Trains, Planes And Automobiles: Getting You Outside “The Conference Center”



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Following on yesterday’s post by Toby Daniels, we thought it might be helpful to provide some inspirational examples of some ways in which the Social Media Week platform can deliver upon these new ideas of “experience design” for events.

In just a few short years since its inception in February 2009, there have been hundreds of Social Media Week events that have taken place across the fifteen cities that have hosted SMW. It’s true that many of these events have been panel discussions, but there has also been a consistent stream of exciting, innovative and creative attempts to bring people and ideas together while making use of the flexibility of the Social Media Week platform and the outgoing and adventurousness of its community.

While there are countless examples to draw from, I wanted to pull out three particularly innovative ideas that constitute a sort of “trains, planes and automobiles” theme.


Possibly my favorite Social Media Week idea yet, this event in SMW Rome last February really shows how a smart idea can pick up steam and carry a freight train’s worth of impact when executed well and by the right folks (pardon the puns).

“Journey to the Center of the Net”, organized by Augmendy, SMW city partners for both Rome and Milan,took the idea of a pre-SMW kickoff event and put it rails. Many SMW cities host pre-week launch events as press conferences, lunches or virtual events, but Augmendy had the ingenious idea to go above and beyond all of that with a cross-country blast that managed to combine all of the above plus networking, high-speed travel and multiple SMW city connectivity.

How did it all happen? For “Journey to the Center of the Net”, the Augmendy team worked with SMW Rome sponsor Ferrovie Dello Stato, aka the Italian Rail, to commandeer a high speed train heading from Milan to Rome for an SMW journey like no other. This event pulled in leaders and luminaries from the Italian tech, media and press and invited them to take the three hour trip across SMW cities to connect and learn more about social media “in Italia”. This event featured an immersive cultural speed dating experience where attendees rotated on 10 minute shifts of meeting face-to-face with other train attendees. The event then wrapped with a press conference at the Central Station, where SMW Rome held court throughout the week.


Another great example of the flexible, multi-city framework of Social Media Week providing event inspiration in ways no other conference platform can provide includes last February’s participation of PepsiCo, who sent Bonin Bough, their global director of digital media, on a worldwide tour across three cities during the February SMW program.

Beginning at the opening global press conference in New York on the Thursday before the week, Bonin helped commence the week with remarks about SMW and the exciting things to come throughout the week. He then began a whirlwind of activity to discuss the idea of Brands in a Borderless Society that should include the phrase: Don’t Try This At Home:

  • He flew to London to oversee PepsiCo involvement in a panel there on the week’s opening day,
  • Then flew to Sao Paulo to give a midweek keynote to a packed crowd and
  • Finally, returned to New York to provide closing remarks at JWT’s Business Media and Communications Hub

And somehow Bonin even had the energy to attend the official Closing Party that evening! Truly a showcase of what can be accomplished when a conference connects not just a city but a global community, and a great opportunity for PepsiCo to make a worldwide impact in just one week.


Not every great Social Media Week event idea must involve high-speed transit or international travel.

One great city-focused idea put forth during the February 2010 conference in New York was by an organization called Dollar Van Demos, who decided to enact their unique brand of travel-meets-art on an excited and willing Social Media Week audience. Dollar Van Demos showcase musicians, rappers and comedians performing inside a “dollar van” with real passengers. They brought their talents to SMW by integrating with the platform and to provide rides and entertainment for conference-goers all over the city through tweet and email requests for pickup. Dollar Van Demos Live!” was not just a hit, but a great showcase of how an organization can think outside the box to showcase what the do and connect with a larger network.

See below for a quick example of one Dollar Van Demo captured during the week:

So what can your brand do to take part in Social Media Week this September? Brainstorm and think big, and maybe your organization just might be the one to make a splash this September in your city or perhaps around the globe. If you know already, go here to submit your event or get involved, or contact us if you want help talking through an idea.

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