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Social Media MeetUp at Lou Malnati's

Social Media MeetUp at Lou Malnati’s

Here we are now a week removed from the 2014 American Institute of Architects National Convention in Chicago. These are my thoughts and my challenge for next year’s convention.

The truth is, I fully meant to write and publish this several days ago directly on the heels of the Convention. But I’ve been tired and busy. That’s what happens when you leave the office isn’t it? You pack as much as you can into your time away. You return exhausted but ironically energized. And you return to the realization that the world, and especially work in the office didn’t stop while you were away.

Such is life.

All in all I thought the 2014 version of the AIA National Convention was fantastic. It was in a great architecture-rich city. It was sometimes referred to as the Repositioning Convention. Attendance was huge. There were ample opportunities to earn CEU’s. In my estimation it was a huge success … but next year we need to do more.

Sure the Convention is about the business of the Institute, about continuing education and about exploring the architecture of a city that is not your own. It’s about elections and key notes and the exposition floor. But some of the most interesting and arguably most valuable takeaways come from the conversations that we have in the halls of the convention center, on the shuttle buses, over drinks or dinner.

It is to this end that I declare that the American Institute of Architects should do more.

The AIA should foster, promote, even publish the one-on-one conversations from the convention corridors. No, I’m not going all Big Brother on you. Tweet-ups are great but they’re basically just an hour-long mixer. Architect Live is excellent but the interview or presentation format it just that, a presentation; it doesn’t promote interaction.

Cheesing at the TweetUp with Theodore Ferringer

Cheesing at the TweetUp with Theodore Ferringer

There’s a conversation going on out there. At the very heart of the AIA’s Repositioning initiative is communication; a new way of communicating within the profession and to our clients and prospective clients.

If you’re reading this you most certainly already know that there are Architects out there recording podcasts and shooting videos and writing blog articles for and about our profession. Take a minute to look at the photo at the top of this post. Do you know who those people are?

A waitress at Lou Malnati’s in Chicago took this for me. It documents a gathering that Mark LePage organized. As you look at the faces around that table think about your favorite Architect blog or podcast or online community or Twitter characters. I guarantee that you follow at least one or two of those people.

  • Andrew Hawkins (@HawkinsArch) is an Architect from College Station, Texas and President of AIA Brazos. Andrew educates Architects about the use of Social Media by speaking at various AIA events.

  • Amanda Eden (@amandaeden) is a PR Pro from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Amanda operates at the intersection of architects, clients and building products.

  • Mark R. LePage (@EntreArchitect) is a Small Firm Architect from Pleasantville, New York. Mark is one of the most vocal proponents for small firm Architects within the AIA and produces the Entrepreneur Architect Podcast.

  • Eric Bobrow (@EricBobrow) is an ArchiCad and Marketing Expert from San Rafael, California. Eric recently launched “Architects Marketing” to provide multi-media training to help Architects get more of the right kind of clients.

  • Enoch Sears (@BusinessOfArch) is a Solo Architect from Visalia, California. Enoch educates Architects from around the world through his website and podcast called The Business Of Architecture.

  • Marica McKeel (@ArchitectMM) is a modern residential Architect from New York City. Marica designs striking contemporary homes and educates clients about the process of working with an Architect through “The Architect’s Notebook.”

  • Jes Stafford (@modarchitect) is an Architect from Hendersonville, North Carolina and President-Elect of AIA Asheville. Jes runs a thriving Google+ community called Big Time Small Firm.

  • Chris Gerrity (@CGerrity) is an Architect from Indianapolis, Indiana and the Young Architect Regional Director for the Ohio Valley Region of the AIA. Chris helps to educate and support young architects through YAF / Indy.

  • Lora Teagarden (@L2DesignLLC) is a small business owner on her way to being a Licensed Architect in Indianapolis, Indiana. Lora wears many hats, Social Media Maven for the Architecture community being just one.

  • Bob Borson (@BobBorson) is an Architect from Dallas, Texas and the Chair of Digital Communications for the Texas Society of Architects. Bob writes the hugely popular Life of an Architect.

  • Taylor Schaub (@t_schaub) and Tyler Baldwin (@tball92) are Architecture Students at the Illinois Institute of Technology and active AIAS (American Institute of Architecture Students) Members. These two played integral roles in the planning and execution of the 2013 AIAS Forum in Chicago.

For the Convention the AIA laid claim to #AIAcon14 as the official hashtag for the event. Thousands sent tens of thousands of Tweets that produced millions of impressions. Let that sink in for a minute. Comments and photographs in the 140 character format made millions of impressions around the world.

