I don't know about you, but when all my friends and colleagues are off somewhere and I'm not there I experience serious FOMO (fear of missing out). But then I remind myself not every event will serve my goals and some of my goals can be met participating from a far.
"Attending" a conference from a distance requires a little sleuthing. Luckily, the Internet makes this possible. Most event organizers provide event-specific hashtags that they use and that they encourage attendees and speakers to use. (Unsure how hashtags work or what they are? Take a moment to review our How Does It Work: Hashtags post.)
Once I know the hashtags, I start searching to see who'll be speaking (I also go to the conference website and go through the posted schedule) and attending. I focus on Twitter and on Instagram so that I can get insights from presentations as they're happening and images to give me a feel for the event. I follow everyone who uses the hashtag. This means that during the conference my social media platforms will be filled with news from the event. (To keep my Twitter feed manageable, I add everyone who uses the event-specific hashtag to an event-specific Twitter list that I create. If you're new to Twitter, or curious about how to use lists, take a moment to review our How Does It Work: Twitter post.)
If there are specific sessions or speakers I'm interested in, I plan to be online and monitoring the hashtags during those times. I then actively engage with the attendees who are posting takeaways from the sessions.
And this is the great thing about Twitter (and Instagram): you don't need to personally know someone to thank them for sharing what they're hearing or to ask them for clarification or for context. When I have a specific question for a speaker about their topic, I'll reach out to them on Twitter and ask. If a speaker uses a session-specific hashtag, I make sure to include it when connecting to increase the chances my question will be seen. I won't expect a response during their presentation as many aren't checking social media while speaking. But, most jump on social media immediately after a talk to find out how it was received.
I also connect with attendees I don't personally know. Before engaging, I look at their previous posts to see if their feed is more of a newsreel or if they respond to people.
- For newsreel feeds, I retweet or share the insight that resonates with me.
- For more interactive attendees, I'll ask for clarifications, mix in compliments when a point is well made, and express my gratitude. Based on our conversation, I'll try and point them to third-party content that might be helpful. I don't pepper them with my content unless they ask. My goal is make a connection and potentially develop a long-term relationship, I don't want to come across spammy or salesy.
Another channel worth exploring during a conference when you're not there is Periscope. Periscope is a live video streaming app (most people have the same username on it as they do on Twitter). A conference's WIFI will determine how readily available content will be on Periscope. The cool thing about Periscope is that you can ask questions live in the video stream.
Join the Alt community on Twitter Wednesday morning (tomorrow) June 10th at 9 AM PT/12 PM ET for an hour-long chat about strengthening relationships, connecting with and growing your community when you're not with them in person, and more.
Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Visit this previous post for a few pointers on how to join a Twitter Chat.
Tips for Attending a Conference Remotely
- Follow the event organizer on social media. For Alt Summer, you’ll want to follow @AltSummit on Twitter and Instagram.
- Monitor the event hashtags. For Alt Summer, we’ll primarily be using #AltSummit and occasionally #AltSummer2015. Bookmark these pages to have a running stream of coverage:
- Set up one or more Twitter lists to follow the action. I typically set up two lists. One for all sponsors of the event. One for everyone who is speaking at the conference. (You can get to know our sponsors by scanning our Sponsors page and then reading recent Meet the Sponsors blog posts. To find out who is speaking at Alt Summer, review the schedule or the Speakers page.)
What are your tips for participating in a conference remotely?