Category Archives: conference

Notes from the Social Recruiting Summit

I love being part of industry conferences outside my field. I learn so much from the sessions and the conversations, and I meet all sorts of amazing people I might not otherwise have come across.

Yesterday, I participated in the first Social Recruiting Summit, where recruiters shared questions, ideas and tips on how to use social media to connect companies and candidates. I gave a presentation on The Awesomest Job Search Ever.

Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) gave the keynote address, demonstrating LinkedIn Recruiter. Listening to the conversations afterwards, I got the feeling that people had hoped to have more exciting news about where Reid saw the industry going in the next five years, or some other insights and information not available on LinkedIn’s website. Note to self: When you keynote a conference, focus on the big picture and give people something special.

The summit had an unconference portion. I like unconferences because they let people bring out fresh perspectives, late-breaking news, and more conversation. I proposed a session for sharing success stories and war stories, which I removed when I saw that other sessions could fulfill that quite nicely. Ryan Caldwell and Dion Lim had proposed separate sessions around social media and ROI. When I saw what Dion had written, I called Ryan over, introduced the two of them, and convinced them to merge their sessions. Ryan said he thought I should be in mergers and acquisitions instead. ;) It became a four-person panel with some interesting points, although I think they were counting on a more experienced audience with success stories and war stories of their own. In the future, providing unconference sessions with whiteboards or easels would be a great idea because the facilitators can then capture and express more complex ideas.

There were lots of other interesting sessions and conversations at the summit. During my presentation on “Awesomest Job Search Ever”, I encountered some difficulties hooking my laptop up to the projector, so I just went slide-free. I told people the story about how I got to know IBM, how IBM got to know me, and how that led to just the right position being created for me. We took almost 40 minutes for questions and answers, I think. I learned a lot and I had tons of fun. Others did too! The key messages that emerged were:

  • Social media allows employers to learn about candidates and candidates to learn about employers to an unprecedented extent, and this can help form strong personal connections.
  • Those connections make it easier for new employees to hit the ground running.
  • Recruiters can be ambassadors who help their companies and candidates learn more about making the most of social media.

Lots of good stuff, but I better get these notes out before they become stale!

Dinner

It was difficult to extract one of our companions for dinner, so I suggested that we all go. There were about 16 of us. Chandra Bodapati took us to a terrific Indian restaurant. (Yay local guides!)

I had a terrific conversation with John Sumser, who opened by saying, “You must have amazing mentors.” He explained his company name (Two Color Hat) by telling me the African teaching tale about a man with a two-color hat who walked down a street and asked people what they saw. He likes bringing together different perspectives. He’s also very interested in the demographic shapes of companies and labour markets.

John gave me tips on storytelling and emotional modulation. He encouraged me to find ways to develop my technical skills in parallel with softer skills like presentation and influence. He suggested checking out things like The Quantified Self, The Technium, Kevin Kelly (kk.org), cybernetics, and other complex things. This reminds of what Michael Nielsen told be about Lion Kimbro, who found that the practice of writing down his every thought made him think much more clearly. Must see if John knows about him.

On the way to the airport

I hitched a ride with Eric Jaquith and Geoff Peterson in a SuperShuttle, which worked out to be a very cost-effective and hassle-free way to get from Embassy Suites to the SFO airport. Along the way, they shared even more insights about recruiting, technology companies, leadership, life, and other good things. I’m really so lucky that people are so generous with their insights!

Debriefing

I arrived at 11:00 at the San Francisco International Airport. Since I had a few hours to spare before my 3:05 flight, I connected to the wireless network and started working. Jennifer Okimoto (enterprise adaptability consultant) sent me an instant message asking me about the summit. She said,

so… I’ve received a request to respond to a media relations request ABOUT SOCIAL RECRUITING and you appear to be the current IBM expert!

