Making Your SMWNYC Event Unique This February

Are you submitting an event to take part during Social Media Week this February in one of our twelve locations around the world? Consider the following for some thoughts on how to make your event sing and rise above the crowd during the week.

Let me cut to the chase–in a sea of awesome SMW content, there’s one surefire way to make your event rise the top, and that’s to innovate the form of the event beyond the basic panel format.

To wit: in 2011, there were over 1200 events that took part during Social Media Week, and the vast majority of them were panel sessions. There’s no doubt that the panel format has been battle-tested and does work, but it’s also sort of the lowest common denominator and asks the least planning and preparation of its participants. For more on this topic, see the following inspired post by Toby Daniels last summer outlining how and why it’s good to think beyond the panel.

Here are a few examples of events from the past that worked well that did a little to go beyond the panel format:


Here’s a global example, and one of my favorite Social Media Week ideas 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.


Facebook-building brand KickApps organized an energetic session in New York last February at JWT for the Advertising & Marketing Hub called “Social Strategy Cage Match: Offense vs. Defense” that focused on social strategies taken by brands. The conversation saw an array of agency leaders split into two different teams and were given a series of scenarios where each team had to come up with an “offensive” (proactive) or defensive strategy. By utilizing this unique format, it turned what would have been an interesting panel into an awesome and exciting event that both shared ideas and gave a window into the thinking processes of some of the world’s pre-eminent agency experts.


Enabling audience participation in learning is another way to create significant and memorable event experiences. One such example was an event organized by IDEO in February 2010 called “Humanizing Social Media” that sought to explain the framework of the social web functions by integrating attendees into the event itself.

IDEO’s invited guests into their office and created an event posing the following question: as people grapple for meaning in an increasingly connected world, how can we bring the “human” back into social media? By creating an environment that asked attendees to wander around, interact with, and interrogate each other, it played with the idea of social connection in its most basic, human form, yet still within the context of today’s methods of communication. Like few other event experiences, everyone came away with the feeling that they’d learned and had fun in ways non-standard to the events they typically attend.

So what can your brand do to take part in Social Media Week New York this February? Brainstorm and think big! If you know already, go here to submit your event or get involved, or contact us if you want help talking through an idea.