Categories: event

RSS - Atom - Subscribe via email

Pre-conference networking tips for the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, sketches, speaking, tips

This is for http://itsc.oetc.org . Thanks to Darren Hudgins for the nudge to make this!

View or add comments

Draft Lotusphere BoF on working with the Connections API

| conference, ibm, lotus, presentation

My birds-of-a-feather session got voted into Lotusphere 2011, so I’m preparing some conversation starters.

What should we add to this? What should we remove? #ls11

View or add comments

Blogging and conference networking tips

Posted: - Modified: | blogging, conference, connecting, tips

I promised to put together tips for networking at conferences. While sketching out my ideas, I realized that my conference experiences have probably been very different from other people’s. I had a blog before I started going to conferences, and it was perfectly natural for me to use that blog to share my conference notes. I’ve also spoken at most conferences I’ve attended, which really makes it easier to connect with other conference attendees. All the other tips I can share (custom nametags, easy-to-spot outfits, business cards, notebooks, etc.) are icing on the cake. If I can get people to make the big change to writing or speaking (or both!), that will do far more for the value they get from conferences than any little tip I can share about where to wear the nametag. (On your upper right, if possible, near your shoulder, so that people can see it when shaking hands; barring that, close to your neck, even if it looks a little weird, so that people can see it in their peripheral vision instead of having to obviously glance down.)

Blogging and speaking are probably the two most intimidating things I can ask people to do in this context. Speaking seems like the harder one. There are only so many slots, and people have such hang-ups around public speaking. But we’ve also terrified most people out of posting on the Internet because of all this fuss about personal branding and the infinite memory of search engines. I’m very annoyed about this, because I think so many “social media experts” have done us all a disservice by telling people they have to present a perfect image.

But this is what I have to work with. People might like a few connecting tips (conference conversation openers: don’t go for the dead-end “what do you do?” that requires creativity or coincidence to get the conversation going; instead, use conversations as a chance to learn about other sessions and other people’s experiences, and create excuses to follow up by promising to share notes or follow up on ideas). How do I get people to the point where they can make more radical changes, such as starting a blog – even if it’s only for conference-related things?

Here is a list of conference-related blog post ideas:

Before the conference:

  • What sessions are you planning to attend? Why? What do you hope to learn? Post titles, session descriptions, speakers, and your thoughts.
  • Who are the speakers? Have they shared any presentations or blog posts related to what you want to learn? Post links and what you’ve learned. This might prompt you to revise your plans.
  • Can you find other attendees? Link to their plans and connect with them beforehand.
  • How can you share your thoughts after the session? Share any plans for post-conference presentations or conference reports.
  • Is there a backchannel for connecting with other conference attendees, like a Twitter hashtag you can search for and use? What are the best ways of discussing what’s going on?

During the conference:

  • What have you learned from the sessions you’ve attended? What were the key points, and what are your next actions? You can do a few bullet points or paragraphs per session, and organize your posts by day. If you have detailed notes, you might post one entry per session. You don’t have to take notes on everything, but write down what inspired you or made you think, what questions you want to explore, and what you want to do based on what you learned.
  • What have you learned from the conversations you’ve been having? What are the other sessions you want to look into later? What experiences have other attendees shared? What actions have you promised for following up?
  • Who else has shared their conference notes? Link to them and share what you’re learning from them.
  • What’s working well for this conference? What could make it even better?

After the conference:

  • Overall, what did you learn from the conference? What were the most important insights and actions you took away?
  • What value did you get from the conference? Was it worth the time and effort you invested into it? If your conference attendance was sponsored by an organization, what value did that organization receive? (This is a good thing to include in your post-conference report so that you can increase your chances of attending future conferences. ;) )
  • What actions are you planning to take based on what you’ve learned?
  • Who else has shared conference-related resources? Link to them and share what you’re learning.
  • How did your post-conference sharing go? Share your consolidated report or your presentation notes.
  • What new sessions would you like to attend at the next conference? What would it take for you to learn and present those sessions yourself?
  • What were the results of the insights and actions you had because of the conference? What new things did you learn when you put them into practice?
  • Now that you’ve acted on what you’ve learned from the conference, what new value has your conference attendance given you and your organization?
  • What are you learning from your ongoing conversations with the people you met at the conference?
  • What worked well for you? How would you make your next conference attendance even more worthwhile?

See, there are tons of things to write about that don’t involve trivial things.

I can’t think of anything that’s a better fit than a blog. Twitter and tumblelogs are a start, but they’re not going to cut it. Too short, too dispersed. Facebook updates are too protected. You want these notes to be picked up by search engines so that you can connect with attendees, speakers, organizers, people from your organization, people who are interested in the topic, and so on. A blog is an excellent way to do this, and it’s easy to start one on a site like WordPress.com.

