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 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


Ari Herzog said...

Good tips, Mack. Before I clicked Stuart's link, I thought you meant this Stuart!

Followup question: How do you determine which social media conferences YOU speak at?

Mack Collier said...

I speak at the events that stress a learning environment. The ones that make the speakers accountable up front by asking what the attendees will learn, and the ones that encourage an interactive environment. That's how some of the best learning happens. And I prefer events where the speakers don't leave the stage, grab their check and rush back to the airport. They need to stick around and interact with attendees and answer their questions. It matters.

Anonymous said...

Great advice for picking any kind of conference, not just social media. I wish more speakers felt the way you do. When attendees shell out hard-earned money, we expect an actionable plan and opportunities to network, not a 90-minute rant on your pet-peeve-of-the-week.

Natasha said...

great advice, but there are soooo many conferences out there. Looking at all the conferences on mashables makes my head spin, I know 140 conference in credible, are their any other conferences that are must attend for someone advanced in social media?