7 Tips for Covering a Conference on Social — And Still Enjoying It

Members of the Digitas Health team work to make social coverage of TEDMED a success.

By Jonah Martinson, Community Strategist

Congratulations — you’re headed to a conference. Whether you’re being sent to work the event or to enjoy it for personal career development, you’re likely being recognized as a rising star within your company.

While it’s an awesome opportunity to cut loose and make new friends, it’s not all fun and games. Attending a conference is exhausting and exciting, but extending the conversation onto social for your colleagues back home is crucial. Consider yourself the liaison between the conference and your bitter work friends locked in their offices enviously scrolling through hashtags and photos. You’re the reporter in the field, and they’re your nightly news audience.

Whether you’re a conference ace or you’re just getting a first taste of the chaos, there are seven things you should keep in mind to make the most of your experience, so take notes:

1. Follow & Engage — Follow the conference’s social media handles and use the correct hashtags. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people attend a conference and use the incorrect handles and hashtag. It drives me crazy. The correct hashtags are likely plastered anywhere and everywhere. Pay attention.

2. Connect — Use social as a way to make connections with other attendees and make an effort to meet up with them in person. Whether you’re socially awkward like me, shy, or just bad at meeting new people, social media offers up the perfect way to meet new people at a conference. Be as active as possible. Follow new users, retweet, reply, direct message, poke, do whatever you can to make new connections.

3. Always Be Charging — This one’s pretty simple. No one likes a dead phone, so don’t be that person. Bring a charger and a portable charger, and make sure you never dip below 10%.

4. Social Friendly Business Cards— This is something that should happen well before attending a conference. Actually, it should happen whether you attend a conference or not. Putting your social media handles on your business cards allows people to connect with you on various fronts. Sure, LinkedIn is a great resource, but if you want to make lasting connections that go beyond the professional facade, open yourself up on Twitter, Instagram, and if you’re feeling brave, Facebook too.

5. Ask & Report — Remember those bitter colleagues back home enviously scrolling through hashtags longing to be in your shoes? Engage with them too! Take some time to ask your remote followers what they’d like to hear about, or questions they want answered, and then report back. This gives you a purpose-driven assignment that makes you the hero.

6. Network, Network, Network — Do I need to say it again? NETWORK! It’s hard to overstate how important this is. No matter which conference you attend, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with some of your industry’s brightest minds. This is your chance to stand out and make connections that will benefit you and your company for years to come. It’s great to socialize in the evening, but take it easy. You don’t want to be “that guy” who got out of hand at happy hour. Remember, be professional, not a professional partier.

7. Recap & Share — Once you return home and unpack your swag bags, take some time to think about what you learned while you were away. What stood out to you? What trends unfolded? Who or what inspired you? What connections did you make? Take those answers and create a walking deck to share with your colleagues. Insider tip: Search the conference’s hashtag on social to see other attendee’s thoughts.

So there you have it, seven tips to make you a socially active ace during your next conference. Remember, it’s possible to have fun and be professional at the same time. Now pack your bags, print your boarding passes, and have a blast.

Jonah Martinson is a Community Strategist and member of Digitas Health’s Social Strategy team, specializing in building online social communities. He most recently spent a week in sunny Palm Springs as part of DH’s TEDMED coverage team.