Leanne Chase, who runs the Career Life Connection Community, blogged about a contrasting experience at the Kennedy/Onrec conference in Chicago, just two weeks earlier. I was also at the Kennedy conference, and there was a remarkable difference in the energy, the content and the engagement. My observations of how social media fueled deeper discussions and connections in New York:
- I made many new friends. There was less awkwardness and more hugs because I'd met many of the participants on Twitter. Some were Facebook friends. Our existing online relationship made it easier to connect in person.
- I was lucky enough to sit near an outlet, so I had juice all day. I fired up Tweetgrid to follow the Twitter discussions, as well as stay connected to other important topics (such as tracking the buzz about my startup). The tweets provided foundation for richer discussion, more interesting questions, a platform for challenging ideas, and links to presos and related material.
- Tweetups, impromptu and planned dinners and coffees, and general merriment was made possible through the use of Twitter, Facebook, text messaging and other social media outlets. Everyone was in the know. This was the case at both conferences. (At the Summit, there was even an underground bake-off.)
- ERE livestreamed much of the Summit, making it possible for viewers to observe and participate from afar. Did this cannibalize conference attendance? No way! ERE shared excellent content with more than 300 viewers, many of whom expressed desire to attend the next summit. Web 2.0 openess at its best.
- In New York, there was less separation between vendors and attendees. Vendors participated fully in the discussions. Old schoolers like me mixed freely with the up-and-comers like Jessica Lee and Afton Funk (who can definitely hold their own and teach us a few things!). Most of the speakers stayed for the entire program to participate in the discussion.
- The informal structure made room for experimentation and spontaneity. John Sumser used Prezi to wow the crowd. The unconference sessions generated lively discussions. If I missed something, I just checked the Twitter stream.
- The conversation continues, long after the conference. The Twitter hashtag #socialrecruiting is a source of fresh material - blog posts, observations, connections and shout-outs, as well as a way to remember the highlights of the actual events.
I'm not saying that the Kennedy Conference didn't offer some of these elements. It was a well-run event, and I'll participate next year, for sure. I believe, however, that conferences will get much better as a result of rethinking the format, the participation, and the communication channels. Just like everything, social media will change the way we do it.
Lastly, I met a jobseeker at the Monster Social Tweetup. She was fabulous. She works in HR/benefits now, but is really interested in recruiting. She's in NYC. Get at me if you'd like to see her resume.