Hopefully your business is like mine, knee-deep in planning for 2012. One of the areas you’ll probably be deciding upon is which social media conferences and events to attend next year. While you are putting together your list, keep these points in mind:
1 – Send only those people that are in a position to act on anything they learn. You want to send your Social Media Manager or Marketing Manager instead of the new hire in the office that ‘gets’ social media. Unfortunately, most companies send someone at the entry-level with the advice to ‘learn all you can, and report back to us’. What happens is this person gets to the event, and spends the entire time taking copious notes, which are then deposited on the desk of their boss upon arrival back at the office.
The problem is, this person was too busy taking notes to actually learn much at the event. And they wanted to take a lot of notes so their boss would see that they got their ‘money’s worth’ from the trip. It makes much more sense to send a manager there that actually manages your social media marketing efforts, and who can implement any ideas they learn about during the trip.
2 – Ask questions, not just of the speakers, but talk to your peers. This is where you’ll need to do some research to try to figure out exactly who will be attending each event. Also, you want to attend events where the speakers don’t just hop back on a plane as soon as they get done. You want to make time to talk to both the speakers, and fellow attendees. This way, you get the best of both worlds, you get to talk to the experts, as well as your peers that are facing the same issues with their social media strategies as you are, or will be.
3 – Don’t go to national events unless you have to. Granted, if you live in certain areas (like the state of Alabama), you will probably need to attend a national event because there aren’t a lot of local options. But if you live in a bigger city like NYC, LA or Atlanta, you can probably find plenty of local events, plus a couple of bigger national conferences will probably come to your city during the year. A good compromise would be to focus on one national event, then stay home for the rest of the year.
4 – Put a priority on events that cater to your space or industry. As the Social Media conference space matures, events are being offered that focus on certain types of businesses or industries. For example, Marketing Profs caters to B2Bs, and there are many events that are aimed at small businesses or enterprise social media usage. You might have to pay a bit more for these events, but it’s usually worth it since the content will be more relevant to you, and the networking with speakers and attendees will be better since they will be coming from a similar background as your own.
5 – Which is better, South By Southwest, or Blog World? Oy. It seems anytime I am asked about which social media conferences to attend, this question always comes up. The thing to realize about both events is that they are aimed more at individual bloggers rather than companies looking to improve their social media efforts. SXSW especially so. If you are a small business, I think you can get value from attending Blog World, not as much from South By Southwest, which is basically a circus. If you are a publisher/blogger that monetizes their blog, then it makes sense to attend either, especially Blog World. But if you are a large company, you can probably make better use of your money at other events. Even so, if you live in one of the cities/areas where Blog World will be, it makes sense to attend.
6 – Remember that you get out of these events what you put into them. It takes time to prep and try to connect with attendees before arriving, but it can make a big difference. Talk with attendees, learn about the speakers and their styles so you can get a better idea of which sessions you should attend. And ask questions. If you don’t feel comfortable asking a question during a session, catch the speaker out in the hall and ask them there. But remember that you’ve paid good money to attend, you deserve to ask questions.
So please keep these tips in mind as you are planning which events to attend. And if the travel budget isn’t there, consider attending online webinars, or many of the larger events now offer paid and free streaming, so check into that as well!