This post by Jenise Fryatt was originally published on Engage365, a site dedicated to social media for events. Jenise is a community leader at Engage365 and co-owner and marketing director of Icon Presentations, which does audio visual for events. We loved what she wrote about social media and event trends, and she’s graciously allowed us to repost it here.

If you spend any time online, it’s difficult not to notice how social media has evolved with and spurred growth in the events industry over the past year and a half. And it seems very clear this is bound to continue. As both an events industry blogger and business owner I’ve watched these developments with great interest. Here are three trends I’ve noticed that I think have great potential to influence our industry in  2011.

The use of on & offline games at events to increase attendee interaction & for their educational & social benefit

The wisdom regarding computer/Internet use by men vs. women used to be: For him it’s a toy, for her it’s a tool. Well it seems the tool and toy are getting married. More and more we are seeing tools and activities “gamified” adding to their educational value and making them sticky and fun.

Witness Epic Win – the game that event guru Julius Solaris says is to productivity software what Foursquare is to social networking. Epic Win turns your to do list into a leveling game not unlike World of Warcraft. Or check out Mojo – which uses rewards to motivate users to visit websites as well as tradeshow booths. Even conference themes are getting into the act. The Green Meeting Industry Council’s 2011 Sustainable Meetings Conference is titled “Game ON!” and will utilize principles from the online gaming world – specifically role-playing, leadership, narration, feedback, and ranking – to encourage attendees to actively engage and learn about industry developments in a hands-on manner.

Year-round online communities that distribute content, foster networking & drive face to face event attendance

Event/online community chicken-egg questions aside, repeating events in particular will become more and more synonymous with online communities. Social media fosters anything social and events certainly are social. It is also increasingly clear that social media is all about communities. Whether they spring up spontaneously or are carefully engineered, they supplement and drive event participation. Smart meeting planners are taking advantage of this by creating or using existing online communities to distribute content and build a network of engaged attendees. There are also more and more companies creating software that helps meeting planners to do this.

Increased recognition of social media interaction as a boon to the events industry

Not that long ago, there was actually a hot debate about whether virtual events would replace face to face events. The argument was that face to face events cost so much time and money and exact a toll on the environment; conversely virtual events (using Internet technology to allow people to meet online instead) can accomplish the same thing without all those negatives. I’m not saying this argument is completely dead, but there is a strong counter-argument out there that says online (read social media) interaction just naturally creates a stronger need for face to face meetings.

I experienced it myself when I felt compelled to attend the first Event Camp last year in New York City after building strong online relationships with many attendees on the Twitter community #eventprofs. The blogosphere offers another example of this as the plethora of blog/social media related conferences has even spurred new formats that are actually influencing meeting planners.

More and more people are recognizing that there is, in fact, no adequate substitute for the face to face meeting. And all of this online interaction will only create MORE of a need for it. As Robbin Phillips, co-author of the book “Brains On Fire”, said in a recent Twitter #smfastfwd chat, “Community has to live offline and online. OFFLINE is where real engagement begins.”

Thanks again to Jenise and Engage365. You can read the post in its original form here.

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