Conferences. They have their advantages and their disadvantages. We’ve all been to some really good ones…and we’ve attended some that don’t even deserve a ranking (come on, you know you have!). Over the years, as a former teacher I have attended educational conferences (some good; some bad) but most recently, I have had the privilege of not only attending, but volunteering at several social media conferences. Do you know which I prefer more? Here let me answer that for you – the social media crowd.
Social Media conferences, for the most part – ROCK! While the subject matter in and of itself is HOT, it’s the gatherings & learning opportunities at the ones that make it worth your while…not to mention every dollar spent getting there…that rule the conference sector. Add to it that the people in attendance are usually hungry for the latest & greatest information from the “experts” and equally as hungry to engage with others of like-mindedness, that’s a draw too.
Some of the best social media conferences I have attended are the ones that have dynamic speakers that not only know the topic but don’t sit high on their horses as “experts” in the topic either. Rather, they engage & interact with their audiences.
most importantly, he knew he subject matter & he communicated it to the rest of us in such a way that he was engaging
One of my best memories that always resonates with me was when WordPress founder, Matt Mullenweg, was the keynote speaker at WordCamp RDU in June of 09. Before his keynote, you hardly knew he was there. He mixed in with the crowd engaging as if he was “one of the masses” (which in reality, he is… kinda). When he gave his presentation, he was down to earth, a real “normal” guy. He wasn’t dressed in a suit & tie. He was comfortably up on stage in an open collar shirt. But, most importantly, he knew the subject matter & he communicated it to the rest of us in such a way that he was engaging. I liked that!
Some of the best social media conferences are also well organized from the moment you walk in to the tracks you attend to the speaker presentations. The best example I can think of that I attended recently was Social Media Business Forum in Durham NC in October of 09. Slight disclaimer – I was Volunteer Coordinator but aside from that, I can honestly say the organizers put together a smooth conference filled with amazing speakers & some awesome content in the panel tracks too. If I remember correctly, the hashtag for that event even ruled the Triangle Twitter scene that weekend too. That also says something. Oh and the Wi-Fi availability kicked butt too!
Whether social media or education (or any industry for that matter), the worse conferences are the ones that are unorganized, have limited (or unclear) parking availability, that have an expense that doesn’t live up to the expectations, have little to no Wi-Fi capabilities, or that have speakers that aren’t interactive but are rather up there toting their latest book, invention, what have you. Now, I am lucky. I haven’t encountered any of the above but I don’t doubt that it exists.
With the social media industry evolving and the myriad of conference opportunities, the one that I’m anxious to attend is Social Fresh. Every individual I know in the social media space that has ever attended, presented, or attended and presented, a Social Fresh conference has spoken very highly of it. From the material they learned to the presenters who presented to the overall experience, I’ve only seen positive feedback. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the fact that one of my favorite social media engagers (yes, I just made that up), Jason Keath, is its Founder. Jason is a top notch guy. Social Fresh is only the beginning for him. Mark my words.
The next Social Fresh conference is scheduled for Charlotte in a couple of weeks. Click to learn more about this very worthwhile social media conference and if you can’t make it this time, don’t worry. They’re planning additional conferences .
Bottom line – you have your good, your bad, and your down right ugly conference opportunities out there. Pick the ones that have the best material presented by dynamic & engaging presenters and coordinated by people who know what they’re doing, and you’ll walk away from the experience the better for it. Heck, dare I say, you’ll walk away PUMPED to share what you learned. Now, that’s the BEST take-away of all.
Image of Matt Mullenweg courtesy of Joshroa.com