It was as if there were several events happening simultaneously; twisting and turning coming together and separating. On the surface there were participants giving presentations, attending presentations, networking, eating, laughing and learning together in Portland, Oregon. Virtually, attendees were connected from their homes and offices around the globe. And somewhere between, connecting the two, was a stream of information and discussion eagerly focused on sustainability. It was GMIC’s Sustainable Meetings Conference—gone viral.

The twitter feed, blogs and other social media played a vital role. For the first time, it gave those of us, reluctant to grab the microphone and take center stage, a way to communicate our thoughts and ideas. We shared resources pertinent to the discussion. We sent important points out to those who couldn’t be in the room (in person or virtually). We weighed in without stopping the speaker’s flow. We could “audit” concurrent breakout sessions. Information traveled fast, we were connected.

Were we still “present” during the conference? You bet, probably more so than ever! Face to face conversations were now comfortable to start by commenting on a post from another participant. It was as if the more reserved (yet technically savvy) portion of the meeting community at last had a way to engage.

I salute GMIC for taking a risk, heavily incorporating social media into the program design. For those of you planning conferences who have not embraced this use of technology, try it. You will give a voice to a new segment of your audience and enroll them as never before.