So you have many exciting conferences ahead in 2013 and in addition to reserving your spots, booking your flights and organizing your schedule, you should be using social media. Social media will enable you to connect with other attendees and kick start your networking, reveal additional meetups and happenings around the conference, and help you create stellar content that delivers results far beyond the conference walls.

My next conference is JUMP New York on January 30. It’s the first U.S. conference on joined-up marketing from Econsultancy, a digital marketing best practice community and publisher, which educates the marketers on everything from web analytics and email marketing, to social media, PR and ecommerce. Our own Jeff Ragovin will be speaking on a panel and in addition to myself, Andrew Gothelf will also be attending.

Whether you’re heading to JUMP, SXSW or any other upcoming conference, having helpful social media tips in your back pocket is as valuable as that conference badge. So I talked to Stefan Tornquist, Vice President, Research (US) for Econsultancy about this topic to get some insights for your next conference.

Why is it important for marketers to attend conferences and be active on social media?

There’s something about being in a group of living human beings that has the potential to leave you energized and inspired in a way that just isn’t possible online. Conferences don’t always accomplish that, but it should be the goal of every organizer to go beyond the how-to’s and best practices to the larger world of ideas that excite attendees.

More practically, conferences are where you meet the people that become employers or employees, sales contacts, press connections, funders and friends. I’ve always found that if I really work to engage with a conference, the return on interaction is enormous. The tough part in our ADHD world is making sure to follow up and take advantage of the opportunities you’re given.

Getting to the role of social in conferences, I’m torn. As a frequent speaker, I guess I want people to be tweeting things they think are worth sharing, but on the other hand, I’d like them engaged enough that they’re thinking, not typing. But attendees have a few reasons to be sharing…informational philanthropy, burnishing their social media presence…proving to the boss they’re listening and engaged. I guess I’d advise that if you’re in the room, pick your moment and tweet original content…people interested in a particular conference related hashtag are already getting plenty of retweets.

Stefan Tornquist

How has social media impacted conferences? Do you have specific results from your experience?

Twitter offers people an incentive to be scattered…to spread their attention thinly across various media. That goes both ways for conferences. Speakers benefit from the spread of their ideas (as long as they’re expressed reasonably well in 140 characters) and the conferences benefit from the buzz. For attendees, there’s immediate information about what’s going on, where they might want to go later, and what the people around them think is important. There are exciting technologies (apps) on the horizon I’m sure that will help people filter, and they are much needed. Consider the amount of noise you had online around SXSW in 2008 compared to this coming event in 2013.

What are some tips you offer to blend offline events with the online conversation?

When I’m designing a talk, I try to make it easy to tweet by collapsing the most easily shared ideas into short statements and then creating “down time” in the talk for people to tweet them. Then I can move on to something that requires a bit more concentration. The easy way to do that is to go through your talk when you’re close to finished and mark the bits you think will really fly…and make sure they’re not next to each other. At its best, social can really inject energy and interaction from the outside world into an event. At its worst it’s a distracting but repetitive heckler in your peripheral vision.
Our marketing and events team in London experimented with a tool called Storystream for our Funnel conference held there in November. This was a great real-time tool that also provides asynchronous value in that it let people focus on the speakers a bit more, knowing that all the tweets and online interaction was being saved and aggregated somewhere for later reading.

What should attendees look forward to most at JUMP NYC this year?

There are so many good topics that I’ll come at this in the context of your other questions. JUMP is perfectly designed to blend the power of personal interactions and moments worth hearing with our desire to spread ideas via social. The sessions are short and intense…the kind you’ll want to pay attention to…and then there’s time between every one…to talk and move, but also to share your thoughts and experiences via social. I’ve seen the way it works in London’s JUMP events, quiet periods of listening followed by waves of social. We have some great speakers lined up and JUMP is run in partnership with trade associations representing the full breadth of the marketing industry, so it’s a can’t miss conference.


Thanks for your time today, Stefan.

JUMP New York is run in partnership with trade associations representing the full breadth of the marketing industry and will feature presentations from top CMOs like Mike Sands, President and CEO of BrightTag, who was recently interviewed on the Econsultancy blog. Register here.
Free Ebook: Social Media for Conferences and Trade Shows