I received a message from one Twitter Follower that said “I am living vicariously through your Convention tweets! Wish I could be there!” Let THAT sink in for a minute. Tweets (and other real time media) from the Convention keep our comrades and the public abreast of what’s going on.

Look at that photo from Lou Malnati’s again. Look at these photos from the TweetUp. There were dozens of tweeters, bloggers and podcasters at the Convention. There will be more next year.

TweetUp groupie with Elizabeth Chu-Richter

TweetUp groupie with Elizabeth Chu-Richter

The American Institute of Architects needs to partner with, commission if you will, the best and brightest in the Social Media for Architects realm to produce Convention Content.

  • What if the guys from the Archispeak Podcast were roaming the halls of the convention center broadcasting impromptu interviews and conversations?

  • What if Enoch Sears and Eric Bobrow shot video interviews with marketing pros at Architecture firms from around the country?

  • What if the @AIANational Twitter account were taken over by a handful of the most prolific tweeters in the theater?

  • What if Bob Borson were writing a daily account of his experience at the Convention?

  • What if there were an entire podcaster’s area on the exhibition floor where we could hear and watch shows being produced?

The #AIAcon14 TweetUp

The #AIAcon14 TweetUp

Imagine the amount of rich content, grass roots content that could flow out of Atlanta next year? From time to time the AIA and its media partners produce excellent, well-produced work that educates and informs. But it’s not enough.

Please note: I’m not trying to volunteer anyone for these roles. I’m just trying to raise some of the possibilities.

Note #2: When I say the AIA needs to … Yes, I’m talking about AIA National but they (the Officers and Staff in Washington) are not in this alone. WE are the AIA. WE have to step up, make suggestions, volunteer, take it upon ourselves to improve year upon year.

Finally meeting Amanda Walter in person at the TweetUp

Finally meeting Amanda Walter in person at the TweetUp

This is my challenge:

  • Let’s encourage AIA National and the committees and Chapters responsible for planning and executing the 2015 National Convention in Atlanta to continue doing what they’re doing.

  • Let’s push for expanded programming like TweetUps, MeetUps and Architect Live.

  • Then, let’s US partner with the AIA to produce the content that will tell the real story of the Convention; that will amplify the real conversations that are taking place; that will highlight the reasons that our membership should join us at conventions; that will demonstrate to the public why we are one of their most valuable assets.

Can we do this?

Yes, I think we can. I know we can.

In my mind I see our own multi-platform channel that covers the Convention from top to bottom, from open to close, from planning to break-down through your Tweets and Blogs and Instagrams and Podcasts and Facebook posts.

I see rich media in the form of the written word, video, audio and photographs. I see an online experience that shows us what a truly Repositioned Institute really looks like.

Let’s do this.

Tweeting with Matt Dumich in his hometown

Tweeting with Matt Dumich in his hometown

What did you think about the 2014 Convention? What would you do to make the 2015 version even better? Are you in? Are you ready to partner with the AIA to create an even richer experience? Leave a comment below. I want to know.

My goal is to start an open dialogue and let Architect of the Internet be a forum where we can all learn to have success in the business of architecture through Social Media.

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About Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols is the creative Storyteller for Award-Winning architecture firms and the Social Media Campaign Manager for industry professionals. He is a graduate of Ball State University with over 20 years’ experience in the marketing departments of firms ranging from three to three thousand employees.

Jeff spends countless hours studying, developing and implementing strategies for insuring marketing success for Architects and other business owners in the online arena. He documents the good, the bad and the ugly in Social Media at Architect of the Internet and speaks about Conquering Social Media in venues ranging from the Board Room to the Convention Stage.


  1. I’m all in!

  2. Through social media, I have been able to connect to people that I might never connect with, and attend a conference virtually in some sense. I was surprised, myself, to be able to recognize many people sitting around your table as well. Even if I didn’t recognize faces, I recognized names. Through Social Media, the AIA conference had the power to go beyond borders as well. So “Hi” from Canada!

    • Thanks for your feedback (and for checking in “all the way” from Canada) Erin! As the 2015 AIA National Convention approaches, are there different ways that you think the AIA and attendees can connect with people that can’t attend? Would you like listen to live audio streaming of podcasts, or watch “man on the street” video interviews? I’d like to hear any ideas you have. – Jeff


  1. […] The 2014 AIA National Convention was great. Let’s make the Convention in 2015 even better. […]

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