Using social media to enhance or prepare for a social media event might seem like a no-brainer, but many conference goers get so excited about the “going,” they fail to make the preparations that can transform a good conference into a great one!

So whether you’re thinking about next year’s SXSW or planning a conference event yourself, nearly everything about the experience can be enhanced with the right social tools and attitude.

Are you Conference Ready?

1. Get Storied

Registration

Image by sjgadsby via Flickr

You’re going to be meeting a lot of new people and each time you introduce yourself, you are not just handing them your business card; you are telling them your story. Sure, you will tell them where you work and what you do, but know they will remember who you are by the story you tell.

Your introduction is what can make or break a great first impression, so your story needs to be brief, bold, and “rememberable.” Leave them wanting to know more. The key is to stand out for the right reasons; your strengths, your unique talents, and perspectives. Make sure you sound like the genius that you are.

2. Do Your Homework

It is not just the teacher in me that encourages this; your practice and preparation before the event will guarantee an “A-Plus” time when you arrive.

Consider the following assignments.

  • Set up your profile and connect with others before you arrive.
  • Practice telling your story. (It may sound silly, but practicing out loud can really help.)
  • Research both the speakers and attendees, you’ll be ready for those impromptu run-ins or elevator rides that can lead to substantial connections later on.
  • Upload any conference badges to your Facebook profile and blog.
  • RSVP to any conference-related Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tweetvites, events.
  • Find the Conference and Speaker Hashtags.

3. Plan to MeetUp

As incredible as technology is for communication, there’s nothing like connecting with your network in person. If there are no scheduled “meet ups” with people you want to connect with, take the reins and organize one yourself. Mashable has an incredible step-by-step guide to organizing the Perfect Meetup/Tweet Up.

Another great way to find out where people are hanging out during conference time is foursquare. Check out these tips for using foursquare to enhance your conference experience.

And, don’t forget about staying connected at home. Make sure you tell your family and network where you are going and what you are learning from the experience. Ask them if there is anything they want you to bring back with you. Agree to post a blog, a tweet or update your Facebook page so you can keep everyone abreast of all you are learning.

4. Take People Notes

You have introduced yourself to everyone, people know your story, and you may have even connected with great folks throughout the conference, but what happens if you can’t remember their names or contact information.

You THINK you’ll remember them, but you’re going to be bombarded by more information than you ever thought possible. Mix in those late nights, jet lag, and you’ll just be happy to remember your name after all is said and done.

I take notes on the back of business cards, in my special moleskin notebook, and with key apps on my mobile device. I make sure I have extra batteries for my camera and flip videos, so I can capture and share the event via Flickr, Facebook and YouTube pages.

Here’s What You Might Consider Capturing

  • The Who
    • Who did you meet?
    • What intrigued you about their story?
  • The Where
    • Where and when did you meet? This is important to jog their memory for the next contact. “I met you at the conference,” is not very personal, giving them the impression that their story just wasn’t that remarkable to you.
  • The What
    • What did you discuss?
    • How did the topic come up?
    • What excited you about the conversation?
    • Did you discuss specific plans and ideas?
  • The Next Step
    • Did you initiate next steps? If so, you must make good on that promise. “I’ll be in touch soon,” is not a promise. “I will send you an email following up on our conversations Monday,” is!

The difference between you and the hundreds of other people who met your future client, business partners, friend, or colleague is what you remember and how you follow up.

Don’t leave home without a note-taking system!

5. Share the Wealth

Can you remember the top five take-away ideas you had from the last conference you attended? How much sharing did you do?

Sharing is not only fun and valuable to your network; it has huge effects on how we will retain and remember the experience. Repetition is key to memory retention. The more you can repeat your new learning and share your take-aways, the more likely you’ll retain and apply the things that are most important to you.

Each time you discuss it, blog it, tweet it, post it, and link it, the content becomes clearer and more connected. It is important to begin the process of reflection immediately following the conference.

Consider the following:

If you want even more great advice, check out this advice from Chris Brogan , Jeff Pulver, and SXSW.

