Vox Populi, Vox Dei

crewwcall2No, I have not just named two models of battery-powered sound system. It is an ancient Roman expression which means “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” And I believe we have some recent examples that prove the old saying true. But, I also believe that it is no more true than it was in any previous year. And I believe that fact is important to the future of the rental and staging portion of our industry.

One of the things that we read about constantly, sometimes here, is that social media is changing the future of the public event. And, in many ways, it is. But often social media threads are described as an alternative to meetings. Recent major changes in society have been ascribed to the new capabilities presented by social media. But if you examine the cases that are most often used to prove that, you will begin to notice a pattern.

Let me take as an example the two most prominent uses of social media to attempt change: the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and the “Arab Spring,” which is sometimes being described as the “Facebook Revolution”. Both cases are touted as examples of the power of social media. But I believe that both of them prove the case that social media cannot entirely displace the group meeting.

My reason is simple: in both cases the voice of the people was heard loudest when the people gathered. Social media was, indeed, used to announce the meetings, used to call people together to the event.

Both causes had created social media presences for years. But both actually effected more change (or at least more attention) when the people came together as a group.

The effect is no different than the one of previous causes, such as the civil rights marches or Gandhi’s nationwide strikes. All of these were created without the use of social media and yet had the same outcome. The voice of the people is heard loudest when the people gather.

Social media is indeed a powerful new method of communication. And it will eventually find its properly weighted place in the pantheon of communications methods that we use, both for ourselves and for our clients. But it does not replace the meeting.

It calls them.

What does this tell us in rental and staging? That an understanding of the true potential of social media is necessary, in order to advise our clients on its uses. It can be used to make meetings more efficient, letting a team work online to develop and refine agendas and vet topics. It can be used to distribute information and materials beforehand, to make on-site time more efficient. And it can be used afterward to finalize and distribute the meeting’s data. As with other types of group communication, our clients will look to us for assistance in how to incorporate them into their meetings, and we will need to be prepared for that.

As a good place to begin, take a look at rAVe’s Social Media Blueprint. As you do, think about your clients – their structure, their corporate culture – and think about how THEY can use them in the public events you work on for them. Then, talk to them and get an understanding of how they are using social media now. These two things together will give you a much better idea of how they are likely to require your assistance.

And there’s no doubt that when we are prepared our clients “like” it.

joel-2011rAVe Rental [and Staging] contributor Joel R. Rollins, CTS-R, is General Manager of Everett Hall Associates, Inc. and is well known throughout the professional AV industry for his contributions to industry training and his extensive background in AV rental, staging and installation. Joel can be reached at joelrollins@mac.com