21 Social Lessons From 100+ Events

Want to know how to get invited to speak at events, get tweeted, and not come off like a jerk afterwards? I'm sure there's a self-help book here waiting to happen, but in the meantime I've got just the column for you.

After a madcap June filled with conferences, I jotted down over 100 lessons that I learned from speaking at over 100 events the past few years. Many conferences have been about social media, which makes sense given that the only club membership cards I've ever owned have been for Social Media Club and Lego Club (the latter was when I was ten, I swear). Even for the other events, social media has played a noticeable role, especially as I started speaking right around when blogging was catching on.

Many of the lessons I've learned involve social media in particular. If you're speaking at, running, or even attending events down the road, perhaps a few of these will come in handy.

Pitching the event

1) Post a webpage somewhere with your speaking experience and any relevant content. Mitch Joel has great advice on this. Share your link publicly where possible, such as on your LinkedIn or Twitter profiles or on your blog.

2) Never pitch anyone as a guru. Make sure the speaker doesn't use it in his or her Twitter bio, unless it's the Dalai Lama (he avoids the term, so you definitely can).

Before the event

3) Always ask yourself how you'll provide value to the event and its attendees.

4) Check to see if the event's listed on Facebook or LinkedIn (assuming it's a public event) and RSVP. For event organizers, that's always appreciated, and they'll notice.

5) If the public event isn't listed on those sites, or on emerging sites like Plancast or HotPotato that may not be on the planners' radar, post it. Alternatively, let the organizers know of opportunities like those for them to promote their event.

6) Assuming you're active socially somewhere -- LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, forums -- mention in at least one place that you're going.

7) Review Twitter the day before, or even earlier. Get a sense of who attendees are and what they're saying. You can search blogs and other forums, but Twitter's usually where most of the relevant conversation is today.

8) Look for the event's Twitter hashtag and use it when researching and participating in conversations. If the preferred hashtag isn't clear, offer one up, ask the event organizer, or ask attendees on Twitter what they plan on using.

9) Check out speakers on LinkedIn and Facebook, especially if you're on a panel. You shouldn't connect with them in advance unless you really know them, but it's a good ice breaker when you discover you know people in common.

At the event

10) Tweet that you're there. Use the hashtag.

11) Check in on Foursquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, Pegshot or your mobile social service of choice. If the event or venue isn't listed there, create it and say why you're there. Even if this doesn't matter much to you, event organizers love it.

12) When you're speaking, stats and tools always get tweeted. Keep both in your back pocket for when they're relevant.

When using slides

13) If slides are worth sharing, put them up on SlideShare after -- or even right before you go up onstage.

14) Audience members are far more likely to request presentations that include stats or case studies. Top 10 lists and the like (such as this Top 11 Twitter Tools one I did) are also great.

15) Use the custom URL feature of when you're sharing links. Even months after giving it, I can tell you my slides from the PMA in March are at When good links are taken, add in your initials or another mnemonic device.


16) If it's a tweeting crowd, check Twitter for feedback and questions during your session if you're able to multitask.

17) Search for panelists' blogs and Twitter accounts if there's a chance they have them.

18) Consider creating a Twitter List with your panelists' info in advance so others can easily follow them, or use some other vehicle like a blog to promote them.

19) Selectively link up with panelists on social and business sites afterward. On Twitter, it's appropriate and even courteous to follow everyone if you're so inclined, but on other venues such as LinkedIn and Facebook, make sure they're people with whom you've made a genuine connection.

Event organizers

20) If the audience is likely to have at least a few people tweeting, collect Twitter names of speakers, and share those on the screen when speakers go up.

21) Create a tag for the event and get the word out about it to any of the content creators. This comes in handy for Twitter, Flickr, SlideShare, YouTube, blogs and elsewhere. You can then aggregate the content after and share it.

Parting thoughts

The best events are those where I'm constantly learning from people there. I'd love to learn from you, and I'm sure other readers would, too, so post your own lessons and experiences in the comments.

6 comments about "21 Social Lessons From 100+ Events".
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  1. Renee Mcgivern from Spark Plug Consulting, July 14, 2010 at 11:39 a.m.

    Excellent, useful insight and advice. I've planned conferences for years and coached trainers and now have something new to give them so they fill a room and provide value. Thanks.

  2. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., July 14, 2010 at 11:43 a.m.

    Having produced roughly 200 events over the past two years (and spoken at a handful, too), I'm hugely grateful that you compiled these tips. From your mouth to the ears of everyone who creates, attends, speaks at, or sponsors events online or in the physical world.

    In a way, what you've outlined here is variations on a "social contract" required for optimal participation in an attention economy -- i.e., an economy in which many influential actors are always simultaneously promoting, attending, networking around, or adding value to some editorial product that (in the words of a former colleague at InformationWeek) "brings buyers and sellers together."

    Regardless of where you sit in the ecosystem, fulfilling the requirements of this contract enables everyone to do much more with much less (the notion of speakers posting THEIR OWN presentations to SlideShare brought tears of joy to my eyes), helps insure healthy discourse (i.e., many conversations, not just one, over-managed conversation) and promotes the evolution of robust 'coopetition' among the punditry.

    Good job!

  3. Susan Roane from The RoAne Group, July 14, 2010 at 11:59 a.m.

    David's posts are always smart and savvy. As a professional speaker who's spoken to numerous conventions and meetings for over 2 decades, I found David's "lessons" to be so very valuable for today's audience.
    As the author of Face To Face:How To REclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World, I'd suggest that another "social" lesson is to be sociable with audiences and attendees. Don't forget to attend the reception, mix and mingle. It's a great way to build audience engagement before you speak.

  4. Steven Matsumoto from Stigmare, Inc., July 14, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.

    These are all excellent points to consider when using social media for event promotion. As a Board Member of Social Media Breakfast Seattle and organizer of events we have incorporated these into our overall digital footprint strategy. It's always nice to see others are on the same track and I look forward to sharing this post with my followers on Twitter and other social networks.

  5. Evan W from Experience Advertising, Inc., July 14, 2010 at 2:20 p.m.

    Nice work!

  6. Mandy Vavrinak from Crossroads Communications, LLC, July 15, 2010 at 2:29 p.m.

    The concreteness of these tips is particularly helpful for newly-minted event organizers or those shifting into managing the social aspect of any event, in any field. For speakers, my favorite tip here is to review Twitter the day before to get a sense of the personalities and thoughts of those you'll be creating value for. You'll be able to more effectively answer the question "How will I bring value?" after screening the audience.

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