It’s conference season… again!

Seems like just yesterday you were unpacking from the last one, and yet it’s probably already time to line up flights, lodging, and logistics for the next big event. Conferences are a huge part of any business professional’s aspirations, agenda, and budget. So much goes into pulling off a successful multi-day event, so these are just a few ways your conference will leave attendees planning for next year before your final keynote this time around.

Use a Conference Hashtag

In virtually every social media platform, a hashtag is an anchor for conversation, topics, and resources. By searching for a specific hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or even Google, you can immediately enter a thread of comments by any user of the hashtag and engage in a very targeted conversation.

Your conference hashtag is free to create; all you need is creativity and brevity. Your hashtag should immediately identify your conference and be short enough to quickly tap into a tweet. For instance, if your conference is about CRMs, your hashtag could be #CRMcon17 (topic + shorthand for “conference” + the conference year). Also, although you just saw me use letter case in the hashtag, it won’t matter what case a user goes with when they add your hashtag to their post. That’s another beautiful aspect of hashtags: they really are the perfect user-friendly magnet for any topic.

Really Social Blog | SXSW (image)

Anything that goes on at SXSW is connected by the #SXSW hashtag.

If you’re interested in creating one of those branded emoji hashtags we see on Twitter, that’s a different story and price tag. You’ll need a minimum $1M commitment to get Twitter to help you create your own emoji hashtag.

Share Wifi Options

There’s a reason just about every business where customers may linger posts their wifi password or shares it on receipts. As we traverse each day with our mobile devices, wifi access can make or break our productivity. Naturally, we digital consumers tend to gravitate to spaces where wifi is easily accessible.

Your conference will be a home-away-from-home for at least a day or two for all of your attendees, presenters, and vendors. They bring extra chargers and batteries because they know that they’ll be a digital nomad during your event. Some may bring their own hotspots to ensure their connectivity, but your standard conference attendee will be on the lookout for easy wifi access so they can stay connected with your event while staying productive at the job where they aren’t physically in attendance.

Unfortunately for event organizers, hotels and convention centers see the value of holding widespread wifi close to the chest and only releasing it when they are paid a large fee (sometimes in the five figures for just a few days). And it makes sense, to a degree: providing free wifi at a Starbucks or in a hotel room (where you may have one to 30 people trying to hop on) is a far cry from giving free wifi to over 200 people across several thousand square feet of space.

For your conference, you’ll want to make wifi access one of the first things you address as you negotiate with venues for your event. Once you’ve locked in the contract and have attendees booking their lodging, it’s too late and you could be stuck either paying a larger fee or – worse – having zero wifi access for your event.

Conference attendees, if you’re balking at the ticket price for your favorite conference where you know they provide wifi access so you can stay productive and connected, slow your roll a bit. Good things cost money, and wifi is just one of the many costs involved with putting on a massive event.

Create a Community Group

Women attending Collision 2017 are already connecting & learning about each other.

You’ve got a stellar line-up planned with multiple tracks of content for your conference attendees. But attending sessions, watching panels, and quickening pulses over your rockstar keynote speaker are only one small part of your conference experience.

Networking opportunities at conferences are the ultimate takeaway for attendees. Whether you welcome rookie visitors who wear their wonderstruck-yet-wallflower expression through lunch on the first day or conference veterans who know exactly when and where to get in line for the morning coffee cart, each person hopes to meet or maintain a connection which lasts beyond the unpacking of their suitcase back at home.

Therefore, give your attendees ample networking opportunities before they even get through TSA security by setting up a social media group where they can congregate online. If your group is set up before registration even opens, you can add the link to your confirmation emails so they can immediately take action and build their excitement for the purchase they just made.

Set up a consistent posting schedule for your group and, if you’re short-staffed, enlist a few trusted participants to be group moderators who can keep the energy going and the conversation focused. Your mods can share breaking updates, tips for getting the most out of the conference, insider perspectives, and helpful resources where needed.

And let your attendees shine! Let them make introductions, share why they’re attending, find lodging and event buddies, plan to Uber/Lyft to parties… you get the picture. Your conference will be chock full of excited vibes, and your attendees will be part of a community which carries far beyond your event.

Based on the audience and purpose of your event, you can set up groups in any number of platforms (though I recommend focusing on just one): Facebook, LinkedIn, MeetUp, Slack.

Provide a Paper & Digital Schedule

You’ve got a website home for your conference (if you don’t, let’s chat, because that’s on the 101 level). It’s a fabulous conduit of information, which you can rapidly update and publish, and used effectively can be key to the user experience of your attendees.

(animated gif) reaction to Amazon AWS outage | Really Social Blog

Pretty much how everyone felt on Feb. 28, 2017. #AWSoutage

However, digital is not infallible. Remember when Amazon S3 imploded and half of the internet went down? Suddenly we all found out which of our favorite sites and host servers were on S3 and which weren’t, because for several hours we were halted in our tracks from accessing anything.

You may have the most gorgeous conference agenda imaginable, mobile-ready and responsive on your website, just waiting for a user to click through and be guided to their next session. But when factors like web hosting, battery life, and lack of wifi figure in, your fantastic online schedule may be rendered moot.

Thus it behooves you to have printed agendas at the ready. If that makes you heave a big sigh of resignation, I get it. Printing anything with an uber-short shelf life in this day and age seems incredibly fruitless. However, when it comes down to your sessions being half-full (or less) because the Starbucks across the street was more tantalizing than trying to navigate to your agenda, having some printed schedules posted and available for pick-up makes a ton of sense.

Note: In both print and digital formats, make sure your schedule—simple or complex—is very easy to decipher and find time slots. Particularly for your attendees who are flying solo, they may have to carefully select which session gives them the most value. Being able to compare topics side-by-side for a time slot is a great benefit you can offer through the schedule layout.


What did I miss?

Post your favorite conference user experiences below so we can all watch, learn, and enjoy our conference season!

Also, check out what we can do for you at your next conference appearance.

Con like a boss in 2017!


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