Don’t Get Caught With Your Social Pants Down. Six Considerations For The Social Conference.

Traditional conferences versus social conferences. Which will you plan this year?

Not sure about the “Social Conference?” Read this post on “Screw Your Event Resolutions. Do You Conference Social?”

Here are six things to consider when planning the Social Conference so you don’t get caught with your social pants down.

Don't get caught with yous social pants down.

1. In this new information landscape, your conference is not for a passive audience but an engaged community.
No conference attendees in history have been more thoroughly prepared for the industrial revolution than today’s participants. This is a major fail whale. They need to be prepared for the service and creative revolution. (Read more about the creative and service sectors.)

2. Your conference community is hyper-connected.
Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Mobile Applications. Your conference attendees are going to talk about your event in person and online whether you want them to or not. Be social and engage with them before, during and after the event. Don’t control them, join them.

3. Each of your conference attendees has a voice, a platform to amplify that voice and followers that listen.
They can find each other, share, collaborate and connect. They will write a review of how your group rates are higher than what they found online, your sessions, your AV, your food, your content, your venue, your parties, your speakers, your registration process. Good or bad, expect it. And they will be brutally honest with their reviews. Encourage it. Use it to improve the future event. Incentivize it. Be transparent and respond to it. Make real-time changes because of it. Don’t ignore it.

4. The conference interaction has moved from a monologue to dialogue to polylogue (many voices speaking at the same time.)
Stop trying to control the conversation. You can’t. But you can help steer it and ask invaluable questions to guide it. As Samuel J. Smith says, “The gap between the experts on stage and the attendees in the audience has never been smaller.” Include questions and opportunities for experienced attendees to share what they know as well.

5. Potential and registered conference attendees expect conference organizers to find them, in the social media platforms they use.
It used to be that conference organizers expected attendees to find the conference on the Web. That’s shifted. Potential and registered attendees want to connect with you on their terms in the social media platform of their choice. Let your attendees self-identify their own favorites by giving them all the choices. Consider customizing the message for each platform. Don’t just duplicate the same message and post in multiple places. (Don’t think this is for you? Think again. See how younger people expect news to come to them (not on CNN or daily papers) and how they are conduits for info-sharing.)

6. Create an atmosphere of belonging and acceptance while encouraging attendees to share their experiences with others.
Think about your recent gathering of family or friends. You had a great time. Lots of pictures were taken and you woke up to realize you hade been tagged in Facebook. Your whole network knows about it. Capture that type of experience and encourage it at your meetings and events.

Final Thoughts
This is sneaking up on most association, event and conference professionals. Don’t be caught with your social pants down, high jacked by your conference audience. Plan now for the new social conference revolution.

What tips do you have to help plan for and embrace this revolution?

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  1. I think in the future, conferences that are NOT social will pale in comparison to conferences that ARE. It’s like every movie you see after seeing “Avatar in 3D.” You’ll be waiting for a giant gila monster to come busting out of the screen when the heroine is just doing the dishes. There is clearly a mandate for conference organizers to step it up in the social department. They can start by providing more conveniently placed electrical outlets in the meeting rooms. We in the twittersphere get “jonesing for juice” pretty often these days.


  2. Kevin Richardson says:

    Great insight Jeff. As Tara Hunt has said numerous times the bull horn has been turned around and attendees are talking about us (and to us if we’ll join their networks). Everyone belongs to an online community that is much like the bar in “Cheers”. Everyone belongs to a network where “everybody knows their name”. Imagine being able to connect to each person’s “Cheers” and through them having the power to collaborate and interact with those people.

    I appreciate your point on the creative revolution. Quality and service, once differentiators are now merely a cost of entry so where does that leave business to seperate itself? Creative services is the answer. Stop hiring MBAs and start hiring MFAs. Period.

    Final thought Jeff. I think we (event/tradeshow industry) should we looking to social technology and social media as a model for events of the future. Let the community build the event, make it relevant to them and, (scary for show managers) let them help MANAGE the event. Engage them and they’ll deliver more passion than any show manager.