Jen had been reading my tweets, and she wanted to pick my brain about emerging trends in social recruiting. I spent 20 minutes braindumping the ideas and stories I’d picked up from the one-day summit. Here are some bits:

  • Applicant tracking systems are starting to incorporate data from social networks so that they can track that someone came in from Twitter, Facebook, or somewhere else.
  • Progressive companies are interested in using social networks to find out who their employees know, so that when candidates come in, they can figure out who knows that person in the company (or who has some affiliation).
  • Social recruiting right now tends to be ad-hoc, based on people’s individual social networks. This is a problem when a recruiter leaves a company. People are looking at using groups on LinkedIn and other services so that they can keep the networks even if individual recruiters leave. Contact relationship managements are useful, too.
  • Everyone’s interested in how to approach and build relationships with passive candidates. Blogs and social networks seem to be a good way to reach out, get people interested in you or following you, and build the relationship from there.
  • Some companies are turning to rich media (video, podcasts, etc) to give the companies or recruiters faces, a personal connection. Recruiters who have public video interviews get more job leads and resumes at job fairs.
  • People are still trying to figure out social media. Many people still think about it like a job board, broadcasting information. Some people are starting to get into it as a conversation: reading, commenting, posting stuff about their company or useful things that might help people, and only posting the occasional job-related update.
  • Mobile is really interesting. The recording for the session on mobile recruiting should be on the socialrecruitingsummit.com site shortly.
  • The economic climate mean that people aren’t hopping about like crazy trying to fill slates, because hiring has slowed down. But companies like Microsoft are starting to bring in new metrics– not just time-to-hire but also how quickly they can put a slate of candidates together when they get a request (which encourages them to develop a pool of interesting people).
  • LinkedIn Recruiter has lots of interesting faceted search features. (I liked how they walked through that scenario from the IBM ad.)
  • Very few people do real metrics. They try all these things, but they don’t know if they work, or how well. There are some companies working on this space.
  • About 20% of the summit participants have a blog. Most of them have commented on a blog.
  • They think community managers and social media marketers are going to be hot positions in a short while.
  • Many of their companies frown on social networks or blogging, but some are taking the opposite tack and trying to get everyone in the company on LinkedIn.
  • Some companies are building employee job ads / referral widgets on Facebook.
  • V Australia (energy drink) set up a site to help Gen Yers find jobs at other companies. They got great ROI in terms of marketing and exposure.
  • You know that Southwest rapper flight attendant video? Turns out he had been working as a ramp agent for 6 months before that, and he was unhappy with his work. He took one of their personal development courses to figure out if his values lined up with his job’s, and realized that being a flight attendant was a much better fit. He gave it a shot and really enjoyed it. A customer captured his rap on video and uploaded it to YouTube after asking. The video went viral, and the guy has made the rounds of the usual talk shows. Good story about people development and about social media.

So that’s the braindump from the conference. I’ve asked an assistant to transcribe my talk, and I’ll post that after I clean it up. =)

Social Recruiting Summit: Awesomest Job Search Ever

UPDATE: Here’s the recording! =)

pre-session notes

This is a placeholder for “Awesomest Job Search Ever”, the talk I’m giving at the Social Recruiting Summit today at the Googleplex. It’ll eventually hold notes from the session, and if we’re lucky, a recording and a transcript as well. =)

I plan to tell the story about how I got to do what I do at IBM. The three points I want to make are:

  • Because the company learned more about me through my blog, they got a great sense of who I was, what I was good at, and what mattered to me.
  • Because I met so many interesting employees through their blogs and social networks, I really wanted to join the company. Relational onboarding was awesome, too.
  • Because we both knew more about each other than in a normal job search, we could create new opportunities.

I want to convince recruiters to take the following actions:

  • Help their companies and candidates learn how to use social media to tell stories and to connect.
  • Help people connect before, during, and after their job search process.
  • Look for ways to create opportunities that go beyond the typical job search.

Please feel free to leave comments with questions or further thoughts. You can also e-mail me at [email protected]. Looking forward to hearing from you!


