Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences - S is for Social Media

When attending a conference it is a good idea to investigate in advance which social media tools are being utilized by the event managers, speakers, vendors and other attendees.

Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other online vehicles are often used to promote the event and share ideas.  These can become meaningful channels for you to gain information about the keynote speakers, educational seminars, webinars, social events, sponsors, nearby attractions and "pirate events" (un-official parties, etc...).  Social media is also a great way to discover who else will be in attendance and to promote yourself to others before you arrive.

Before the internet age there were limited ways to uncover additional information about the conference.  Attendees had to rely on what was sent to them by those who organized the event.  But now there is a plethora of details available, but too few people take advantage of social media before, during and after an event.

Those who are investigating these tools and using them are getting more from their participation.

If you are not active with social media, attending a conference is a good chance to dip your toe in the water and explore the reasons that these tools have become so powerful in our society. Opening a Twitter account to use at a conference is not a life-long commitment, but will allow you to experience how Twitter (or other social media tool) can work to your advantage.

If the event has a blog, it is a good practice to check in and read it regularly in the weeks leading up to the conference.  Often the organizers and speakers will contribute valuable posts that will help you better understand the purpose of the keynotes and breakouts.  This can expose you to unknown presenters, many of whom can bring more useful information than many of the famous industry speakers and celebrities.  Leaving comments on the blog that can extend the conversation will allow the speakers and organizers to make adjustments that can benefit the whole audience.  Also, when you leave smart comments, people will take notice, and thus be looking to meet you once they arrive on site.

LinkedIn and Facebook allow for special interest groups and pages to be established which can become the conduit for important information to be communicated.  People can post to these communities and allow other interested attendees to quickly become informed.  The power here, when used correctly, is that it will allow the "mini-society" of the conference to continue long after the event is over.  I have seen several of these online conference community groups become long-term information and discussion boards.

Twitter is used during conferences to share real time information.  Often people who are in great break-out sessions will "tweet" about the high quality speaker and information they are witnessing, causing people in dull presentations to change rooms.  It is not uncommon to see people streaming into a great session halfway through because of the positive feedback on the Twitter stream.  Event organizers will usually establish a "Hashtag" to use on Twitter during a conference that will allow interested parties to review this live information on their smart phones and other devices.  The same is true for finding the best parties and other "hot spots" after hours... as people love to share good events with the conference community.  While many people still do not use Twitter, it can be an amazing tool during a conference.

If you are already an active user of social media it is a good idea for you to blog, tweet or post tid-bits of knowledge that you learn at a conference.  Not everyone in your network can or will attend events, and thus when you share what you have gained from being present, you are presenting a gift to others.  Some will not care, but others will be very grateful that you posted a review of what you heard at an event.  When you share information, you extend the value of your involvement.

The use of social media becomes a living history of the trade show or conference.  When an event is a success, more people will attend the following year.  If an event is a flop it cannot be kept secret.  Those looking to attend in the future will know the value and make decisions accordingly. 

Social media has become a key part of the event planning industry . All savvy conference managers and event professionals are paying close attention to these tools.  Attendees must also embrace and participate in the online communities and information portals if they want to maximize their experience.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com


Neck lanyards said...

While I agree that social media is an important part of any conference, I think it can be taken too far in the other direction - instead of focusing on making human connections, attendees are glued to their smartphones, looking for the next trending topic on Twitter.

Thom Singer said...

Neck lanyards-

Thanks for your comment... and you are 100% correct. Some people hide in social media, and the truth is that it is just a tool to help with the human to human connections.

This post is part of a whole series, and thus when taken in the full context of "The ABC's of Trade Shows and Conferences" I think you will find I am in alignment with your point!

Have a great day!!!


Smash Hit Displays said...

Social media and trade shows together are great at bringing more traffic to your trade show displays. Not only are social networking sites being used during events, but there are now mobile apps that are designed specifically for conventions, allowing attendees and exhibitors to connect prior to the event. I look forward to seeing what other technology will shape the trade show industry.

Karin Roberts said...

I think creating a Facebook Page is an awesome ideas to promote your trade show event. This is getting the word out in real time!

This way your exhibitors that are getting ready to bring their trade show displays to the show can be up to date and current on what is happening.

Karin Roberts