Social Media + Conferences

Posted on: 02/07/12

Remember the days of “silence your cell phones and pagers?” When only a handful of rude people in the room decided to check their email during the keynote or sneak a peek at sports scores during the panel discussion? Oh how the times have changed! Now, conference attendees not come toting tablets and smartphones, but are highly encouraged to use them the entire time! Whether they are taking notes, exchanging contact information, becoming the mayor of the meeting room or tweeting their questions, comments and concerns – conference attendees are loving their techie toys.

Would you have recognized this 5 years ago: #ILBlogCon10 #SSQRConf13 #TSLC2012 that is, the crazy acronym and mess of numbers we call a hashtag? Doubt it. Twitter hastags were created in August 2007.

Photo c/o ConferenceCenterBlog

Now hashtags have found their way into the “Official” How to Create a Conference or Convention Handbook. Attendees are encouraged to tweet their questions and comments throughout the presentation, mentioning the speakers and, of course, the conference hashtag. A scrolling list of real-time tweets appear on the screen and then, as if by magic, you can creep on the speakers and other attendees, learning things faster than than ever. Before you know it John from Denver wants to connect on LinkedIn because you have 15 connections in common and Stacie is now following you on Pinterest, although you have not met either of them yet.

Geeky conferences have been utilizing these tools for years, but now that the masses have taken to smartphones, social media at conferences has really taken me by surprise. No longer a pastime for the young and geeky…social media has become a very powerful tool for communication, interaction and engagement at conferences.

Photo c/o SocialMedia.biz

I attended a conference last week.
The funniest thing about this conference was that it was predominately a male, 45+ crowd. On registration day, there were only 12 tweets with the conference hashtag (although thousands attended).  As the conference progressed, however, I was surpised and delighted by social media adoption. It was as if people noticed the interactivity and engagement that social (Twitter in particular) could provide them and decided to give it a try.

I applaud the conference organizers for taking a risk and making social a priority this year. The panel discussion on “How to Leverage Social Media to Connect with Gen X and Gen Y Clients” was packed! A year ago the room would’ve been nearly empty. They also added a “Social Media Lab” were experts sat around all day in a cute little IKEA-esque pop up room and taught people how to pimp their LinkedIn profiles, embed a video on their facebook page or website and learn a few things about mobile sites and SEO.

They made it known that social media was a major initiative for this year’s conference -they had tweets scrolling and hashtags hovering on just about everything. As a social mediaddict, I loved seeing how the conference organizers decided to go all in and make use of some very helpful social tools.

My only qualm? They didn’t have a single Gen Y representative on the “How to Leverage Social Media to Connect with Gen X and Gen Y Clients” panel. This lead the group to discern that Gen Yers are not on LinkedIn. #IBegtoDiffer

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