up the phone.
I now have an unlimited texting plan and here is the short version of how it happened…
I was lucky enough to participate in an MTO Signature Tour of the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2011 last October thanks to a tip off by Michelle Bruno (@MichelleBruno) and Stephanie Selesnick (@StephSelesnick) on #expochat. I got to spend two days with several other expo producers taking a behind the scenes tour of a very well-run event produced by Gartner. From the moment I landed in Orlando until my plane took off to return home I never once had to check a schedule or wonder where I needed to be or what time I needed to be there thanks to Adam Schaffer.
I got off the plane when I landed in Orlando and was heading down to baggage claim wishing I would have printed out the email that Adam sent to find where I was meeting for transportation to the hotel. My phone finished powering on and started buzzing. I apparently had received a text message (a function of the phone I almost never used.) There was a text message from Adam telling me to head to baggage claim where he would be standing holding an MTO Summit sign and would sort out my ride. NICE! Didn’t even need the e-mail.
I joined a few other fellow Summit attendees and Adam got us in a van and sent us on our way to the hotel to check in. That’s when I received the next text message. It told me exactly where in the hotel I was to go for express check-in for our group. An hour or so later and was digging through my emails to find our agenda because I could not remember what time the cocktail party started and where it was to be held. Bzzzzzzzzzzzz…another text message. It told me the cocktail party was starting in an hour and gave me directions on exactly where it was in the hotel from my elevator. I quickly realized, when the next morning I had another text reminding me when breakfast was and how exactly to get there, I would not need any agenda. My every need would be anticipated. I felt like I had a personal assistant.
By the end of that two day event I was not just a convert but a zealot when it came to text messaging and conferences. I had a small conference coming up in November, Event Camp East Coast, and could not wait to see if other event professionals were as excited about it as I was.
I reached out to Heidi Thorne who had told me months earlier about a text messaging service she was reselling – PWPMobile.com. I was not ready to listen then but now I certainly was. Heidi provided me with instructions to send to our attendees to opt-in to receive the text messages. She included the standard “text xxx to ####” to register but also included a QR code which would automatically register the attendees phone in the system without them needing to text. This is important because texting newbies have no idea what “text xxx to ####” means.
The promotion of the texting included exactly how many texts the attendees could expect to receive. This way they did not worry about being inundated with way to many messages. We clearly defined a start time and a date they would be automatically unsubscribed from the system. This eased their minds that we would not be bugging them with texts for life. You can see one of our promotions on the event website here.
Set-up was very simple. In this case Heidi did all the work of inputting the text messages, so very simple for me. She also helped brainstorm on ideas for texts. Heidi is the one who figured out the clocks were going back on the second night of the event so we created a reminder about that. She had other great ideas like checking the weather a couple days before the event and texting packing suggestions for those flying in from around the country. I simply put the texts into a spreadsheet and sent them off to Heidi to enter.
Note: I loved that every text contained opt out instructions. I’d much rather make it simple for attendees to opt out of something that is annoying them than making them put up with it all the way through the conference. “Text STOP to unsubscribe” was added to the end of each of these messages. Sure they received the instructions when they signed up, but who’s going to remember? We didn’t get any complaints from those who opted in to participate and most the attendees absolutely loved it.
We could have used the texting service to notify attendees of any changes to the schedule or additional activities but we didn’t have any. Actually we did have one change but everyone was in the room when we made the decision so there was no need to text.
I can also see this as a very important piece of your risk plan. You could require everyone provide their mobile phone number as part of the registration process in case you needed to notify them in case of emergency. I could also see an advantage to offering different opt-in options.
I want to receive only emergency notifications – text xxx to ####
I want to receive only emergency notifications and changest o my schedule – text xxx to ####
I want to receive emergency notifications, schedule changes and event news (not to exceed five text per day – text XXX to ####
What do you think about including text messaging to your conference/expo communications? Do you like the idea or hate it? Do you have other ideas for how to use it? Please include in the comments below.
Do you want more information on the text messaging service? Contact Heidi Thorne at 1-630-448-2PWP (2797).