Google Wave: The Future of Event Engagement?

Mashable recently published “Google Wave: Better than Twitter for Conference Chatter” by Charlie Osmond at Freshworks. At first pass this article made a lot of sense. Charlie talks about how #hashtags aren’t an ideal way for people to share relevant content, and that the wiki-like interface of Google Wave makes it quite easy for users to share information of all kinds, effortlessly. This creates a more optimized platform for conference back chatter.

After watching the above video and spending some time checking out Google Wave (many thanks to Mike McCurry for the invitation) I quickly realized Google Wave is much more of a game-changer for event marketers than I originally thought. For those of you who have not yet received the coveted invitation, or if you have but just haven’t had the time to explore Google Wave, here’s a brief synopsis.

Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A ‘wave’ can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, presentations, drawings, maps, interactive games, and more in real time. Google Wave is an open platform and developers are being encouraged to create extensions, plug-ins and applications to make this offering even more powerful. Jay Lahiro also has a nice description on his blog.

We’ve been talking about social media as a conversation or dialogue for some time now. Google Wave allows us to have true ‘polylogues’, where multiple users can participate in the discussion at the same time.

There’s been a lot of discussion as of late about how to use Facebook, Linkedin, and especially Twitter for events. These discussions tend to segregate communications streams into ‘front channel’ and ‘back channel’. The intent here being that official, planned content around an event, whether face-to-face or virtual, is considered ‘front channel’, with most referring to social media as a ‘back channel’ communication stream. This is not to say that legacy social media tools cannot be used for ‘front channel’ communications, but few event producers have done so effectively. Participation tends to be limited to “We have a Facebook page.” or “Here’s the official Twitter #hashtag.” There tends to be an attitude that if you build it, they will come, instead of truly integrating social media content into an event and actively engaging communities online before, during and after an event.

Google Wave has the potential to change this paradigm. Here, official content (speaking sessions, blogs, photos, videos, exhibitor content – promotions, product launches, etc.) could be included in a wave along with social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Conversations, etc.) This allows for the integration of ‘front channel ‘and ‘back channel’ communications streams, allows users to create their own event experiences and creates a true community around the event.

Virtual event platforms like InXpo, Unisfair, ON24, etc. should take notice. An open platform like Google Wave can disrupt their business model and give brands, event producers and event agencies a free and simple way to connect audiences with brands virtually. For face-to-face events, Google Wave provides a compelling enhancement which can add real value to their experiences for their audiences (think the ultimate hybrid event). The true measure of success however will be for event producers to learn more about how to engage audiences both on and offline, and use the event as a communications hub where brands, subject matter experts and audiences each have an equal share of voice in the community.

It’s challenging to describe Google Wave in words. The above video does a nice job of walking through the basic offering, and there are several other blog posts, etc. which can give you some more insight, but to truly understand it you must experience it. I strongly encourage my fellow marketing, social media and event brethren who haven’t spent time in Google Wave to secure an invitation as soon as possible, and begin to use the tool to better understand how you might use it to engage your audiences. Google Wave is in preview mode, and has not been made publicly available. The faster we can get over the learning curve and more we can influence its development, the greater the value it will have for us as it becomes more widely available.

Already on Google Wave? Please share your thoughts, and be all means, please connect with me at ianmcgonnigal@googlewave.com.

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