I am home from from the Lavish! conference, fortunate to have escaped the Great Atlanta Blizzard of 2010. Now that the flood of people and information has subsided, I ask myself, “What did it all mean?”
As you know, I’ve attended more than my fair share of trade shows and conferences, hawking everything from industrial gases to software services. But that was before Twitter.* Before the Internet. At Lavish!, I learned that some of the tricks for getting the most out of a conference have changed, while others, in the words of Mr. Redding, remain the same. Let us review. But first let us look at some beautiful jewelry.
OK. Much better. Let us proceed.
What Are The New Ways To Approach A Conference In The Age Of Online Identity?
Before the conference:
- Transfer the session schedule to your mobile device calendar
- Read up on presenters online
- Follow the conference hashtag to start the process of connecting
At the conference:
- Tweet your buddies – I’m at [lunch, dinner, breakfast, session where presenter is hilarious, beautiful, nuts] where are you?
- When you meet someone, get their card AND Twitter handle/blog URL. You no longer have to write notes on business cards unless you have a very significant exchange. The reality of your connections will become clear. As we all said, in parting, see you online.
- Good: Take a lot of pictures. Better: Take some short videos. Blog them.
- Good: Tweet what you are hearing in the sessions. Better: Summarize and add your own analysis of what you are hearing. [I sound like Real Simple, with the Good and Better, someone please stop me]
- Follow up after the conference by participating in the hashtag chat and blogging a conference recap.
- If you made a significant connection, email or say hello to that person on Twitter. And I’m not saying Good and Better, but I might be thinking it.
The Things We Old-Timers Knew Are Still True
- Do your homework before the conference. It’s hard to look, listen, and say hello while trying to figure out where you want to go next. You’ll want some spare capacity for smiling.
- Pay attention to the speaker. Listen for those bits of knowledge that will make the trip worthwhile. For example:
The 8 Privilege[d] Unforgettable Lavish! Takeaways:
- Shameeka‘s story of inspiration and perseverance, combined with her example of personal warmth and leadership. She put the conference on by sheer force of will. 2011 should be easier, given this year’s success.
- Grace Bonney’s rules of thirds: a) Blog 1/3 meaty posts, 1/3 middling size, and 1/3 short eye candy b) Tweet 1/3 personal, 1/3 business drivers, 1/3 resource sharing. For more go look at her brilliant slides, here.
- Julia Reed, creative director of Taigan, made clear the power of narrative. In the new world of what used to be called “editorial” and “advertising,” stories can be woven around products, retaining authorial integrity even while creating commercial value.
- Meeting a niche icon, Melissa C. Morris of May December, who turns out to be even more impressive in person.
- Putting faces to brands. I cannot help but feel a connection now to the sponsors whose wares I liked, the Foundary, Room & Board, and the Wine Sisterhood, for example. However, if I don’t like the product, meeting the people doesn’t make me want to recommend or buy.
- Blayne Beacham’s tips for photographing interiors. Make sure your horizontal and vertical lines are symmetrical, don’t photograph into window light, try to show the room from the perspective of someone seated in a chair, turn on all the lights and turn off your flash.
- An attendee in the Beauty Blogger session ran a PR agency, and gave very clear direction on approaching sponsors, if that’s what you want to do. Put a package together, with your statistics, your blog summary, and what you know about who your audience is and how engaged they are. I don’t have her name, but we all signed a list, so I’m expecting it soon.
- But most of all, as Monica Barnett from Blueprint for Style, said, “Be clear on what are you blogging FOR.” If you are blogging for money, focus on money. If you are blogging for art, or personal fulfillment, money will have to stand down. That’s OK. Just be clear.
- Present yourself as you wish to be seen. Belle de Ville of Beladora loaned me jewelry to wear, with no obligation or requirement. I’m still pinching myself. I could choose whatever I liked from the selection, and say whatever I wanted, or nothing at all. Which meant I got to show up luxurious and honest. What better?
- Don’t be shy. Share your connections. At the opening night reception, I recognized our keynote speaker, James Andrews, and introduced myself. Turns out he graduated from Palo Alto High school, right next door. He told me about Jane Fonda (apparently going strong and completely up on 2010 technology BTW), I referred him to Geri Brin of Fab Over Fifty.
- Try to remember names and faces. Try hard. You can’t build the beginnings of relationships if you can’t wave to someone across the room, or say, “Good morning, Michelle!” [When in doubt, everyone is probably named Michelle.]
- Conferences are an endurance sport. If you need protein, bring your own supply. Locate a source of water. Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. I made the extra effort to go to a pre-conference session, got up early and heard the keynotes, but come 3:00 on Saturday afternoon I was suddenly seized by the knowledge that if I heard one more human voice I’d descend into the animal kingdom and begin barking, or roaring. I RAN out of the venue. Left my phone behind. Scampered back, scooped up the phone, and fled to the silence of my room for 45 minutes. Emerged capable, once more.
- Sleep is overrated. Sleep on the airplane, or when you get home.
Because your own bed is going to feel pretty good. The blogosphere and Twitter await, in the morning.
*A brief Twitter Lexicon, since not everyone is familiar with the environment.
Handle – User name
Tweet – The 140 character messages that users post to the vast Twitter message board
Follow – Signing up to read someone’s tweets. You don’t see anything on Twitter except those you follow and the occasional spam demon.
Hashtag – Adding a search term to every tweet that applies. For Lavish!, for example, the hashtag is #lavishconf.
Client, i.e. TweetDeck, or Hootsuite, etc. If you wonder how one can follow 200, 2000, or 20,000 people, it’s all about lists and columns. Most Twitter clients now allow you to group people who talk to each other into lists. And to have lists of those you read all the time separate from those you check in on occasionally.