You might have two sets of notes: a fuller set of notes for personal or internal use, and a set of notes without confidential information that you can share on your blog.

Bonus: If you share your notes through blog posts, you’ve got an instant excuse for following up with anyone you met at the conference. Something like “Hi! Just a quick note to say that it was great to see you at CONFERENCE NAME. In case you find these useful, here are my notes from the conference: LINK.”

And if they like what you’ve written and they want to keep in touch, you don’t have to rely on the fragility of e-mail communications that can stop if one person forgets or doesn’t reply. People can subscribe to your blog and keep up with your future updates, even if the next post is only when you share your plans for attending another conference.

See? Blogging and conferences make perfect sense.

But I still have to figure out how to get people past that instant reaction of “Oh, I could never do that, I’m not a blogger, I’m not a public sort of person, I don’t have the time to do this,” and it’s hard because I’ve never had to get over that hump myself. Yes, there was a point in my life when I wasn’t a blogger, and I’m still not a very extroverted sort of person. But because conferences are a weird combination of energizing and draining for me, and because I can’t bear to waste all that time listening without doing and learning and sharing, and because I hate imposing on conference contacts by trying to build the relationship through personalized e-mails instead of just starting it off with a gift of notes and a low-key way to stay in touch if they want to… I can’t help blogging and sharing.

I’ve promised to put together this collection of tips on connecting at conferences. I’m going to keep trying to figure out how to explain this blogging thing, because I want people to learn a lot from conferences and make great connections. Onward!

View or add comments

Conference tips: planning your attendance

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, tips

Make the most of your conference by planning which sessions to attend.

Think about your objectives. What do you want to learn? What will be useful in the long-term? If your organization is sending you to the conference, it’s a good idea to confirm your priorities, objectives, and session selections with your manager, and to be clear on what you should bring back from the conference.

Look speakers up. You can often get a sense of how interesting a speaker might be with a quick web search. Does the speaker blog? You’ll get a sense of their speaking style and depth. Does the speaker share presentations on sites like Slideshare? You may even find presentations similar to the one you’re planning to attend, which will help you make better decisions about whether you want to attend the session in person.

Consider the alternatives. Do you want to attend a presentation, or can you learn just as effectively from blog posts or articles? Depending on your learning style, you might find yourself fidgeting as a presenter explains something that you could’ve just read. Look for sessions on topics that haven’t been written about yet, or topics where you have plenty of questions. Keep an eye out for sessions that promise plenty of discussion time instead of taking up the entire session with a lecture. You’ll get more from your conference experience if you can ask questions and learn from other people’s questions.

Coordinate with others. Do you know other people who are planning to go to the conference? Coordinate your schedule with others so that you can maximize your coverage by exchanging notes. If your coworker is attending a session on one topic, you can attend a different one.

Identify Plan Bs. Plan alternative things to do or backup sessions to attend just in case a session finishes early, is rescheduled, or is a bad fit for you. (See my tips on the hallway track at conferences.)

Share your agenda. If you have a blog, consider posting your session choices and objectives there, omitting sensitive information as needed. This might lead to conversations with other people who are interested in the conference, other people who are planning to attend, and speakers who can help you figure out if a session is the right fit for you. Speakers might even modify their sessions based on what they read.

View or add comments

Making the most of the conference hallway track

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, tips

The informal conversations you have in conference corridors in between sessions can help you learn a lot more and connect with more people than the planned sessions do. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the hallway track.

  • Before the conference

    Prepare by looking up people’s names and faces. Make a list of people you want to meet at the conference, like the speakers you’re interested in listening to or other participants you want to chat with. Review their names so that you can recognize them when you read people’s nametags. If possible, look up people’s pictures, too, so that you can spot them in a crowd.

    Make time by managing expectations. The gaps between sessions are NOT the time to check your e-mail or join conference calls. Prepare for the conference by setting your coworkers’ expectations. You’ll get the most out of the conference – and you’ll have the most to bring back – if no one expects you to constantly check e-mail or be available for meetings. Block the time off.

    Make time by being ruthless with conference agendas. If you really don’t see any sessions you might be interested in, or if the session you’re in turns out to be a waste of time for you, leave and check the hallway track. If no one’s in the hallway, you can slip into anohter session you were interested in.

    Be easy to find. Plan to make it easy for people to find you so that they can continue interesting conversations with you or introduce you to other people they think you should meet. One of my friends wears a green blazer to conferences, so that he’s easy to find in a crowd. I wear a hat. Make it easy for people to connect.

