A few weeks ago, I entered to win an invitation to the National Aquarium’s first-ever InstaMeet to snap pictures of its Blacktip Reef. The aquarium was celebrating the first anniversary of the reef, and to my surprise, I was invited! As a self-diagnosed Instagram addict, I was so excited.
Also, when I was an awkward, geeky middle schooler, there was nothing I loved more than dolphins and fish, (it was an unhealthy obsession,) so going to this event was a longtime dream come true!
No, I no longer wear nerdy, wire-framed glasses and polos like in middle school, but now I get overly excited about good iPhone pictures and new social media platforms. Still nerdy. Just different nerdy.
Anyway, this event was the first time I have ever attended an InstaMeet, an event hosted to have attendees take pictures for Instagram and other online outlets. After attending the event, which was very well put-together, I learned a few tips that I have put in my pocket. I hope to one day host an InstaMeet for my company or for a client in the future since I had such a blast!
Here are a few takeaways:
1. Remember the details
When I got there, there was a very nice spread of appetizers and tickets for beer and wine (and it wasn’t bottom shelf stuff.) As an attendee, I realized how much thought went into the InstaMeet. It was not thrown together, and the organizers really thought about how they would want to be hosted.
2. Be prepared
As soon as I walked up to the aquarium, there were multiple staff members who knew exactly where to lead me and how to answer any questions I had. Later in the day, the hosts of the event were answering questions for all attendees on a wide range of topics – from the fish to the reef to how the event was organized. Know your audience, know your stuff. It will go a long way!
3. Allow creative freedom
Did I mention the National Aquarium was completely closed to everyone except attendees? How awesome is that! When the hosts first set us loose to roam the aquarium, I was a little confused. Was someone going to tell me what to shoot? Was I only restricted to one exhibit? The answers, thankfully, were no!
The aquarium let its attendees go free. We were free to shoot what we want. Some people in attendance were true artists, armed with huge cameras and an eye for detail. And no one took that away from them. The aquarium was ours, and it allowed everyone to try new shots and experiment.
4. Make attendees feel special
Yes, I mentioned this earlier, but I was one of only a few handfuls of people in the whole aquarium! Yes, the huge tourist attraction that brings in tons of people every day. It was awesome! Yes, I felt somewhat special when I first won the InstaMeet, but when I got there and realized how few people were there, I got so excited.
The hosts made sure I had everything I needed, and they made it feel very exclusive. In return, they got a ton of good pictures and social media content from attendees.
OK, this isn’t really a fifth point, but I just wanted to say: How awesome is it that I can go and produce content for a huge company with just my iPhone? Sure, some people had nice DSLRs, but many of us entered the building, armed with nothing more than our iPhone’s camera and editing apps. Does this make anyone else excited? Hey, I’m Gen. Y. Let me have this!
Overall, the National Aquarium’s event was so well planned. Although I already had a great opinion of the company, this InstaMeet really put it through the roof. In return for inviting me and others, the National Aquarium got tons of exposure through us via our social media outlets and blogs.
User- or fan-generated content is a beautiful thing, and an InstaMeet is a wonderful outlet to get it.
Here are some (iPhone) pictures I snapped. Thanks again, National Aquarium!