How many conferences have you attended in the last year that really did not meet your expectations?

Here is an example:

“The speaker touts herself as an expert in Twitter and Blogging”
“The speaker talks about companies that use social media: Ford, Best Buy, Dominoes and Pepsi”
“The speaker finishes by saying social media is great and that you should be working with it”

This example was an actual example of a lunch/learn presentation I attended on Advanced Social Media Techniques

After the session, I decided to check out the speaker’s profile and discovered the following:

  • Twitter – Posted 100 tweets over 4 years
  • Blog Site – Last update was over a year out.

I could not believe I had just wasted a couple of hours listening to someone who was reciting information from the internet and had not had very limited experience working with social media.

It was at this time, that I decided that in the future, I was going to take time and do my own homework for future conferences, presentations and webinars.

Manage your conference experience:

Below is a summary of some of the techniques and places I look with respect to making a decision to attend a conference or not.

Check out the Conference Website – I look at the agenda and in particular the titles of the different keynote sessions and break out sessions. I want to find topics relevant to my work professionally and personally. I also look at the times. Are the speakers talking for 20 minutes, 45 minutes or 2 hours. This will give me an idea if the information will be presented from a high-level view or if it will get into the details.

Also, check out the Twitter hashtag for the conference. Often times, you can get a good idea of the type of people who attend the conference as well as some general comments about the conference first-hand from people who have attended.

Check out the Speakers and their Personal Bios – Conduct your own search on the speakers. Take the information given and see if they have made similar presentations at other conferences.

Personal/Company Website

Most good speakers have their own personal or business websites. Check these items first. If their only site is a social media site, (Huge Red Flag for Me) .

You also might come across a different topic regarding the speaker that you may want to bring up after the speaker is finished with their presentation.

***Also, think about contacting the presenter ahead of time. Speakers like to know that people attending an upcoming session are very interested in the particular topic being presented. Also, Speakers will check out people attending their conference to learn more about their audience***

Social Media

Also, check out their Social Media Profiles carefully, I like YouTube especially for looking at past presentations. Also, check out slideshare and see if they have posted presentation material online. If they are talking about Twitter, their bio should reflect it with respect to their follow/follower counts and the consistency with which they use the platforms. This information speaks volumes and can really help you save your money and time.

Your Takeaway

With rising costs of registration, travel and lodging, it only makes sense to really check out a conference before making the decision to attend or not.

My goal with conferences is the following:

  • Learn new concepts
  • Meet great people
  • Make new friends
  • Listen to people who are smarter than me in a particular area

I use this list of goals irregardless of the speaker’s topic being presented.

Try creating your own pre-conference session by checking out the conference and the speakers. You might come away with some new takeaways with respect to concepts and you might also save yourself some valuable time if you find out the speakers are not living up to your expectations.

Some things to think about.

Picture via benm_at