If you read this blog and share its articles on social media, you probably used the hashtag #eventprofs. How did it start? Where is it going?
I love #eventprofs. Whenever I refer to someone working in the event industry, I refer to them as event professionals. It is that perfect term that blends it all togeher. Suppliers, event planners, production specialists, caterers, wedding planners. They are all event professionals.
If you are on social media, you'd know that #eventprofs is the hashtag to find some of the most interesting content on our beloved industry (sometimes with great spamming attempts).
There are people calling their business or their handle #eventprofs. They try to leverage on the power of a community that started several years ago and I've been privileged to be a part of. This is what it is. A community that was started by Lara McCulloch.
We have been buddy bloggers back in the day and we challenged ourselves to do more for the industry. She is now a fantastic podcaster and has been a top notch brand consultant for amazing companies for over 20 years. Which is awesome. But let's get the record straight. More people need to know about the story behind #eventprofs. Mostly because we need to protect this hashtag from the increasingly high number of people trying to take advantage of it. Yes, you have many great hashtags these days, but #eventprofs is an industry pride we need to protect.
Here is why I decided to do something we rarely do here on EventMB, an interview.
Introducing Lara McCulloch.
Lara, more people need to know about the story of #eventprofs, how did it get started?
Way back in February of 2009, there were a number of social media enthusiasts who met, connected and congregated on Twitter. All of us shared a similar desire to experiment with the new tools and technologies (Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Wikis, etc) and understand how they'd apply to our businesses and the industry. Since all of us were actively engaged with Twitter, it seemed natural to bring consistency and organization to the conversations we were already having online.
Once the decision was made, it was a pretty rapid succession of events from that point onwards. I came up with the name #eventprofs, which was a short-form for event professionals. I wanted to ensure the community was all-encompassing (internal planners, independent planners, audio visual companies, rental companies, tech companies, etc). I spent a good deal of time polling the community to find out what they wanted and how these chats could add value to them. Based on the feedback, I scheduled twice weekly chats, sourced moderators, created a topic calendar, video instructions for how to both moderate and participate in a chat, formed a wiki (yes, a wiki) to house all of the information and made sure that the community was growing with the needs of its members. We even put together an #EventprofsAwards one year to recognize innovators in our community. The awards were held at EventCamp Twin Cities, an event founded by two of our community members.
The ultimate goal was to use this forum to allow event professionals to connect, ask questions, provide advice and, ultimately, help our industry and our businesses grow.
A little-known fact is that we were the 2nd community, in history, on Twitter. Our conversations would regularly be a trending topic on Twitter, which got the attention of Tim O'Reilly who wrote about #eventprofs in his 'The Twitter Book'.
What did it mean at the time for event professionals?
I think we take for granted the idea of community and connections today. We've lived with tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter now for many years. So, it's easy to forget how before these online communities existed, our way of connecting with peers was limited to association meet ups and industry conferences.
There really wasn't an inclusive, industry-wide, cross-functional community that existed for event professionals. And, there certainly wasn't anything that brought together leading-edge professionals interested in experimenting with technology.
To me, we created a petrie dish. A safe place for like-minded tech enthusiasts to experiment and see where this whole thing could go.
And experiment they did. The outcomes were brilliant. We saw people form new events that didn't exist, create boundary-pushing content to share with the community, build new businesses and even offer new services to the industry. #Eventprofs didn't do that for them. It just provided the environment, support and connections to make people feel more comfortable trying.
How did #eventprofs evolve? Can you share some milestones?
Key milestones (as I remember them) were:
- Created the 2nd community to ever exist on Twitter
- Within a week we were a trending topic every time we held a chat
- Featured in Tim O'Reilly's The Twitter Book
- Created a blog, a wiki, a team of moderators, topic guidelines, polls, Facebook page, LinkedIn group, videos for participants and moderators
- EventCamp Twin Cities was founded by 2 founding members of the community
- Held the EventprofsAwards
- The hashtag became synonymous with conversations related to the industry (cross-platform)
- Today, it's used in industry magazines and offline conversations to describe the industry as a whole
What is #eventprofs today?
That is such a brilliant question.
A few years ago I decided to focus on my own business and other ventures, like launching a podcast. That meant that I had to step back from the time dedicated to organizing the community. The community existed on its own. Conversations and connections still took place, but they became informal. #Eventprofs has morphed into a hashtag that is ubiquitous in the event community.
I want to change this. My plan is to bring some community building back to our online platforms, so stay tuned for this. Look for Eventprofs Mastermind on Facebook and we'll be sharing the news as it comes.
Are you concerned with the various attempts to take over the community? There are people registering domains and calling themselves the original #eventprofs.
First, let me say that one of the most common questions I got asked about #eventprofs was how I was going to monetize it. I would smile and say that the purpose of the community isn't commercial. Its sole purpose is to provide an opportunity for its members to grow and learn. Period.
The second most frequent question is how I would feel about "my community" doing this or that. And I would respond that it's not "my" community. I'm simply the person who created the hashtag and the support to get it up and running. The community is owned by its members.
Over the years there have been many attempts by other people to monetize it and take ownership. Does it concern me? No. Does it frustrate me? Sometimes.
I used to spend a lot of time trying to thwart these attempts. And, it became a full-time job. Luckily, the members are so passioned about the community, and keeping it true to its purpose that they regulate it. It doesn't take long, after a company tries to reap the benefits, before a community member polices the attempt.
That makes me incredibly happy and proud.
What is your wish for the future of the #eventprofs community?
This is really a pivotal question. And one that needs to be carefully thought through in the coming months. At the core, I want to create a space where event professionals feel safe trying new things and re-invigorate a true sense of community.
It is very important to reinforce the value of this amazing community on social media. #eventprofs is the way we define ourselves online. We don't know for certain how communities evolve but while we are at it is our task to fill it with great conversation and protect it from those just interested in taking advantage of it.