UPDATE: Susan mentioned that she found one of my presentations. That’s probably this one:

Another thing that you might like:

More presentations on Slideshare

Upcoming Web 2.0 Conferences

Web 2.0 Expo – SF
March 31 to April 3, 2009 (Schedule)
San Francisco, CA
Conference plus workshops: $1745 before March 30, $1945 on site
Conference only: $1445 before March 30, $1645 on site
Workshops only: $845 before March 30, $1045 on site
Expo hall plus: $350 before March 30, $395 on site (includes two sessions, sponsored sessions, and all keynotes)
Expo hall only: $100 before March 30, $100 on site

Mesh Conference
April 7 to 8, 2009 (Schedule)
Registration: CAD 492.50

Enterprise 2.0 Conf
June 22 to 25, 2009 (Schedule)
Boston, MA

Early Rate
Reg Open to 5/22
Standard Rate
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Onsite Rate
6/22-6/25
Full Conference Pass
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Pavilion Pass + Evening in the Cloud
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Web 2.0 Summit
October 20 to 22, 2009
San Francisco, CA
By invitation only


I’ll be moderating a panel on education at Mesh, and probably skipping the other conferences. I’m all for virtual conferences and blog interactions, though!

Also: a whole slew of talks and events!

My session on Totally Rocking Your Development Environment has been accepted for DrupalCon 2009, hooray! Thanks!

This is great! And handy, because I’ve already promised to give an IBM-flavored version of the talk at the first community call for the newly-formed (or -revived, not sure) IBM Drupal community, which means I will have to have it all ready to go by two weeks from now instead of two months.

Two weeks from now is also when I’ll be giving a lecture on Enterprise 2.0 and knowledge management to Dorit Nevo’s MBA class at Schulich.

And I’ve volunteered to help organize or otherwise make these upcoming conferences awesomer: IBM Web 2.0 Summit, DrupalCampTO, Mesh.

And there’s LifeCampTO.

Busy, busy, busy.

Fortunately, talks are so much more fun to prepare when you think of them as learning opportunities. And I’ve volunteered to help conferences out with either things I know how to do well (say hi to people at registration desks, etc.) or that I’m interested in transforming/scaling (abstract submission, voting, schedules) or that I’m interested in learning (selling sponsorship, buying merchandise). And the conferences are a bit further out.

But “slew” is such a good word, because if I’m not careful and if I don’t intentionally slow down as I get into the busy-busy-busy times, then another sense (slew: past tense of slay) may figuratively kick in. That wouldn’t be fun at all.

It’ll all be great fun, though, and I’m sure I’ll learn tons! You’ll hear about all of it here, of course.

So if I’m slow at e-mail, you know why. =)

Braindump of conference networking tips

I enjoyed reading Jeff Widman’s interview about networking tips. It reminded me of my rants about the “you’re just a student” brushoff and how typical schmoozefests are neither fun nor useful.

Unlike Jeff, though, I find conferences to be an awesome way to connect with people, and I do manage to scale up. I’ll scale up even more once I figure out a couple of things. ;)

So I thought I’d braindump what I’ve learned about making the most of conferences. Someday, this will grow up to be a proper blog post. In the meantime, enjoy, and add your own tips!

If you want to scale up, speak, organize, or volunteer

Speaking is _the_ best way to meet lots of people. It’s fantastic if you’re shy like me, because you can skip all the small talk. Heck, people will come up and start the conversation. People will recognize your name from the program. People will e-mail you afterwards asking for copies of the slides or asking questions that didn’t occur to them during the session. You’ll also usually get into conferences for free, hang out with really interesting people during speakers’ dinners, meet great organizers, and have a much better conference experience than practically anyone else.

If you’re interested in a conference, submit a session for it. What you’re interested in will probably be something other people are interested in. Submit a proposal with a catchy title. Show the organizer you know how to communicate – link to your blog, mention your previous speaking experience, maybe even link to a video of you on YouTube. If you’re entertaining and at least a little informative, you’ve got good chances of being selected. If you don’t get accepted, well, no problem! If you do get accepted, you’ll rock the conference so much more.

If public speaking scares you and you don’t want to work on that yet, see if you can help organize the conference. You’ll need to do a lot more running around, but you’ll connect with a lot of people before and after the conference. Every aspect of organizing conferences has lots of rich networking opportunities. Not only that, you’ll also get to hang out with lots of really interesting people during the speakers/organizers’ dinner.

If you can’t commit to organizing the conference, see if you can volunteer to help out during the event. The registration booth is a terrific place to meet everyone and start matching names, faces, and organizational affiliations. If you’re helping with speakers, that’s a great way to chat with them, too.

