Recently, I had the great honor to attend two amazing conferences: the Social Media Marketing World in San Diego (#SMMW18), organized by Social Media Examiner, where I served as a volunteer at the conference; and the sixth annual Texas Social Media conference (#TXSocialMedia), where I co-presented with Jacqueline Rose. We discussed how to use social media as a teaching tool as educators in the 21st century.
I’ve spent a lot of time attending conferences, both industry and academic ones. It has become clear to me that conferences sometimes can feel quite overwhelming given their themes, audiences, topics, and sizes. I have tried various means to enhance my conference experience. There is one strategy that works effectively every single time.
That is, leveraging Twitter to maximize your conference experience.
In this article, I will share with you two specific practices that you can use to enhance the ROI of your conference experience — regardless of what conference you attend.
Are you ready? Let’s get started.
Live Tweeting During the Entire Conference
Nowadays, it has almost become a common practice that conferences use hashtags to allow people to connect with fellow attendees and to live tweet what they have learned during the event.
Within the past several years, for every single conference that I attended, I live tweeted during the entire event. Although this may sound crazy, I cannot tell you how much I have benefited from this practice.
For example, while attending the Social Media Marketing World conference in San Diego this year, I live tweeted as much as I could even though I was a volunteer as well.
This practice paid off. I got a big shout out from Social Media Examiner at one of the keynote sessions. See the image below. Did you see my Twitter handle @AiAdysonZhang?
This is a big deal, considering that 5K+ people attended the conference. And Social Media Marketing World is one of the most influential conferences in social media marketing. Can you image how much advertising money that I have to spend to get that type of media exposure?
Even more so, my tweets and Twitter profile got noticed by Onalytica, which is an influencer relationship management software. They gave me another shout-out and selected me as one of the Top 50 influencers discussing Twitter during the Social Media Marketing World conference. See the images below. I am at number 46. Did you see my Twitter handle @AiAddysonZhang on the list?
Because of these exposures, I had lots of people whom I didn’t know reach out to me at the conference. I even got people who were NOT attending the conference engage with me on my Tweets.
Similarly, at the recent Texas Social Media Conference, right after I got myself registered for the conference, I tweeted out a video of myself expressing how excited I was to speak there. See the tweet below.
Guess what? A few minutes after I tweeted out my video, someone walked up to me and greeted me by my name. Holy cow. Prior to this conference, we had never interacted with each other. As we started chatting, it turned out that we both attended this year’s Social Media Marketing World conference and we share similar interests. We are now talking about collaborations. What a serendipitous experience! And of course, we took a selfie! See the tweet below.
The power of a single tweet!— Ai Addyson-Zhang, Ph.D Digital Learning Evangelist (@aiaddysonzhang) April 17, 2018
I wouldn't be able to connect with the awesome @MrAlexGarrido just now if I were not tweeting my selfie and videos.
Social Media is the best way to make human connections! #TXSocialMedia pic.twitter.com/V2RBvGok0o
I have endless examples like the ones above to share with you, but you got the idea. I got connected with so many incredible people simply because I was live tweeting at conferences, many of whom have now become friends and collaborators.
If you choose to give this practice a try, please make sure you:
✅ Use the right conference hashtags when sending out your tweets.
✅ Mix up your text tweets with videos (like the one above), images, GIFs, emojis, or other creative visuals. For example, you can create your own GIFs by using GIPHY CAM, which you can download for free. See an example below. This GIF took me less than one minute to create.
Networking With Speakers Prior To The Conference
For most conferences, you can see the conference schedule or programs before the conferences take place. I normally spend a few days studying the conference schedule and select the sessions that interest me the most.
And then, I search the speakers’ Twitter handles and send them a quick Tweet with videos, customized GIFs, and/or emojis telling them how excited I am to attend their sessions.
The above tactic works miraculously every single time. Because of the interactions that I have with the speakers prior to the conference, when we first connect in person at the conference, it feels like that we have known each other for a long time. Forget about handshakes. There will only hugs and selfies.
These social interactions prior to the conference have built a solid foundation for face-to-face networking. It creates a level of connection that you just won’t get when you first meet a stranger. That’s the power of social media.
🎯 Live Tweet: It will help you absorb content & get noticed.
🎯 Pre-Conference Network: It will help you build common ground & cultivate relationships that can scale your conference networking.
These are my tips and best practices. How about you? What are your strategies to maximize your conference experience?