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by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Industry Relations, MCI

“It’s not who attends your event, it’s who participates”
Sebastien Tondeur, CEO, MCI

Samuel Johnson, or Dr Johnson as he was more commonly known, had a wonderful ability to summarise a universal truth in a single, simple sentence. His aphorisms are both sublime and ridiculous:

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless; knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”

“A fishing rod is a stick with a hook on one end and a fool on the other”

“A cucumber should be well sliced, dressed with pepper and vinegar and then thrown out”

Sam and Seb may share no more than a phonic sibilance but Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of global events agency MCI, is fast developing a Johnson-like knack of nailing aspects of the meetings and events industry with similar pithy statements. One of his most recent sound-bytes – “It’s not who attends your event, it’s who participates” – is well illustrated by two events in which MCI was recently involved.


Designed with the dual objective of providing delegates with a first-hand experience of a hybrid event while showcasing Killarney as the perfect host destination, MeetSmarter took place in late June with 100 attendees. Over two days delegates from Salesforce, Cisco and Microsoft, amongst many others, learned how new technology and social media can enhance the value and shelf life of a meeting. They were presented with a case study on how MCI helped IBM to stage a high spec technology conference in Killarney involving over 1000 delegates. Finally they “test drove” the destination and inspected its impressive infrastructure. All of these learning experiences were enjoyed by 100 delegates.

The life beyond live

However, the live stream of the business sessions was broadcast to 400 additional delegates globally. Furthermore a staggering 124,000 twitter impressions were achieved. Since Friday, 13 July edited recordings of the business sessions have been available on and are currently being accessed 24/7 by people all over the world. Thus MeetSmarter was not a once-off event, bound by limits of time and space. Its reach and impact extends way beyond the beautiful town that hosted it during two unusually sunny days of Irish summer. Delegates participated at MeetSmarter from all over North and South America, from all over the European continent, from China, India and Australia. Delegates were on line from Lesotho and Namibia – in all, Google Analytics lists participants from 57 distinct countries. Clearly, it’s not who attends your meeting or event, it’s who participates.

The extension of the life of the meeting or event beyond its live context does not, of course, diminish or take anything away from the live interaction. This remains as important as ever, providing the indispensable, dynamic nexus for the delivery and receipt of the meeting content, its key messages. This is where the spark of magic the gives life and shape to the message gets ignited because – and here comes another Sebism – “when people come together, magic happens”. Hybrid technology creates a significantly wider audience for the meeting content in terms of geographical and chronological reach so that magic lives on.

International Conference on Emergency Medicine, June 2012

MCI was appointed by the International Conference on Emergency Medicine (ICEM) as official organiser of the 14th edition of the event held in Dublin from 27 to 30 June 2012. Part of our mandate was to manage the social media activity around the event so we set up an account for the event (@ICEM12), decided on our hashtag (#ICEM2012), recruited students who knew the scientific language and started to broadcast regular tweets and to accumulate followers. Our pre-event activity generated both followers and good conversations but once the event started on 27 June the Social Media activity took on a life of its own that exceed any prior expectations we may have had.

It became clear during the first session that there was a sizeable, active twitter community physically in attendance at the conference. Equally it became evident that there was a significant community outside the room engaging proactively with the content, responding, commenting, getting involved. A “TweetUp” or meeting of Tweeters present at the event was proposed and resulted in almost 40 delegates gathering in real time and connecting with each other. The on-line activity gathered momentum as the event unfolded with many newbies joining in the digital conversation, including members of the local organising committee. Content from plenary and breakout sessions was captured, commented on and shared globally as quickly as it was being delivered physically in the room.

While waiting for a bus …

The extent of the reach and impact of the event was dramatically highlighted in an extraordinary blog post by David Corbet (@corbetron), an emergency medicine doctor in Australia. At the end of a busy, clinically challenging day at an Aboriginal Healthcare Centre in Darwin as he waited for the bus to take him home Corbet “stumbled upon” some tweets from Doctors he follows attending ICEM in Dublin. He scrolled back through Twitter and accessed an entire body of important, compelling content, pertinent to his work. Here is Corbet’s hyperbole-free description of the extraordinary benefits of Social Media accessed at a distance of 15,000km while waiting for a bus:

“Within this short time … I have had access to absolutely current clinical information and challenging view points on practice. This has been real time and dynamic, and has also allowed the potential for interaction … following this hashtag has provided me with plenty of information and allows me access to current thinking in Emergency Medicine. It has also provided me with links to people, studies, place and keeps me inspired about continual learning …the only thing that would be better would be being there”

 You can read Dr Corbet’s full account of the event on his beautifully curated Storify presentation – click here. Clearly new technology is impacting dramatically on live meetings and events and offers new, exciting ways of extending the life of the meeting beyond its spacio-temporal limits.

But, you may ask, what’s my favourite Dr Johnson aphorism? With all due apologies for, perhaps, contravening political correctness, it would have to be the following:

So Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all

Padraic Gilligan is Vice President, Industry Relations, of MCI, a global integrated association, communication and event management company with almost 50 offices worldwide. He may be reached via @padraicino or by e mail on  [email protected]



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