Monday, July 06, 2009
Which social media conferences should you attend?
Stuart DMed me wanting to know which social media conferences I recommended he should attend. Since I get asked this on a fairly regular basis, I thought it would be a good idea to write up my thoughts, since we are about to hit the 'busy' season for conferences in a few weeks. And BTW, these points are relevant for conference organizers, as well.
First, consider the sessions, and what you want from them. Are you wanting Social Media/Blogging 101, or have you gotten started and you're looking for more advanced tactics? Make sure the structure of the event is consistent with what you need. And when the sessions end, will the speaker be leaving you with a plan of action and an explanation of the next steps you should be taking? They should be, otherwise you can just read their blog posts.
Second, consider how much networking time is available. THIS is where the great conferences excel. Let's be honest, for most major conferences, you can eventually find at least audio (and sometimes video) for the top sessions, online. So why should you pay $1,000 for a ticket to an event when the sessions will be archived for free a few weeks later? Because paying that $1,000.00 gives you access to the speakers and the attendees. It's one thing to hear Chris Brogan's session on launching a social media strategy, but quite another to get 15 mins of his time in the hallway where he tells YOU how YOUR business should launch a social media strategy. At the last event I spoke at, Amy Africa spent over TWO hours helping me with my MackCollier.com site. That alone made the trip to Boston more than worth my time. The sessions are great, but the connections you make in the hallways are what makes the event worth your time.
Third, know why you are attending the event. Is it for business, or pleasure? South By Southwest is a wonderful event, but it's not for everyone. If you want to attend to reconnect with friends in the social media space and meet some of your favorite bloggers/Twitterers, then SXSW is where you want to be. But if you are attending SXSW looking for excellent sessions and business opportunities, your money might be better spent elsewhere.
The bottom line is that both the attendees and the conference organizers need to understand that in most cases, the attendee is going to have to convince their boss to fork over their attendance fee and all the associated travel. So this means the attendee needs to have a plan in place for how that expense will be justified, and the conference organizer needs to help the attendees make their case to their boss.
Pic of SXSW panel via Flickr user Jeremiah