This week I am heading to Dallas for my second #Optsum conference. I led a workshop at the one in March, and will be doing so again this week. I absolutely LOVE speaking at and attending social media/marketing conferences like this one, and I wanted to share some tips that I’ve picked up over the last 3 years:
1 – When in doubt, dress casually. Social media conferences are notorious for having very relaxed dress codes. Some, like SXSW, consider attendees to be a bit overdressed if they aren’t in a tee-shirt and jeans. Now if you are a speaker, you might want to spring for a sports coat, but even then a dress shirt for guys is about as dressy as it gets. But above all else, wear comfortable clothing. If you are comfortable in jeans, then wear jeans. And make SURE you wear comfortable shoes.
2 – Pack all the gadgets you need and remember chargers/batteries! Nothing sucks worse than arriving at your first big social media conference, then realizing you left your Flip at home. Or scrambling to find a charger for your cell phone cause you didn’t bring yours.
3 – Confirm the location of the event and bring the address and telephone numbers with you. This sounds like a no-brainer, but never assume anything. For example, at one event I was speaking at, the event was at ‘The Hilton Downtown’. Well guess what, turns out there were TWO Hiltons downtown, and I didn’t know which one. Thankfully, my Twitter friends bailed me out while I was on the shuttle 😉
4 – Plan out the sessions you want to attend. Figure out what your schedule will look like, and keep checking the event website to confirm the schedule. Almost every event I have attended/spoken at has had at least one major schedule change in the week or two leading up to the event. Which sucks when the schedule has changed to put your two ‘must attend’ sessions opposite each other in the same time slot.
5 – Check to see if the event has a meetup/tweetup the nite before it starts and ATTEND IT. I am very disappointed that I won’t arrive in Dallas this week till Thurs afternoon, because I will miss the Tweetup happening the nite before. As a speaker, I love tweetups because it’s a great way for me to connect with attendees and learn more about them and what they are expecting from my session. As an attendee, it’s a chance for you to network with your fellow attendees, but also to connect with the speakers before the event.
6 – Do your best to figure out who will be at the event. Almost all events will tell you who will be speaking, and some will also share the attendees. Know who will be there, so you can figure out who you want/need to connect with outside of the sessions. For example, I’ve already figured out that there are a few people at #Optsum that I need to connect with about work projects, so I am going to schedule time with them. And there are a few friends I definitely want to catch up with. So figure out who you need to connect with, and this might cut into the number of sessions you can attend, so it’s also a good idea to prioritize the sessions in order of importance for you.
7 – Download any session materials beforehand. Check with the event’s website, some of the speakers will share materials beforehand that they’ll want you to reference during their session. Doesn’t hurt to check the website before leaving and make sure you have everything you need.
8 – Follow the Twitter hashtag for the event before/during/after you arrive. This is a great way for me, as a speaker, to tell what the mood of the attendees is. Are the speakers great or a dud? What do they like or dislike about the venue itself? All this helps me plan my session. And for attendees, it helps you to know beforehand if there are only 2 power outlets per room 😉
During the sessions, you can use Twitter to discuss the sessions as they are happening. Although I honestly don’t do this as much as I used to. You can carry on the conversation after the event ends, as well.
9 – Make SURE you get your questions answered. If you going to spend a thousand or so to attend an event, then you deserve to get your money’s worth, right? Ask that question during the session, or if you are an introvert (like me), ask the speaker out in the hallway.
10 – Have fun and introduce yourself! Again, as an introvert I have a big problem with this, but it really is a good idea to connect with everyone you can. And the more you connect with everyone, the easier it is to enjoy the rest of the event. Who knows, you might even meet a future business partner!
So those are my tips, those of you that attend social media events often, what are your best tips? What did I miss?