    1. Jeff Hurt says:


      Thanks for adding to the discussion. I love that image that Tart Hunt uses of the bull horn turned around and attendees talking about us. So true. Great thought too that we should look to social technology and social media as a model for events of the future.

    2. Jeff Hurt says:

      Thanks for the comment and your reference to Avatar in 3D is so true. I saw it in 3D in the Imax and it was awesome. And, I didn’t even tweet during it, which is odd for me. 🙂 I so agree with your comment about electrical outlets in meeting rooms, especially if the conference organizers want attendees to talk about the event.

  3. […] Attendees want conferences that implement more social strategies. Not sure what a “Social Conference” is? Read Do You Conference Social? and 6 Steps For The Social Conference. […]

  4. Good Grief Jeff! First my inbox kept telling me “Screw You…” (probably the alltime abbreviation) now it’s talking about social pants around the ankles 😀 And that is one funny stock photo – wow!
    Anyways, as I was reading through #5, I was thinking about how much extra time and work it takes to execute something like customizing a message for each platform. Plus, what about people who are masters of logistics but not creative strategy. I mean, this is a situation where we’re asking a legion of planning experts to suddenly become semi-marketing wizards.
    How you do approach this challenge…or how would you recommend a planner manage and overcome this difficulty? Just curious 🙂 I think this topic alone could make for a really great blog post all on its own.
    Cheers and enjoy #PCMA10 to its fullest extent!! Keep the great reports flowing so I can experience with the rest of my buddies…
    Midori Connolly, Chief AVGirl

  5. Scott Gould says:

    Hi Guys

    I’m doing this type of thing at the moment with my conference, Like Minds, in Feb.

    The subject is “people-to-people” – the antithesis of a person-to-people, one person drums information into many, 1950s kind of model.

    Jeff your writing is like a glass of water – its so refreshing. And it helps me know that I’m on track.

    I agree that Social Conferencing is about the before, after, and inbetween session time just as much as the sessions themselves (hence, people to people). I also think that this understanding can be progresses, using Social Media, to the place where the conference begins way before the ‘touch point’ of everyone being in the room together.

    Like Minds is on Friday Feb 26th – but every Friday leading up to it in 2010 we are interviewing speakers and having discussion. The idea here is two fold: 1. to begin the conference now, and 2. to flatten the hierarchy and get people talking to the speakers, rather than having this awe abotut them.

    Trust I’m on the right track!

  6. Kevin Richardson says:


    Not that you asked me but I think you are on the right track. Rather than making your conference FOR attendees, make it WITH them. It’s a minor semantic difference that has huge ramifications.

    The opposite of the “1950s model” is The Unconference. A conference completely driven by participants for participants. That’s the bleeding edge. I don’t see our industry moving to that extreme, but I think we can learn much from them.

    Social media will play an important role in how we do events today. Social interaction will define how events are run tomorrow. Pay attention to how people are connecting and provide them a platform to do the same around your topic(s) of interest.

    My humble 2 cents

  7. Scott Gould says:

    Hey Kevin – thanks for the response.

    I have a problem I have with the unconference as a model for Like Minds as we have a range of expertise in the room. In my opinion, when there is a standard competency in a subject, then we can have an unconference, and people can learn from the naunces of others work.

    But when there is a range of newbies through to experts, I think the most value comes from employing some unconference, as well as some person->people speaking from the front – as well as moderated panels, etc etc

    What I do think, from reading Jeff’s previous posts, is that if we keep it snappy, then we can hold attention and not force people. We always have a 20 minute keynote, followed by a 20 minute panel that then discusses the keynote and provides more examples. And because we start the conference online months in advance, we’ve been able to crowd source the questions that people want already.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll be commenting here more, now that I’ve been listening for a while.

  8. Kevin Richardson says:


    The great news is that you’re (a) thinking in different directions and most importantly (b) thinking about the guest/attendee/customer. Thanks for including us in the conversation and for being transparent with your thoughts/questions. Bravo!

  9. […] Don’t Get Caught With Social Pants Down: Six Strategies For Your Social Conference […]

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