Friday, April 7, 2017

Carried Away with SMMW17 (recap)

Straight up 100

Do you like business conferences? Love them even? Or do you, like most people, dread them with every fiber of your being? Don't worry, I'm bananas for them and I'm here to share a recap so you don't have to feel bad that you didn't go. You're welcome ;)

Social Media Examiner came across my radar a few years ago as a resource for social media how-to, and in a sea of eBooks, blog posts and "authorities", they actually know what they are talking about and give quality and up-to-date info. For those reasons, I decided to make the (substantial) investment to attend their massive annual conference (3000 people) in sunny San Diego in March of this year. And [**SPOILER ALERT**] I am quite glad that I did! First, a little about the experience, and then I will share my top 3 takeaways from the event.

From the very start, the experience was grand - and not just because I had a fancy room with a view in the Grand Hyatt! Bad pun, great location.

I used The Force to get a room upgrade!

At check in I was given my credentials. I wasn't expecting a card for a free Starbucks, but clearly someone was advised that I was attending, and it was handed to me by a friendly check-in volunteer. So far, my investment had just paid off! (Well OK about $4 of it...)


Did I mention that the conference is held in San Diego? To be honest, it's difficult to be in a place of such natural glory and only spend time inside, but the fact that the Convention Center is so groovy made up for it a bit. Built in 1987 (which might be the last time I was actually IN San Diego) the center is a total mod spaceship landed on earth. Thank you, Arthur Erickson. 

The groovy SD Convention Center

Wasting no time, I attended several pre-conference workshops on Wednesday (Day 1) on storytelling, using your phone to create decent videos, and PR. It was appropriate to end with PR (darling) as it was time to get ready for a kind of massive party (remember, I said there were 3000 people!) on-board an Aircraft Carrier! I got dressed up and headed over to the USS Midway where the scene was lively, to say the least. Planes! Sailors! 80s music! Tours! Wine! Flight Simulators! Tacos! DONUTS! Glow necklaces! Advice not to ride the flight simulator after drinking the wine! 

I like people, but even I can get overwhelmed, so I found my sweet spot at the party below deck, learning about supplies delivery, ship operations, and how the mess hall worked. Meeting retired military personnel who now conduct tours was a treat, as was the private tour aspect. Any and all of my silly questions (did you get sea-sick? did you actually eat shit-on-a-shingle? did your dad make you join the Navy?) were answered patiently and fully. I didn't take a formal poll, but I can report that there were as many different answers as people I spoke to. The fact that I am familiar with the USS Carl Vinson (which was stationed near my home town, in Alameda, in the 80s), helped me converse as well as understand their answers. I could have stayed all night but soon enough it was time to go, because events began at 6am the next day! 

Party on the USS Midway. With tacos. 

After a party, it was refreshing to see my personal favorite, green juice, at the breakfast buffet. No, were were certainly not in Kansas! 

Breakfast in California ;)

Day 2 started off with a bang, or maybe I should say a prediction, in a great keynote by Social Media Examiner founder, Michael Seltzner, on Social Media in 2017. THIS is exactly why we go to SME for advice, because they work with the very best and newest in the field. This is also why I spend my money to attend this conference, so that I can bring that info / perspective back to my own clients! I was pumped. And each block in the day, and the whole following day, offered a choice of 10 or more different sessions - THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA! I wasn't getting overwhelmed, though, I was going to relax in the sun at lunch time. 

Sunny San Diego

In addition to literally hundreds of classes offered over the next two days, there was a well-stocked bookstore where I bought books from speakers I heard at the event itself (and even had a few signed) as well as a couple that had been on my reading list for some time. 

Book haul

And there was a networking hall where we could meet with vendors, like David here, who started EasyMedia and who gave me a pair of logo glasses, so we could have a Sally Jesse Raphael moment in one of the thousands of selfies I took at the event: 

Meeting vendors / collecting swag

Ummmm did I mention that I adore conferences? I do, and I also live for the haul of conference swag I network my butt off for. With apologies to my daughter, who for her whole life has had to use random corporate logo-gifts as school supplies, I gleefully collected and dragged home plenty of swag. 

Conference swag

In addition to lectures, networking, swag collecting and juicing, I also made it a point to meet the founder of the event, Michael Selzner (see selfie below!) which I am using as a reminder to myself to work towards the level of expertise which will allow ME to one day speak at this conference! 

Selfie with the founder, Michael Stelzner

After an incredible 3 days of lectures, parties and whatnot, we were treated to a closing keynote by someone I know from the fitness world, the adorable (and tiny) Chalene Johnson. I actively do Chalene's PiYo and other fitness videos from BeachBody, and have been inspired to purchase them because of her wildly successful info-mercials (I am actually a huge sucker for info-mercials but that is a story for a whole post in itself!) so I loved hearing her describe the process and formula for creating those very videos. As a wrap, it perfectly capped off a hugely relevant and entertaining conference. Also, she made us dance. 

Closing keynote with Chalene Johnson

Did I mention that I had help from my sweet daughter, Ivy, in selecting my conference garb? Yes, I very carefully styled it up. And then was dismayed to see an overwhelming number of guys in shorts! Oh San Diego, didn't we tell you to Stay Classy


After three days, though, I was TIRED. And that is why this conference ruled: after the close on Friday, I was able to drive the 2 hours to Long Beach for dinner and a bed at my Dad's house! Total bonus, available only at the Super VIP level ;) 

Dinner at Dad's

Now, enough about my experience, what were my three biggest takeaways from the event? 

  1. Technical details change constantly; rely on the right sources to stay up-to-date.
  2. Quality content still rules; storytelling is key. 
  3. New technology is available at every level and should not be ignored by small business!

Thank you to my Dad for having me, to my family for sparing me for 3 days, to my clients for sending me with questions that I was able to answer and more, and to Social Media Marketing World for quite an experience! And I will be back next year (already bought my ticket) for more coffee, selfies and science. And watch this space, because I WILL speak there some day!

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