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About Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers

Angela is an active blogger, social media evangelist , and passionate advocate for bridging the gap between business and education. She is a recognized educational leader, trainer, and author. She is the owner and Chief Learning Officer at Maiers Educational Services, a company emphasizing the creative use of technology and social media to advance learning; in and out of the classroom.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • lauraclick

    This is fantastic advice. I really hope people take heed of these suggestions before attending conferences, not just #SXSW.

    Speaking of other conferences, we're preparing for PodCamp Nashville ib a few weeks and would love to point people to this article. Would it be possible for us to link to this post on the PodCamp Nashville website? (see here: http://www.podcampnashville.or… I think the attendees could really benefit from this advice.

    • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

      Hi Laura,
      I would be honored!

      Absolutely share and feel free to add anything I missed.

      I wanted the list to be simple yet push us to maximize our conference experiences before, during , and after.

      Thanks for spreading the ideas.

      Angela

      • lauraclick

        Thanks, Angela! I'll let the conference organizers know and see if we can get a link up on the PodCamp Nashville site. I think these tips will really help make the experience more meaningful for folks.

  • http://www.getstoried.com/ Michael Margolis

    This is great advice, Angela. Everyone should Get Storied! LOL.

    • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

      Absolutely Michael!! You taught me everything I know.

      I tell my story differently because of you!

  • http://twitter.com/j_barrick Jonathan Barrick

    Totally agree with your post, Angela. Conferences and events have totally changed for me since adopting Social Media as a tool to network and exchange ideas. I find that I now know more going in to the event and get much more out of the content that is provided as a result.

    In addition, the line between attendee and presenter is becoming blurry. As you share content on Twitter or blog about what you saw, you are essentially presenting your take on the ideas and concepts to the other attendees, to the presenters, and to others who aren't able to be physically present. Your presence at an event now directly benefits your audience, not just yourself.

    • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

      Jonathan,

      You hit it! The line is certainly blurred. Conferences were once “consume” only, and now we attend as consumers, producers, curators, creators, and initiators. All of these make the learning and experience more powerful and lasting.

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    Thanks for interesting post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sjgosselin Susan Gosselin

    I'm doing a lot of this intuitively, but this is still great advice. Will make sure to bookmark this one and pass it around. Thanks Angela!

    • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

      You are welcome, Susan. I think you are right; a lot of this is common sense. Sometimes we just need reminders of how smart and resourceful we already are!

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Jonathan,

    You hit it! The line is certainly blurred. Conferences were once “consume” only, and now we attend as consumers, producers, curators, creators, and initiators. All of these make the learning and experience more powerful and lasting.

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Absolutely Michael!! You taught me everything I know.

    I tell my story differently because of you!

  • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

    Hi Laura,
    I would be honored!

    Absolutely share and feel free to add anything I missed.

    I wanted the list to be simple yet push us to maximize our conference experiences before, during , and after.

    Thanks for spreading the ideas.

    Angela

  • http://twitter.com/ipttoolkit Eboni DuBose

    Great post. I am attending my first ISPI conference in a few weeks and definitely will pass this around to several groups that I am in. I think your comment of conferences changing from 1.0 to 2.0 is very powerful! Social media definitely lets me feel more connected to the speakers and other participants

    • http://twitter.com/AngelaMaiers Angela Maiers

      Eboni-
      Thanks so much for sharing this with your group. I would love to add the insight of the first time conference attendee, so let me know what worked and what flopped. I see a second post brewing!!

  • http://twitter.com/zeitz Leigh Zeitz (@zeitz)

    Great suggestions for getting the most out of a conference.
    You can just “go” to the conference but if you don't plan before you go, you can't get the most out of your experience.
    Thanks for putting it all together here, Angela.
    Leigh
    http://drzreflects.com

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    Great post and great sharing.
    There is no doubt that the internet has forever changed the world in which we live. Thanks to social media and conferences will sure improve us to do a lot better.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual office assistant

    Great post and great sharing.
    There is no doubt that the internet has forever changed the world in which we live. Thanks to social media and conferences will sure improve us to do a lot better.

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