One time, I wanted to get into mesh conference, but all their student tickets were sold out. I volunteered for the first day. When they asked if anyone wanted to help at the registration desk, my hand was probably the first one in the air. I checked tons of people in, greeting each of them a cheerful good morning, trying to remember as many names and faces as I could. It was _so_ much fun for me to greet people and make sure their conference got off to a great start! After the morning rush, traffic dwindled to a point where I could catch the last part of the keynote. All throughout the afterparty in the evening, people kept coming up to me and complimenting me on what a great job I did at registration. I was surprised to find out that people noticed and valued something like that! (I also got quite a few job offers and half-joking VC offers at the event… ;) )

So try to speak, organize, or volunteer. Your conference experience will be _so_ much better.

Pre-conference homework

Blog about the fact that you’re going. Check out other people’s blogs. Find out the Twitter tag for the conference. Tell your coworkers you’re going, and ask if there are any sessions they’re particularly interested in. Read the program and plan your attendance, making sure you have plenty of time for hallway conversations. Blog about the sessions you’re planning to attend. Look up the speakers. Look up other participants. Look up friends in the same city. There’s plenty you can do before a conference to make the most of your travel and event time.

During the conference

Even if you’re just a regular participant, you can do a lot to make yourself memorable and make it easy for people to connect with you.

Guide the conversation

Don’t let people inflict the “What do you do?” conversation-killer on themselves or other people. Use more engaging questions that take advantage of your shared context, like:

  • What do you think about that session?
  • What else are you looking forward to attending?
  • What’s the best thing you’ve learned at this conference so far?
  • What other conferences do you go to?
  • What kind of session do you wish they had here?

Or ask people about what they’re passionate about, not just what they do. Ask them to tell you a story about a recent accomplishment or challenge. Ask them what one thing would help them be even more successful. Ask them about why they got into their line of work. Keep an ear out for things you can help with or people you can introduce.

If you find yourself in a group conversation in the starting stages, you can really improve the conversation experience by shaping the conversation with questions. Get people talking.

Nametags

If your nametag is on a lanyard, it’ll almost certainly be too low for people to politely read it during the handshake. Shorten the lanyard or pin it close to your right shoulder. If you have a stick-on or pin-on name badge, it goes on your right shoulder, not your left, following the path people’s eyes follow when they shake your hand.

I typically carry my own nametag, which I might wear in addition to the conference-supplied nametag. My nametag makes sure both my first and last name are readable, and includes a tagline. I’ve used variations of “Tech evangelist, storyteller, geek”, or “speaker, writer, storyteller, geek” (for non-technical audiences), and I usually get interesting conversations started around those keywords.

Business cards and homework

Carry business cards, a notebook, and a pen. Women’s blazers often don’t have pockets (grr), but I’ve seen both men and women use the back of their conference badge to hold business cards for quick access. If possible, put your picture on your business card, or have personal cards that include your picture, tagline, and a few suggested things to talk to you about. Putting a list of talking points or topics on the front or back of your business card is a great conversation help, because it makes it easier for your conversation partner to learn more about potentially common interests. As for the picture – we’ve all had those moments of going through stacks of business cards and not remembering who they came from. Make it easy for people to remember you.

Have a blog, and put its address on your card. That makes it easy for people to look you up afterwards, get to know you, and feel that you’re worth talking to.

Create value with your card. I sometimes make custom business cards for an event. For example, at a networking event, I might put a list of my top five networking books on the back of my business card. It’s a nice little thing, and it sometimes gets people talking about you.

Many people won’t have their own business cards, which is why you should have a notebook and a pen. The Moleskine notebooks are great because they have pockets in the back for business cards. Notebooks are also very important because they give you a way to write down stuff about people you talk to, which makes it easy for you to remember why you have someone’s business card. See networking with moleskines for why you should keep your ears open for the opportunity to give yourself homework. THIS IS KEY. If you find out that someone has a problem you can address or needs to meet someone you can introduce them to, you have a good reason to follow up with them. Don’t just collect business cards – that’s like collecting friends on Facebook. ;)

Food and drink

Carry your drink in your left hand, so that your right hand doesn’t get cold and clammy. This is important for handshakes.

