Sunday, February 13, 2011

Social Media at Conferences, Revisited

In September 2009, I wrote this blog entry: Tweeting at Conferences: Etiquette vs. Impact about whether or not it was rude to tweet at conferences.  As someone who was new to social media at the time, my perspective was that when listening to a speaker at a conference, the polite thing to do was to put your handheld device away and give the speaker your full attention. What a difference a year and a half of experience can make. Now my view is that, as long as you are discreet and don't create distractions, it is not only complimentary to the speaker to share messages about what is being presented it is also valuable to do so, in a number of ways.

This week I attended a kick-off meeting in Dallas for my company's most important business unit.  Business leaders, managers and people from key staff functions spent four days together discussing strategy and tactics for 2011.  This was a business meeting not a learning event, so my team members and I mostly had time to experience the conference from a participant's point-of-view.  I had the good fortune to be able to listen, absorb, and share a lot of what I was experiencing through our company microblogging tool: Yammer, which is very similar to Twitter, only access is restricted solely to my company's employees.

Over the course of the four days, I posted messages that included direct quotes from business leaders, summaries of presentations, my thoughts about the implications of some of the things I heard, and general updates about what we were doing, the atmosphere, and the mood in the room. I really had four goals in mind as I was doing this:
  1. Share information with other team members - I manage a remote team that is scattered about the US.  Not all of them were able to attend the conference.  I wanted the team members who weren't able to be there to get as much real-time information as possible about the strategy so they could begin thinking about how it would impact their work.
  2. Exchange thoughts and impressions with other conference goers - Using social media is still relatively new in my company.  There were only a few other people at the conference who were also posting updates on Yammer.  But it was nice to connect with others in the room this way and jointly share our thoughts through discussion threads.
  3. Share information with others in the company - One of the conference goers who is also one of my yammer followers saw my yammer posts and came up to during the conference to say, "What a great idea: actually sharing our strategy with as many people in the company as possible, as early as possible."
  4. Create an archive of notes - I attached the hashtag (#) "Dallas" to all of the messages I posted during the conference so that I - and anyone else who might be interested - could easily retrieve them when needed after the event. 
On all counts I was successful.  And the messaging was not just one-way.  Team members and others who were not at the event responded to my posts with questions and comments that encouraged me to share more information, provide clarifications, and go into more depth on the topics that were of most interest. 

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