    Plan to take notes and exchange information. Don’t waste the time you spend talking. Bring a notebook or a PDA that you can use to write quick notes. Bring business cards, too – they’re still the most reliable way to give someone your contact information as a physical reminder to follow up.

    Set up meetings with people you really want to meet. Reconnecting with old colleagues? Really want to talk to a speaker? Don’t leave it up to chance. Find out where people are and arrange to meet them.

  • During the conference

    Give people excuses to talk to you. Make it easy for people to start a conversation with you about a topic of mutual interest. Write keywords on your nametag, or wear a second nametag with keywords on it. Going to a geek conference? Wear a T-shirt related to your project, and people will almost certainly ask you about it.

    Start the conversation. Yes, it can be scary, but the good news is that conferences give you natural conversation starters. Ask people what session they attended and what they learned from it. Ask people which sessions they’re looking forward to and why. Ask people what they’ve liked the most about the conference so far, and what would make it even better. Ask people what actions they’re planning to take based on what they’ve learned. There’s no need to stick to small talk about the weather or what people do.

    Expand the circle. If you want to open a conversation so that other people feel less awkward about joining it, don’t stand directly in front of the person you’re talking to; open things up so that you’re standing in an incomplete circle. See people hovering near the edge of your conversation? Invite them in and make them part of it. Connect the dots. Introduce people to each other, bring out shared interests, and make people feel comfortable.

    Look for homework. Make following up easier for yourself by looking for opportunities to give yourself homework. Find out how you can help the other person. Can you share your conference notes? Can you introduce them to other people? Can you help them with what they’re working on? Do you want to learn more about something they’re doing? Write that down and swap contact information. Now you have a reason for following up.

    Reinforce the connection. Unless you’re at a huge conference, you’ll probably see many of your new acquaintances a few times. Smile and wave to them. Chat with them and compare notes on the sessions people have attended. Introduce them to other people. Reinforce that connection so that following up is easier.

    Take breaks if you need them. Conferences can be overwhelming, particularly for introverts. Don’t be ashamed about taking a quiet break somewhere to recharge so that you can make the most of the rest of the day. I like taking a walk outside. I’ve sometimes napped in conference hallways so that I can be in good shape to give a presentation.

  • After the conference

    Review your notes and do your homework. Congrats! You’ve gotten through your conference. Now do the homework you’ve promised to do and follow up with the people you promised to get in touch with.

View or add comments

Old notes on staffing a virtual conference booth

| conference, connecting, event

It’s fantastic how a blog archive lets me pull up lessons learned from a virtual conference I helped at two years ago. Some of these tips from my internal blog post are platform-specific, but others might be useful.

Staffing the Social Networking booth at the Innovation in Action event. Here are quick tips:

  • Set up text shortcuts. You’ll need to type in a lot of text rapidly. The built-in Text Entries are not available when you’re sending an initial message or inviting someone to a chat, so type in some boilerplate text into Notepad and then copy and paste it. Messages you send from the booth will be marked as from your booth name, so include your name and e-mail address in your message. Advanced tip: use AutoHotkey to create a text macro. Install it from AutoHotkeyInstaller.exe, create a file like shortcuts.ahk (customize this of course), then double-click shortcuts.ahk to make it part of your system. Example shortcuts.ahk:

    ::!hello::Welcome to the IBM social networking booth. I’m Sacha Chua ([email removed]), a consultant who helps organizations figure out what Web 2.0 is, how it fits with their strategy, how to implement it, and how to make the most of it. Please feel free to ask me questions by sending a note or inviting me to chat. What can I help you with?
    ::!tapscott::Hello and welcome to the IBM social networking booth. I’m Sacha Chua ([email removed]), an IBM consultant who helps organizations figure out what Web 2.0 is, how it fits with their strategy, how to implement it, and how to make the most of it. What did you think of Don Tapscott’s keynote? Please feel free to start a chat if you want to talk about it or if you have any questions about social networking.

    After that, you’ll be able to type !hello into anywhere and have it expanded. To update, edit shortcuts.ahk and then double-click it again.

  • Check people’s visitor histories. The visitor history will tell you about any messages sent from or to this booth, if the visitor has been to this booth before, and so on. Great way to make sure you don’t send a message twice.
  • Send people messages and invite them to chat with you. You can initiate only one chat at a time, and you have to wait for the person to accept or reject the invitation before inviting another person. You can send as many messages as you want, though, and you can have as many open chats as you want.
  • Send yourself follow-up requests after conversations. Your goal in each conversation is to find out what people are interested and give yourself an excuse to follow up. After you get that, use the [i] button on the right (your chat partner’s profile) to display the profile, then use the Followup button to send yourself a copy of the person’s visitor history. WARNING: There’s some delay when selecting names from the list, so double-check that you’re sending the right person’s information.
  • Pull in experts. Need help answering a question? Tell the visitor you’re bringing someone in, then click on the expert’s profile, choose Invite to chat, and choose the chat session you want the expert to join.

