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Lisa Larter Headshot

Gen Y - What Makes A Conference Work For Me?

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I attended a conference in 2008 with 3000 of my non closest friends. I met a couple people (okay two) that I keep in touch with from that event, and I do admit to hiding in my room at one point because talking to all these strangers was a bit too much effort. I was not having fun.

How could I make this a better experience? How could I make it fun and enjoyable? I needed a different approach if I was to go back in 2009.

I decided to take things into my own hands, I found as many email addresses as I could for people who attended the previous year (my friends met lots of people) and I uploaded them all to Linkedin and sent them a request to be my friend.

I was going to use Social Media to FIND and be FOUND. I was on a mission to make this conference outstanding and to maximize my opportunities to meet and connect with the right people.

After engaging in some Social Media art of war I accomplished the following:

  • Over 100 new connections on Linkedin within 24 hours
  • Personal email addresses and phone numbers of people who were attending who wanted to meet up at the conference
  • My own conference event planned for two different evenings with a hash tag assigned on Twitter creating lots of buzz
  • Over 50 people in attendance each night including most (if not all) of the main stage speakers
  • Relationships and business opportunities with countless people as a result of this event

The moral of the story is:

If you want to make conferences more effective for my age group you need to pay attention to how we do things, we love conferences but we have a different idea on how they should unfold.

This is what I want you to know about me and my generation:

  1. I am socially savvy and unafraid to make friends with people on line. I know this is the best way to build stronger relationships when I get to a conference so I will actively seek out speakers and other people who are attending via my social networks.
  2. I am super pro-active and as such I am more concerned with the hash tag on Twitter than I am with the conference agenda, because it is the people like me who are attending the conference that I want to meet. The hash tag on Twitter helps me connect with them. This is really important to me because it allows me to drill down and see what is really happening pre-conference.
  3. I am going to utilize technology to share my experiences at the conference with my networks. Don't try and scold me for using my Smartphone, this is how I break down barriers and share information with my tribe.
  4. I am always going to organize my own non conference event in order for like minded people to come together and you should expect me to invite your speakers. I want to meet great people when I am at a conference. Don't take this the wrong way; it is how I demonstrate my independence.
  5. I am also only going to attend conference sessions that are of value to me. I am resourceful and know that there is an opportunity for me to do business and gain clients at your conference too. I will take advantage of this. You can be sure though, that if you are a speaker and I connected with you in advance of the event; I will be there to show my support when you are on stage.

You see I am not the traditional conference goer of the 80's who arrives on time, sits quietly and pays attention. I know you have your agenda, but I also have mine.

My agenda includes sharing great content with my social networks; it includes meeting speakers face to face after I have met them on line and helping my tribe to feel as though they have attended virtually by listening to what I have to say live.

You see I don't just talk about what I have for breakfast. Those of us who really influence our social networks are known for sharing and providing great content. If you give us great content, content that is useful and helpful, not just the what, but the how to when your speakers talk to us, we will be sharing it the entire time we are there.

This is what you can do to make your conference more effective, interactive and increase your own visibility to Gen Y.

  1. Create a space on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin where it is easy for me to connect with other people attending the conference. This makes it easier for all of us, and if you don't do it, one of us will do it for you and when we do it, we do not always have all the information you would like attendees to have. Include links to all of these places on any email marketing you send me please!
  2. Give me permission at the beginning of every session to Tweet. I know this may sound corny but if you understood Twitter you would get that every time I post a message I am marketing your conference, there is as much value in it for you as me so embrace it instead of making me feel like I have to use my mobile device under the table. The content you are providing is going straight from your event out to my tribe which is helping you gain interest for your next event.
  3. Schedule and promote a Tweet up at the bar the evening before the conference starts, give us name badges we can write our Twitter handles on, because most us know each other by our Twitter handles, not our real names. This will help start the conference off on the right foot and many of us would even arrive early just to attend this pre-conference event.
  4. Give me your speaker Twitter handles in your conference agenda. I am most likely going to read it when I get there, this is an added value for me because now I don't have to search for the person and it will help me to talk to the speaker directly. Most of your speakers are looking for feedback from smart savvy people like me and area already active on Twitter.
  5. Lastly, when you use Social Media to try and capture my attention, talk to me not at me. I am tired of being spammed, and marketed at. I want to engage in conversation with you, can you help me to do that?
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