Trust me, it’s more than the swag…
With each conference I attend, I try to clearly define the take-away (even if only in my own mind) to help me decide if it will be on my agenda next month or next year. After falling off a subway car and spilling an expensive bottle of olive oil (swag) on the platform, I’m here to tell you the ROI of social media conferences is more than the swag.
Meeting new people at conferences is always one of the biggest take-aways. Depending on the content of the conference, it’s sometimes the only thing I bring home with me. Because my business straddles a number of different industries, visibility in each is important. While I meet an awful lot of people on Twitter every day, nothing replaces a face-to-face handshake.
What’s more, not everyone I need to meet is on social media. Last week I met a woman who finally got email this year (I’m not kidding) and is eager to learn how social media can grow her organization. To some she might be a luddite, but to me she’s a strong, smart business leader who surrounds herself with thought-leaders who can help her. She hasn’t needed email because she has people who look after those details and she probably won’t ever use social media – but she’s going to need someone who can do it for her.
Meeting potential clients at a conference – the no-brainer conference ROI.
Adding to established relationships
It never ceases to amaze me is how surface level some social media relationships can be. We often forget we’re communicating through a black and white medium and that sharing ourselves in 140 characters fails to convey body language, voice inflections – our true personality. The Harvard Business Review calls this social intelligence:
“You can be the most brilliant innovator, problem-solver or strategic thinker, but if you can’t inspire and motivate, build relationships or communicate powerfully, those talents will get you nowhere.”
Sometimes social intelligence is translated in social media, sometimes social media is the screen that prevents you from seeing the real person. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised to see the person shaking my hand is exactly as I imagined. Other times, not so much…
Information and professional development
I left this conference take-away to the end because it’s never guaranteed. I go to conferences because of learning opportunities, but content quality lies outside of my control. I know I’m guaranteed to meet like-minded people – that’s within my control.
I always bring along my iPad first, because I need the long battery life – my laptop is an underachiever here – and second because it allows me to access twitter quickly. How is being on Twitter important to skill development? It’s all about following the #hashtag:
•· Allows me to see what others are learning
•· Opens a channel of communication between myself and other delegates and sometimes speakers that I may not get a chance to meet
•· Let’s me quickly add influencers in the stream to my lists for future conversations
•· Acts as a data collection tool for rereading my learning after the conference
•· Cements the learning for me – I personally learn better while typing or writing rather than just listening
The conferences I in 2011 were stimulating arenas of learning and relationship building. Attending them meant an incredibly tight focus on time management, but each has been invaluable in a different way.
•· 140 Conference Ontario
•· She’s Connected Conference
•· Social Media Masters
Of course, this list doesn’t include the events in Waterloo Region that I attend on weekly basis…
Where do you find your networking and learning opportunities? Do you look closely at your take-aways before they slip away?