Eat very lightly, if at all. It’s hard to talk with your mouth full, and it’s hard to circulate with a plate full of stuff. Sometimes I snack on a granola bar before going to an event. Hanging out near the food or the drinks is still a good idea, though, as most people will go by you at some point. Having some of the food also makes it easier for you to make conversation about it.

Words

“Nice to meet you” is a dangerous phrase, especially if you’re like me and you often forget names or faces. “Nice to see you” is safer because you can use it for people you’ve just met and for people you’ve already met and should remember.

Don’t be afraid to confess that you’ve forgotten people’s names. Ask them again, and make a point of using that name.

If you’re on the receiving end of this–someone has forgotten your name, or they say “Nice to meet you” when you’ve met before–don’t embarrass the other person by pointing out the error or putting them on the spot. If there’s the least bit of hesitation about your name, introduce yourself again, and give a few keywords that may help jog people’s memories. Good manners is about making other people feel at ease.

If you have a networking buddy, conferences are much nicer. They can step in and introduce themselves in order to elicit a name from someone you don’t want to admit you’ve forgotten. If you’re looking out for potential introductions for each other–interesting people your networking buddy might want to meet–you’ll cover more of the conference and have more interesting conversations.

After the conference

Blog about what you learned from the conference. If you can do this during the conference, great! You can tell other people about your blog. People often want to be in more than one session at a time, and your notes can be quite valuable. Blog a post-conference summary, too.

Follow up with people through e-mail or phone calls. It helps to have a good e-mail system that makes it easy to dash a quick note off to everyone saying it was nice to see them, sharing a link to your conference notes, and adding any notes on what you promised to follow up on.

A conference is a fairly big chunk of time, but it’s a great way to catch up with old friends and make new connections. Make the most of it.

Further reading

Here are a few of my favorite networking books with conference-related tips:

Relentless improvement

This is how I think I might scale up even more:

  • I can plan the conferences I’m going to on my calendar, so I don’t end up missing anything interesting (like last time – I totally forgot about the Toronto Tech Week!)
  • I can get better at asking my manager for education budget allotment so that I can go to more conferences, showing that I share a lot of that value through blog posts and conference reports
  • I can get better at following up with people by allocating more post-conference time for follow-ups
  • I can get better at following up with people by scheduling regular follow-ups or setting up some kind of clipping service ;)
  • I can get better at matching names with faces, maybe by taking pictures of people
  • I can learn more so that I can submit more session proposals
  • I can improve my presentation style and record more of my talks so that I have a fantastic “demo reel”
  • I can learn more about organizing conferences – working on that by helping out with #drupalcampto!

Someday, I’ll get to the point where I’m organizing conferences and other events, bringing lots of interesting speakers and attendees together for great conversations, and introducing people all over the show. =)
I’ll also have built a system for making it easier for other people to do pre- and post-conference networking. It’ll be lots of fun. Someday… =)

Keeping things fresh; Analyzing session feedback

One of the best ways to keep yourself enthusiastic and engaged when you’re presenting a topic that you’ve talked about a number of times before is to keep changing it, whether it’s by tweaking the content of your presentation or opening it up for more discussion. For my four GBS Learning Week sessions on “The Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools Every IBM Consultant Should Try” (available on the IBM intranet on Pass It Along), I decided to vary the structure. The first two times I presented it, I added a new tool to the list and consolidated two other items. For the third and fourth times, I presented it as a survey or quiz instead of a straight list of recommendations.

The third and fourth times felt a lot more effective for me because the new structure made it easier for people to reflect on their current practices and see the potential benefits of these new tools and new ways of working. I made sure that the session feedback for the third and fourth sessions were kept separately, so I could look for any differences.

Then it was time to put on my (very small) stats geek hat. The quantitative feedback didn’t show any statistically significant differences, which I didn’t mind because my average satisfaction rating was around 3.5 out of 4 (midway between “satisfied” and “very satisfied”).

