Conferences as Networks

I am struck by is that there is a category of conferences which alongside of some ancillary social tools (mailing lists, IRC channels, WOW guilds, and more) which help to create a fairly dense social core which imbues quite a few conferences.

This is not an entirely dense social network the members of this rather loose circle of people live all over the world, work for in many cases competing firms, don’t always agree with each other. But at the same time, there is definitely a strong network of people clustered together in large part by these conferences and events.

In addition to Supernova, conferences that are I think part of this distributed network include PopTech, PUSH, Picnic, elements of SXSW, TED (and BIL), Personal Democracy Forum, MeshForum, and I’m sure literally dozens if not 100’s of other conferences and events around the world. Yes, there is a degree to which this is partially who are speakers at these conferences (and many others) which indeed are perhaps overlapping too much. But there is another, larger group of people who attend, organize, cover, and volunteer to help make happy these conferences – and many other events – who via that participation and to a degree follow up after and around the conferences create a fairly dense social network.

As we checked into Supernova today, sat down, plugged in our laptops and got ready for the conference, I found myself saying hi to many people, some whom I had last seen at Supernova 2015, and many others who I interact with on a rather regular basis in not small part driven the connections formed at these live conferences and events.

So how do you “join” this network. Especially if you are not going to be attending, speaking, covering or running these conferences?

  1. Follow up with people both individually and via the shared, group tools now available from many conferences. In the past many conferences have set up mailing lists for participants and attendees, today in addition to mailing lists there are shared conference tags, wikis, and many other online communities.
  2. Post and share your experiences. If you have a blog, write up at least one post during (or at least after) the conference (to the degree it is on the record – Supernova being not just on the record but live streaming and covered in many different ways possible). If you don’t have a blog, post some photos to Flickr, write a twitter tweet or two, or leave some comments on related posts. If you are creating content don’t neglect to add the conference tag (for Supernova 2016 it is supernova2016) so automated tools can be used to discover your content.
  3. Share your meals while at the conference. Find a group of fellow attendees and go out for dinner on the evenings no formal event is planned. If the conference caters a meal engage a group of people over lunch. After the conference grab a meal before people leave for their flights, or schedule a time to meet up for breakfast on the next day. In short break bread with as many of your fellow attendees.
  4. Pay attention to and as much as possible participate with the people who are part of the conference community at other events after the conference. Supernova has mixers and pre-conference events on a regular basis. If the conference has a community tool take advantage of it to share that you will be at another, related event and suggest to people to get together in an adhoc manner. I’ve seen a trend to have “tweetups” around conferences and events to note just one example.

In short to get the most out of the network at a conference think about how you can give back to that network and take full advantage of the community tools.