Eighteen months ago I was preparing and packing to speak at the 2009 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. I had just started my new company and was excited to head to New Orleans. And while reviewing the agenda with KJ, I recall clearly a question she posed:
KJ: Are you registered to attend the Tweet Up?
Me: The Tweet What?
KJ: It’s a sponsored party where people on Twitter who attend the conference Meet Up to connect, converse and generally speaking, have a good time.
Me: Really? Sign me up and we can check it out.
Upon first being exposed to Twitter I wasn’t moved. Did I really need to know what my friend from college had for lunch? But being in the brand strategy & communications design space I opted in and caught on quickly. To this day I get asked all the time: Is Twitter a business tool or waste of time? My answer is always the same: It’s both. If expanding and accelerating relationships and listening to and learning from leading experts is part of your business strategy then Twitter can be a powerful tool. I can also tell you from personal experience that incorporating a Tweet Up into your social strategy is a very good idea.
On a rainy night in New Orleans we showed up at my first Tweet Up. A small, private bar in the back of a restaurant. About 100 people from the conference (which had about 8,000 attendees) attended, which wasn’t an overwhelming turn out. But the people who showed up….well, in a word they were special.
They were the early adopters. Producers, creators, writers, entrepreneurs, speakers, thinkers, influencers, practitioners and doers. That generally speaking wanted more. Out of the conference. Out of the work experience. Out of their network. They were opting in and asking questions. Of each other. Of an industry. Perhaps of themselves. A very smart and skilled collective that to me represented a shift. Certainly in how we were going to attend and experience a conference. Definitely in how we could expand and influence our professional network. And for me personally, that night also represented a shift in the way I was going to approach work.
I got to meet new and interesting people like Kris Dunn, Mark Stelzner, Lance Haun, Jessica Lee, Michaeal Long, Laurie Ruettimann, Mary Ellen Slater, Josh Westover, Jennifer McClure, Peter Clayton, Mark Christensen and Michael Vandervort. I didn’t know any of them well then. I know most of them better now. And that makes me better.
I didn’t blog then. I do now. And because I didn’t blog then I didn’t have a keynote about Leadership & Culture called Passion on Purpose. I do now. And those things have accelerated my business. Twitter and specifically that Tweet Up put me in what I commonly refer to as a “state of action”. I wanted to contribute more. And that makes me better.
Listening and learning is perhaps the best opportunity social media affords. It’s also important to know who to listen to and learn from. My suggestion: next time you attend a conference get plugged into the channels. Be curious. Step out of your comfort zone. Make new connections. Have rich, meaningful conversations with people who are contributing to what is next and new. You might be surprised what happens next.
If you are a Meeting Planner or Association Membership Chair there is tremendous opportunity to elevate the event experience and deliver more value to your membership. It isn’t necessarily about the technology and tools. It’s about the trend. That people want more opportunity to contribute and connect in a meaningful way if they invest their time and money.
I still don’t care about what my friends from college had for lunch. I will also be at the next Tweet Up that affords me an opportunity to connect with interesting people doing relevant work. The enclosed video recap is from the recent Twighlight Tweet Up at the SHRM National Leadership Conference. Check it out.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.