The Art Of Listening And Science Of Responding

Skift Take

In this guest post Jeff Hurt, our favorite event planning and change thinker on twitter, discusses Using Social Media To Listen To Your Event Customers

We’ve all experienced it. The hallways of the conference are buzzing with chatter about the event. Attendees are discussing what’s working, what isn’t, why the organizers planned it this way, what they are happy about and what’s discouraging them.

As meeting and event planners, we often wish we could be a fly on the wall listening to everyone’s discussions all at once. With today’s social media tools, we can engage in discussions with our registrants before, during and after the big event. Now, we can capture those hallway conversations and respond in real time. So, where do you start?

1. Create and encourage a culture of listening.

Listening is something that every staff member can and should do, and the organization’s principals should lead by example. Staff should listen in the hallways, invite feedback on evaluations and encourage attendees to provide comments and concerns to any staff member both face to face and through the social media tools available. The event is all about attendee, not you the meeting planner.

2. Develop a system for capturing feedback and ways to respond.

a. Setup an event presence in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and other social media tools.
In today’s web world, people go to several different sites to find information about an event. They no longer turn only to your organization or event website. They turn to their friends, colleagues and compadres. They also turn to the social media tools they use and you can help them by setting up “listening and chatting posts” within each social property. Twitter Tip: When using Twitter, identify one person to manage each event account and encourage them to list their name in the profile. For example Jeff4CVG09 meaning Jeff for CONVERGE 2009.

b. Decide who will be the champion for each account, keep the information updated and communicate to people within that network about the event.
Encourage the champions to provide outstanding customer service and do the right thing for the attendees when challenges arise. Let your team members know that you will back them with their decisions to provide outstanding customer service to the attendee.

c. Publicize the locations for your listening and chat posts on all your print and electronic materials.
For Twitter, establish a hashtag (#nameofevent). Ask attendees and interested parties to use that hashtag when sending tweets about the event. By using Twitter Search, Tweetchat. com, or other tools, you can follow the back channel and view what attendees are saying about the conference.

d. Identify and refine keywords that you will use to monitor conversations and posts about your event.
Avoid generic words and if your event or organization contains generic terms, use Boolean operators like “and” or “not.”Use to keep track of Twitter conversations mentioning your event and Google Alerts to monitor web posts that use the search terms you identify. Set up RSS feeds to monitor what bloggers are saying about the event as well.

e. Decide how you will analyze the results you capture and share insights with other team members.

3. When “listening” to your customers identify patterns and engage the attendees in conversation.

Use the following simple KD Paine model. If the issue is not a problem, keep track of themes and positives. If the issue is a problem, divide it into two groups, “Big” and “Little” problems. Big problems probably deserve the attention of superiors and your PR team immediately. Fix little problems as quickly as possible, keep track of themes, responses and outcomes, and be prepared to discuss.

4. If listening is an art, responding should be a science.

Once you’ve been listening to your attendees, it’s time to respond. Answer basic questions as quickly and succinctly as you can. If you hear negative feedback, keep your cool. Don’t respond during an emotional hijack and wait until your emotions have settled, 15-20 minutes from the time of the initial shock. Thus the science part of the response. Politely thank the commenter for their negative feedback, ask them how they would like the problem resolved or what they would suggest you do differently. If the commenter has inaccurate information, address that information with facts. Then, most importantly, invite the commenter to continue to provide feedback. Whatever you do, don’t take the conversation offline because there are many others watching the conversation and want to see what you’re going to do. If you’re thankful and respectful to the attendees, even those giving you negative feedback, it will result in a positive experience for all.

In the end, the more you listen and respond proactively, the higher your attendee satisfaction will be. Here’s to the “Art of Listening and Science of Responding.”