Social Media & Conferences: 11 Great Ideas That Work

Social Media & Conferences: 11 Great Ideas That Work

At the conferences I attend or present at each year (incidentally, you can see my upcoming gigs here:speaking schedule), its fascinating to see the efforts to integrate social media into nearly every aspect of the event. Some do it very well - and others.....well, others don't even offer complimentary wifi.

Every once in awhile, the social media savvy of an event is impressive. In New York City this past June, The National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS) gave the conference world a great example of how to do it right. Here's what I mean: NCVS wanted to see representatives from the non-profit sector in attendance. Typically, people who work at non-profit organizations don't have a ton of cash to put toward travel and conference fees. Understanding this, NCVS they’ve made it a priority to maximize the opportunities for virtual participation through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and much, much more (see the list below).  Those not able to make it to NCVS were able to see almost everything and dialogue with almost everyone throughout the conference. (Admittedly, there were a few attendees who hadn’t heard of social media yet - they kind of missed out.)

So, if you’re wondering how to utilize the opportunities that social media affords, the good folks at NCVS (@HeyJK  and her team) have outlined this excellent list (that actually works):

LIVE WEBCAST (and later, cool videos): If you couldn’t make the conference, you had the opportunity to follow along via live webcasts. Even better, all that great content is still available on the site. Check out a couple of NCVS videos, It's Up to YOU! Opening Plenary Session or Here's to YOU! Inspiration Event.

FACEBOOK: You could automatically follow along by just pressing the "Like" button on the Conference Facebook page.  Anyone who "Liked" the page would soon see all the official wall posts showing up in their personal Facebook news feed. You could also post your own ideas, questions or thoughts for everyone else to see on the Conference Facebook Page.

CROWDVINE: This one was new to me. Crowdvine is a an easy way to build community in and around your conference and enables attendee’s to meet easily. The NCVS crowdvine page enabled people to see who else was attending that they might know (or want to know) as well as plan meetups or share other ideas. It was very easy to create your own attendee profile and check out who else was gong to be in NYC with you.

EVENTBRITE: I use this tool for all of my seminars and workshops. I had never considered using it to organize meetups and get-togethers at a conference. Since Eventbrite only charges a small fee when organizers charge participants a fee, it’s absolutely free if your event is free. You just need to make sure everyone can easily find the link to your particular event.

BLOGGING: NCVS was very smart to openly invite bloggers to write posts about their impressions/thoughts throughout the conference. Bloggers were encouraged to not only post on their own sites, but also add a guest post on the NCVS site as well.  Jessica Kirkwood and her team were very careful to offer the HandsOn Blog editorial guidelineshere and the National Conference Blog editorial guidelines are here.

TWITTER: Of course you could follow @NCVS on Twitter. Additionally, follow the conference conversation by searching the #NCVS Twitter hashtagWith multiple sessions happening at the same time over several days, each session was assigned a unique twitter hashtag (click here for an easy primer on twitter hashtags). That way, the hundreds of tweets going out every few minutes could be easily navigated. But if you wanted to follow along in a more general way (which most of us did) you could just use the main conference hashtag -"#NCVS" 

Another cool twitter innovation is the ability to easily and quickly connect with attendees before the conference actually begins. By clicking on the  NCVS Featured Tweeps list we were able to feel like we knew people before even meeting them. How did they build the list? Good question. Organizers simply sent out the invitation to join the NCVS Featured Tweep list - “ Make me a featured tweep @HandsOnNetwork" - easy and it worked well.

A fantastic use of all these tweets was offered by our good friends over at theExtraordinaries (a cutting edge micro-volunteering platform). Now, we can check back anytime and view all the conference tweets organized by session on individual Tweet Notes pages.

FOURSQUARE: I don’t know how many people actually utilized this option, but it was a great reminder that there was another option for finding people at the conference. Attendees were encouraged to "Check-in" using FourSquare and see who else was in the building. 

DELICIOUS: The social bookmarking service, Delicious, was suggested as a good way to store, tag, share and discover links and sites that may shared among attendees online. It’s a great idea, and together, all the bookmarks would provide a great resource during and after the conference. You can check out the list of sites and resources here. Ultimately, it remains as a resource reminding people of the value of the conference and potentially driving attendance for the following year.

It’s also an easy and effective method for listing all the websites and links for partners and presenters at the conference (instead of a bunch of logos at the bottom of your handouts).

FLICKR: Who doesn’t like flipping through pics of people you don’t know and don’t care about (come on, we all do it once in awhile). But offering this to attendees is a fun way to encourage people to share memories, building a stronger bond with the event. And organizers have a ready made resource for photo’s to give next year attendees a sense of the fun and mayhem in store here.

YOUTUBE: Similar to Flickr, conference participants were encouraged to add any videos they shot to the conference YouTube channel

LINKEDIN: The HandsOn Network's LinkedIn group allowed members to have discussions on topics and meet people before, during and after the event. In fact, the group continues to be an important means of creating and encouraging participation in the community around NCVS.

Most importantly, these options worked because the NCVS social media team took the following steps:

  1. Clearly listed the options to participate on social media
  2. Offered simple instructions with live links
  3. Partnered with groups like the Extraordinaries to do more than they could do by themselves
  4. Created the necessary groups and identities for people to easily and quickly join
  5. Participated themselves and encouraged everyone who jumped in
  6. Maintained the platforms and ensured the information and good thinking generated throughout the conference remained after everything was over
  7. Continue to nurture the relationships and connections coming out of the event
  8. Last but not least, they were willing to try new things (even if they might not work).

Any other good social media tools that conferences should be considering using? I’d love to hear about them!

Chris Jarvis & Angela Parker

c: 317-371-4435 |