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#HPDiscover Vegas 2011: A Blogger’s Eye View – by @ChrisMEvans

June 28, 2011

Guest post by @ChrisMEvans AKA The Storage Architect

I’ve just returned from a week in Las Vegas, attending HP Discover 2011 as an invited blogger.  The city is a sight to behold and no doubt for many people, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

As a blogger, I reported on the technology futures presented by HP across keynotes and another 800 sessions.  However looking at the event from a different angle, how did HP measure up in terms of their handling of the blogger community and social media in general?

Getting There

 

Unfortunately I don’t get paid to blog, so writing is more a labour of love than a job.  Attending events such as Discover require me to take unpaid time off and I couldn’t afford to also cover airfare and accommodation.  For this event HP do cover costs, which is a huge benefit.  There’s always the issue of being considered “pay to say” if a vendor is paying for your travel, however HP are keen to stress there are no requirements on blog numbers or content.

Bloggers’ Lounge

Like many large conferences these days, HP set up a lounge for the bloggers to use during the event.  This provided refreshments (although plenty were available on the main hall floor), lockers, casual chairs and more formal desk workspace.  As a central focus the lounge is a great idea; it is a place to congregate but was also used to bring in senior execs for less formal discussions.  This is the level of access not available to typical attendees and provides an opportunity to ask some incisive questions.

Internet Access

A key feature of the Bloggers’ Lounge was wired Internet connectivity.  It’s fairly obvious that bloggers are going to want to post online, but a fast connection is essential for uploading those podcasts and videos.  HP also realised that both show floor Wifi and hotel room Wifi can be unpredictable and so provided each blogger a 4G wireless card for the duration of the show.  The availability of free Wifi is even more essential for international travellers as roaming data charges are unrealistically expensive.  Of course Internet access means bloggers can tweet away to their heart’s content – an essential component for social media at these events.

Evening Events

The event days are always busy and it’s nice to unwind in the evening.  HP make an effort to ensure there is something occurring each evening, including involving senior executives in a less formal environment.    As an example, I chatted with David Scott (GM of the HP Storage division) over lunch and with some of his colleagues in one of the evening events.  There’s no attempt to restrict or control these conversations.

Access All Areas

As the first major event I’ve attended with HP, one of the most enjoyable features was our ability to see how the event was set up.  All of the bloggers were taken on a tour backstage during the keynote rehearsals (you can see that from some of the pictures I took) and we were allowed to view the show floor before all of the main attendees arrived.  A huge amount of hard work goes into staging these events and allowing bloggers to talk about it is a smart move.

Summary

In summary here are the main points to consider if you’re looking to bring bloggers to your event.

  • Offer free attendance and travel, where possible.
  • Ensure good quality Internet access.
  • Pick a hashtag for twitter and circulate it early.
  • Provide access to senior execs and SMEs.
  • Create a mix of both formal and informal evening events.
  • Try and provide bloggers with access they couldn’t achieve as a normal attendee.

One last thing worth noting; HP didn’t run the social media aspect of HP Discover 2011 alone.  The majority of the logistics were handled by Ivy Worldwide (www.ivyworldwide.com).  They have the experience in managing blogger attendees, from the original discussions to organising hotels, transport and so on.  This partnership clearly works well and having a good partnership like the one between Ivy and HP is a key strategy to social media success.

(Ed: Thank Chris for this. To find out more about Chris and his blogs: www.thestoragearchitect.com and www.thevirtualisationarchitect.com, read our interview with him here.)

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