Social Media conferences are still exciting and new in the grand scheme of things.
They create an exhilarating atmosphere. And they create a lot of conversation online because of all the different ways social media enthusiasts communicate online. That said, most conferences carry a hefty price tag and it is important that you understand how to maximize your time and money to ensure you have the best experience possible.
It is time to get back to the basics — as more and more business professionals navigate the world of social, the basics are as important as ever when it comes to conferences.
1. Do your social media research.
Spend some time getting to know not only the speakers, but also the attendees by checking out their social presence. This shouldn’t be done to find out just who the head honchos are, but it should be to understand the people around you and the conversations that will be taking place.
The more you know, the more engaging you will be able to be as your make your way from conversation to conversation.
2. Follow the hashtags.
Speakers and attendees at top social media conferences are bound to be avid tweeters. Before, during and after the conference, use the official hashtag and your community management tool of choice to follow the event on Twitter (Look for the hashtag on the official conference website – if its not there, they shouldn’t be running a social media conference).
The hashtag is like a homebase, continue to refer to it for the information and conversations you want to be apart of. Being active on a conference hashtag allows you to…
3. Tweet and converse.
Being active on Twitter during a conference allows you to connect with people virtually with the ability to immediately meet in person, find out what is being said in other sessions, and be an active member of the community. Furthermore, by participating in these conversations, you can be a resource to your followers who cannot attend.
If you’ve connected with other attendees before the conference via Twitter, schedule a meeting (or tweetup) during the conference. This is a great way to put faces to tweets and establish real world connections.
4. Don’t worry about the schedule.
It’s tempting to attempt to see everything at the conference, but being schedule-driven can stand in the way of serendipitous moments that can end up being real game-changers. While it’s a good idea to create a tentative schedule before the conference, don’t let following it hinder your experience.
In the end, it’s your money and your time; you have to know what is best for your personal experience and return on the conference. This is just my opinion, but NEVER cut a good conversation short because of a session… chances are you can digest the content afterwards.
5. Remember the value of connections.
Connections > Contacts. At these conferences, you must understand that quality will always trump quantity.
You should always try to build and foster connections rather than just focus on business cards. Sure a giant stack of business cards looks cool, but it pales in comparison to the relationships that you can immediately extend outside of the conference.
Its just like tweeting – having someone say “oh yeah, we’ve tweeted once or twice” doesn’t mean much but “Yeah, we’ve had great conversations – they’re an awesome connection” can make all the difference as you move through social.
What conference tips do you have? Any great stories to share?