As a digital marketer for many years now, I’ve been to plenty of marketing conferences in all shapes and sizes. And out of all of them, I can confidently say Digital Summit ranks among the absolute best when it comes to quality and value.
But Atlanta’s annual Digital Summit is short—just two densely packed days of learning from the hottest industry innovators and networking with some of the country’s most dedicated digital marketers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you don’t have the right conference-going strategy prepared. With three Digital Summits under my belt now, here’s what I’ve learned to make the most of this awesome experience.
Planning Your Schedule
The discussions and sessions at Digital Summit are short, information-dense and fast paced, with little time in between to catch your breath.
To make things more complicated, any given timeslot can have as many as four sessions running simultaneously. You simply won’t get to see them all. One of the most difficult aspects of Digital Summit is choosing which sessions you’ll attend… and which you’ll have to miss.
Check out this year’s Agenda and determine which sessions for each timeslot are of most interest and value to you. Plot out your schedule for both days so you won’t lose any time between sessions.
Divide and Conquer
If you’re lucky enough to be attending with a coworker or friend, great! But resist the urge to attend the conference side by side, networking with the same people and attending the same sessions.
Instead, split up to cover more ground! Collaborate ahead of time to divide up the sessions you both want to hear from most, then meet up at the end of the day or after the conference to compare notes and share any great connections you made.
Using the App
If this year’s conference is like last year, there will be a handy mobile app available to make your days a little easier. This app largely replaces the thick folder or notebook conferences have traditionally handed out to attendees to lug around all day.
I recommend keeping an eye out for the app and downloading it ASAP so you can familiarize yourself with its features. Expect a full schedule, social media posting integration, and more. Get to know it well; it can be a big time saver!
Preparing for Sessions
Once you’ve nailed down which sessions you plan on attending, it’s time to do a little homework. Check the session description and brush up on any topics you might be a little rusty on—you don’t want to be out of the loop when the speakers start talking advanced strategy. You might find these to be a good starting point:
- Your Mental Download for Social at Digital Summit and Beyond
- Everything You Need to Know about SEO at Digital Summit 2015
Also identify any speakers you’ll want to meet personally and chat with. I recommend making social network connections with them ahead of time when possible, and preparing a question or two to ask after their session.
The individual session rooms fill up quick. If there are any you’re especially interested in, make an effort to get there as early as possible and secure a seat up front. Open chairs become scarce fast, and you might get left milling around at the back if you’re not punctual.
Pay close attention once the discussion starts. Speakers have to move the session along quickly to accommodate short timeslots. Take notes if you like.
If you wish to meet any of the speakers personally, approach them immediately after they wrap up the session. Typically a line forms fairly quickly of people looking to network or get answers to questions related to the session—you want to be toward the front of it.
Once it’s your turn, be efficient with your time. Introduce yourself and move on to whatever questions or follow-ups you have. You may want to record the speaker’s response with a phone app (with his/her permission) or have a pen and a pad handy to jot down any critical details. Then thank them for their time, leave your business card and hustle on to the next part of your schedule.
Social Media Activity
Social is a great way to enhance your Digital Summit experience and get additional value out of it. Your first step, if you haven’t already, is to join the Digital Summit LinkedIn Group and follow the conference on Twitter. Don’t forget to try to connect with any session leaders you’re interested in meeting.
While at the Summit, live tweeting is strongly encouraged. Share what you’re learning, who you’re meeting, and how good of a time you’re having and make your friends jealous. Take plenty of photos and add them when appropriate. You’ll usually want to mention the handle @DigitalSummit_ and the hashtag #DSUM15.
Here’s an easy practice opportunity (click to tweet):
After the conference, social is a great way to follow up with the networking connections you made.
Digital Summit truly features some of the brightest minds and most innovative leaders in our industry. There are few other opportunities like this in the world, so make the most of it!
If you’re not a networking pro, there are endless conference networking guides out there you can use to build your confidence and strategy. I like this one, but do some research on your own and practice approaching people beforehand if you get the opportunity.
Digital Summit provides a lot of handy advice on its FAQ, you should definitely check it out before you go. I have just a few things to add:
- Dress practically. Most attendees aim for a middling business-casual look, which is fine. Remember that you’ll be on your feet for many hours scurrying around, so bring appropriate footwear. Also keep in mind that most buildings in Georgia this time of year like to keep their temperature somewhere between “Arctic Tundra” and “Himalayan Peak,” so come prepared for both outdoor humidity and indoor icicles.
- Wifi is plentiful; wall outlets are not. Attend the conference with fully charged batteries and go easy on those energy-hungry apps so you don’t run out of juice. Consider bringing an extra battery if you’ll be using essential electronics.
- Bring a ton of business cards so you can be fast and loose with them. Get your name out there! Don’t hesitate to approach just about anyone and get a conversation started. And never end a discussion without swapping cards.
- There are some great brands on display at the exhibitions; take the time to check them out. This is also a good opportunity to get some cool swag as well as discounts and special offers on services and software.
- Bring some kind of convenient bag, purse, satchel or case to keep all your goodies, notes, business cards, and other supplies like snacks in.
Are you attending this year’s conferences? Let us know; we’d love to meet up, and it’s a great way for you to casually meet an Atlanta marketing recruiter! We’d also love to hear more advice from Digital Summit veterans. Leave your tips in the comments below!