This year’s 43rd Annual ACUTA conference and exhibition, which focuses on technology and communications in higher education, will be taking place near NEC headquarters here in Dallas, Texas.
Conferences like ACUTA used to be simple. You registered, showed up for the event, went to a few workshops, got some free snacks, had a conversation or two, and went home. It was easy—one or two days of learning, and then back to work.
But social media has changed all of that. The nature of conferences has changed from local affairs to global showcases with interactions between attendees occurring well before and after the event itself takes place.
There are still those attendees though, who are so focused on getting as many in-person interactions out of their workshops, sessions, and conversations as they can, that they forget— or choose not—to utilize social media during the actual show.
This, however, wouldn’t be the best way of going about things. Why? Because social media tools actually empower you to accelerate the networking process, make higher-quality connections, and feel more comfortable in a setting that, for many, can be challenging (i.e. lost luggage, a restless night, can’t find your co-workers etc.).
As local residents and longtime ACUTA attendees, here are our top five social media tips to help you get the most from your ACUTA conference time and money:
1. Join the pre-party.
As social media use continues to be embraced by the public, we see online conversations start well before the conference convenes—usually weeks in advance. The ACUTA event has several social media outlets that you can utilize to follow the interactive discussions taking place before the conference. These tools also will usually allow you to see who will be attending, to set up pre-conference meetings, to find out what the trending/hot topics are, and to judge the overall traction the conference is or is not gaining among your influencers and those you influence.
With tools like Twitter or the official conference app, you can actually “meet” several people in advance of the show.
2. Eavesdrop on the other sessions.
Most of us study the conference agenda well before the show date and select sessions or full tracks that pique our interest. But what happens when the panel starts and you quickly realize the topic or viewpoint is not what you were interested in originally?
Social media gives you the opportunity to eavesdrop on the digital conversations happening in the other session rooms. This gives you the opportunity to discover more energetic exchanges that are equally or more relevant to your business than the one you are attending.
3. Make better contacts.
Social media gives you the opportunity to get to know new contacts before you ever sit down with them. With tools like Twitter and LinkedIn, you can research their backgrounds to find where your common interests are, what conversations they are most active in, and learn a little about them as attendees. Then, when you schedule a time to grab a cup of coffee or talk shop between sessions, the time both of you spend together will be much more productive than it would have been pre-research.
This gives you the opportunity to attend unofficial gatherings of attendees that usually take place at conferences. Many times these can be some of the most satisfying and productive networking events at the show. It also gives you the opportunity to stay in touch (on social media) long after the event, which in turn nurtures more meaningful deals and partnerships.
4. Have fun record-keeping.
Think of social media as taking notes, with the advantage of having dozens or even hundreds of others also taking notes and sharing them with you. This means your travel log is full of robust information that you can take back to other members of your team that didn’t get the opportunity to attend.
Social media also gives you the chance to pick up quotes and statistics from the sessions you don’t have the time to attend, which can help spark further discussions and connections. And finally, attendees can use social media to interact directly with speakers. So you get an additional opportunity to chime in with your point of view, agree or disagree, and have a robust discussion with leading thought leaders in your industry.
5. Discuss after the show.
Social media can actually help you manage your new contacts after the show, should you meet other attendees from whose technology experiences you want to learn more (or vice-versa). You can also use it to keep in touch with vendors whom you’ve met during the show. With so many different ways of keeping engaged—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter—you can easily maintain new contacts virtually, at least until you can get back to your office and follow-up with them more officially.
If you are interested in discussing with us the advancement of higher education communications and collaboration technologies, then you should visit us this year at the show—taking place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas.
Attendees and Speakers who will be Live Tweeting from #AcutaConference14:
If you are following a participant or vendor this year, or would like to learn more about NEC, give us a shout-out in the comments.