How satisfied were you with this session? (4 – very satisfied, satisfied, neutral, dissatisfied – 1)

  1st/2nd 3rd/4th
Mean 3.49 3.73
SD 0.60 0.46
SEM 0.10 0.12
N 39 15

I got practically the same ratings for the question: How relevant was this topic to your current role and/or interest for your career development?

The comments were:

  • Well done, Sacha!
  • Very enthusiastic. Well done!
  • Partly about saving time, partly about filling your day 24/7 with work stuff–what about downtime?
  • Great job, Sacha!
  • So much good stuff presented in such a short period of time! Wish we could have had a little more time to see a short practical demo of each of the 10 tools. Very well presented.
  • Pretty good list of tools.
  • Excellent presentation by Sacha
  • Good session
  • Sacha made this dull topic interesting with practical examples. Thanks.
  • Very informative.
  • Very informative and good info on how to find and use some great tools. Instructor made topics interesting and had a good pace (not too slow)
  • Good delivery, very enthusiastic
  • Enthusiastic presenter, passionate about her subject. Good approach by question and answer.
  • High energy! well done
  • Sacha is very enthusiastic! Great job!!! Super tips!!!
  • Fantastic–Sacha is a very engaging speaker!
  • Super presenter – perfect length

I also changed the follow-up strategy for the third and fourth sessions, promising to e-mail people afterwards instead of just directing them to where they can download the presentation. We’ll see how well that works. I might yet see significant differences in adoption and retention. =)

Speaking of session feedback, I’ve been meaning to post my speech feedback from the Technical Leadership Exchange session I gave on I.B.Millennials: The Net Generation and Those Who Recruit, Hire, Manage, Work With, and Sell to Us.

NSI Rating Scale:

Excellent: 85 – 100
Good: 75 – 84
Fair: 65 – 74
Poor: 55 – 64
Severe Problem: below 55

The value of the content       
Total Responses: 43    NSI Rating: 87.21 (Excellent)   Ranking: 64 of 317
The speaker’s ability to deliver the material       
Total Responses: 42    NSI Rating: 92.86 (Excellent)   Ranking: 47 of 317
Your ability to apply what you learned       
Total Responses: 43    NSI Rating: 70.93 (Fair)   Ranking: 115 of 317
This session will help me achieve my business goals       
Total Responses: 43    NSI Rating: 63.37 (Poor)   Ranking: 164 of 317

Comments were:

  • Good background of case study. Questionable general recommendations may have missed pluses and minuses.
    more statistics, Study references?
    Quite interesting for an older generation and I think more info to get and retain employees should go out to IBMers
    Sacha is a fabulous presenter and handled everything thrown at her wonderfully.
    Very touched.
    Very well spoken, excellent presenter. Great energy.
    Great dynamic speaker, interesting topic. Will check out her  blog I am sure it will be interesting and informative.

I’ve got the “interesting and engaging overview” part down pat, and it would be even more effective if I can directly link it to people’s next actions and business goals. That particular presentation was more about talking about issues and setting the stage for a discussion rather than helping people make immediate changes in terms of recruiting/hiring/managing/collaborating with/selling to Generation Y, though, so that’s understandable. Presentations like “Top 10 Web 2.0 Tools ___ Should Try” are much more focused on next actions, and those seem to be okay.

So what’s the next step from here? On the “building on your strengths” side, I’m working on more visual communication. You can check out my attempts on my Slideshare page. Three of my six public presentations have been featured on Slideshare Presentation of the Day, so I must be on to something here. =) On the “shoring up your weaknesses” side, I’ve been thinking about presentation topics that can lead to immediate next actions. I didn’t feel that “Sowing Seeds: A Technology Evangelist’s Guide to Grassroots Adoption” was as effective as it could’ve been. Reminds me of this:

Zander goes on to say “…if the eyes are not shining you have to ask yourself a question: who am I being that my player’s eyes are not shining?” This goes for our children, students, audience members, and so on. For me that’s the greatest takeaway question: who am I being when I am not seeing a connection in the eyes of others?

“Benjamin Zander: Who are we being?” Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen

Kaizen: relentless improvement. I want to learn how to help people’s eyes shine with possibility.