Non-obvious things:

  • Your name will not be associated with any messages (from or to), so don’t count on being able to quickly see replies from people or find out what you sent someone.
  • The sorting buttons on the lists sort only the displayed entries, not all the entries. Entries will always be arranged chronologically, although in-page sorting may be different. Don’t count on being able to use this to see all the messages sent by visitors. Just leave it on Date.
  • If someone leaves your booth while you’re trying to check their visitor history, their info box disappears.
  • As people enter and leave the booth, odd things happen to the page. Be prepared to have to find people again.
  • Things get much quieter when people are listening to sessions. Eat or rest during those times.
View or add comments

What I learned from The Art of Marketing

Posted: - Modified: | conference, marketing, work

I learned a lot from the Art of Marketing conference even before it started. To take advantage of someone else’s affiliate link discount and the group ticket purchase, I coordinated a group purchase with two friends, saving ourselves $100 each. It was easier than I expected, thanks to the joys of broadcasting on Twitter and receiving money through Interac.

CONTENT

Mitch Joel: New media isn’t like old media. Why are we still using old-media paradigms of broadcasting? Reboot your marketing. Interesting stories/points: Burning the ships, SnapTell, more grandparents than high school students (comments point out logical flaws in the headline, though), 40% sleeping while watching TV, negative review converts more readily to a sale, semantics: negative review can be great, 20% completely new searches on Google every day, Journey and Arnel Pineda

Seth Godin: Be an artist instead of a cog. Solve interesting problems. Risk getting booed off the stage. Invent the next step. Work around your lizard brain. Characteristics of indispensable people: connected, creative, able to handle complexity, good at leading tribes, inspiring, have deep domain knowledge, passionate. Ship. Thrash at the beginning, not the end. People say: we need you to lead us. Work can be a platform to create art.

Sally Hogshead: Factors of fascination: Mystique, power, lust, prestige, alarm, vice, trust. People will spend a lot on things that are fascinating or things that help them become fascinating.

James Othmer: Not about campaigns, it’s about commitments. Persuasion – voice – engagement – immersion. Create a story that invites people in. Learn from movies and entertainment. Pay attention to continuity. Create a story that hangs together.

Max Lenderman: Be compelling, contextual, visceral. Story about skits in rural India, virtual ary, branded spaces, Camp Jeep, Flame (Whopper perfume), Kwik-E mart (7-11), Tide free laundry

Dan Heath: Change: Find the bright spots. Not recipe, but process. Skip true but useless knowledge. Focus on the signs of hope. What’s working right now and how can we do more of it? Direct the rider, motivate the elephant, shape the path. We change behavior by working with the elephant. See – feel – change. Find the feeling. Shape the path: Tweak the environment. Amsterdam urinal spillage story (fly). Most people try to change 5-7 times before they succeed. What makes you think you’ll get it on the first try?

PRESENTATION

Video can be a shortcut for sharing emotional stories.

Slick ad-like animations (soundtrack only, no voice) detract, though. The shift in attention is a jarring.

Some professional speakers read slides, apologize for themselves, turn their backs on the audience, have low-contrast slides, use ineffective fonts, use jargon, get lost without notes… Plenty of opportunities here.

Big difference between people who give lots of presentations (ex: Seth Godin, Dan Heath, Mitch Joel) and people who haven’t given as many.

Vivid language, metaphors, stories, funny pictures = awesome.

Key message and simple framework essential for helping people follow what you’re saying.

Good talks are focused on you, not the speaker.

Well-chosen transitions/animations make a presentation look extra-polished. (Dan Heath – good example.)

Meta

1600 people filled the auditorium. Lots of need for insight.

Choice of topics shows that audience is still mostly struggling with shift to digital.

Advantages of attending conference over reading business books: see what speakers focus on, watch videos illustrating stories, pick up presentation tips.

Got so tempted to dig into some presentations and experiment with their structures. May want to turn that into presentation coaching someday.

I liked Dan Heath’s content the most. I like Dan’s presentation style and Seth’s presentation style about evenly.

Next actions for me: Track down stories they shared; collect interesting stories, videos, and pictures; continue learning and sharing material.

View or add comments