In May I attended my first conference ever - Social Media Camp. It's hosted in Victoria every year, so I got to stay in my hometown, which was super convenient. There were a ton of great speakers with extremely interesting and industry relevant talks. I was also curious about conference scene. What would it be like?
Fortunately, the week of the conference, I developed what I thought was strep throat (my boyfriend's tonsils were green the week earlier - a fair assumption) which turned into the nastiest cold of my life. As an introvert, I was already terrified to attend something where "mix and mingle" was written into the schedule of events (along with a dreaded karaoke night), but having to blow my nose constantly, consume Halls cough drops like they were candy, and intermittently breaking into a head-to-toe sweat from being ill, really rounded off the conference experience. Being the most disgusting you can be really doesn't instil confidence in oneself and handshaking just seemed mean. (Hand sanitizer was applied liberally.) Thankfully I met a companion at my least gross stage during the first day, so it was nice to have someone to discuss (commiserate on?) the day's events with. Still, it was a LONG three days.
My take aways from the conference experience: Be prepared for the worst. Pack kleenex, every possible cold remedy on hand (you don't want to be that person coughing during the recording), and a ton of snacks. I really underestimated the importance of food - but 9 hours is a long time to go on the greasy chicken sandwich that was only marginally appetizing at lunch. Depending on the area you are - you might not really have access to food. The conference centre is a really neat building attached to the historic Empress Hotel (so amazing!) but there really aren't a lot of places to dash in to get a snack (hence our venture to People's Drug Mart for a sawdust like Lara Bar and apple juice). Attending sessions, as enthralling or boring as they may be, feels a lot like attending a lecture at university and can be super tiring, especially on day 3. I was definitely not one of the ones at the after party.
Anyways, here's the relevant part you probably wanted to read about. While I sat trying not to blow my nose, I took 9 pages of notes. Here are some of the main takeaways...
Content is King
You need to educate your audience. You need to give them something valuable to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry. If you're looking to grow your business - get yourself out there and create something that can be shared on social networks or downloaded by prospective clients.
Use Social Media to Recruit
You need to establish your company's identity before hiring. What is the culture? Are your employees happy? They are your "brand ambassadors" and what they say about your workplace, casually to their friends, or formally to someone inquiring, can have long reaching effects. People will remember the praises sung by happy employees and might look to your company when unhappy at their current job.
Create a Brand Story
Who are you and what are your brand's values? These should seep into every level of your business. You should ask yourself "does that align with our values?" each time you make a decision. (This also helps with the above section) By having an emotional mission statement (that's the best way I can describe this) you can weave stories that people care about in your marketing. For example, if you were a life coach and your mission statement was "Helping People Realize Their Dreams" (okay a bit cheesy) you could showcase your customer's experiences in a series of blog posts, tracking their journey that started with your services.
The speaker discussed creating the campaign for the ugly sweater party/run etc. in Vancouver. It was a very impressive presentation. Thinking outside the box, being fun, putting together something larger than life that will capture people's interests are all great strategies.
I have a passion for social media, so I'm sure I'll be discussing it more in future posts.
Have you ever been to a conference? What was your experience?