Privilege Blog

How To Attend An Industry Conference In The Age Of Twitter, Or, The Lavish! Unconference

Shameeka, aka @brokesocialite, Founder of Lavish!

I am home from from the Lavish! conference, fortunate to have escaped the Great Atlanta Blizzard of 2010. Now that the flood of people and information has subsided, I ask myself, “What did it all mean?”

Oma Blaise Ford of Better Homes and Gardens, and a photographer, at Annette Joseph's styling event

As you know, I’ve attended more than my fair share of trade shows and conferences, hawking everything from industrial gases to software services. But that was before Twitter.* Before the Internet. At Lavish!, I learned that some of the tricks for getting the most out of a conference have changed, while others, in the words of Mr. Redding, remain the same. Let us review. But first let us look at some beautiful jewelry.

Mid-century charm bracelet on loan from Beladora

OK. Much better. Let us proceed.

What Are The New Ways To Approach A Conference In The Age Of Online Identity?

Before the conference:

  • Transfer the session schedule to your mobile device calendar
  • Read up on presenters online
  • Follow the conference hashtag to start the process of connecting

At the conference:

  • Tweet your buddies – I’m at [lunch, dinner, breakfast, session where presenter is hilarious, beautiful, nuts] where are you?
  • When you meet someone, get their card AND Twitter handle/blog URL. You no longer have to write notes on business cards unless you have a very significant exchange. The reality of your connections will become clear. As we all said, in parting, see you online.
  • Good: Take a lot of pictures. Better: Take some short videos. Blog them.
The very smart Grace Bonney, of design*sponge

  • Good: Tweet what you are hearing in the sessions. Better: Summarize and add your own analysis of what you are hearing. [I sound like Real Simple, with the Good and Better, someone please stop me]
  • Follow up after the conference by participating in the hashtag chat and blogging a conference recap.
  • If you made a significant connection, email or say hello to that person on Twitter. And I’m not saying Good and Better, but I might be thinking it.
One of the Rue Magazine staff, with platinum locks

The Things We Old-Timers Knew Are Still True

  • Do your homework before the conference. It’s hard to look, listen, and say hello while trying to figure out where you want to go next. You’ll want some spare capacity for smiling.
Lesley Graham and Melissa C. Morris

  • Pay attention to the speaker. Listen for those bits of knowledge that will make the trip worthwhile. For example:

The 8 Privilege[d] Unforgettable Lavish! Takeaways:

  1. Shameeka‘s story of inspiration and perseverance, combined with her example of personal warmth and leadership. She put the conference on by sheer force of will. 2011 should be easier, given this year’s success.
  2. Grace Bonney’s rules of thirds: a) Blog 1/3 meaty posts, 1/3 middling size, and 1/3 short eye candy b) Tweet 1/3 personal, 1/3 business drivers, 1/3 resource sharing. For more go look at her brilliant slides, here.
  3. Julia Reed, creative director of Taigan, made clear the power of narrative. In the new world of what used to be called “editorial” and “advertising,”¬† stories can be woven around products, retaining authorial integrity even while creating commercial value.
  4. Meeting a niche icon, Melissa C. Morris of May December, who turns out to be even more impressive in person.
  5. Putting faces to brands. I cannot help but feel a connection now to the sponsors¬† whose wares I liked, the Foundary, Room & Board, and the Wine Sisterhood, for example. However, if I don’t like the product, meeting the people doesn’t make me want to recommend or buy.
  6. Blayne Beacham’s tips for photographing interiors. Make sure your horizontal and vertical lines are symmetrical, don’t photograph into window light, try to show the room from the perspective of someone seated in a chair, turn on all the lights and turn off your flash.
  7. An attendee in the Beauty Blogger session ran a PR agency, and gave very clear direction on approaching sponsors, if that’s what you want to do. Put a package together, with your statistics, your blog summary, and what you know about who your audience is and how engaged they are. I don’t have her name, but we all signed a list, so I’m expecting it soon.
  8. But most of all, as Monica Barnett from Blueprint for Style, said, “Be clear on what are you blogging FOR.” If you are blogging for money, focus on money. If you are blogging for art, or personal fulfillment, money will have to stand down. That’s OK. Just be clear.
Beladora bracelet with multiple pearl strands and diamond clasp

Rue Party Girrrls at the Rue Magazine/HGTV Party

  • Present yourself as you wish to be seen. Belle de Ville of Beladora loaned me jewelry to wear, with no obligation or requirement. I’m still pinching myself. I could choose whatever I liked from the selection, and say whatever I wanted, or nothing at all. Which meant I got to show up luxurious and honest. What better?
  • Don’t be shy. Share your connections. At the opening night reception, I recognized our keynote speaker, James Andrews, and introduced myself. Turns out he graduated from Palo Alto High school, right next door. He told me about Jane Fonda (apparently going strong and completely up on 2010 technology BTW), I referred him to Geri Brin of Fab Over Fifty.
Julia Reed, Fashion Director of Taigan, and the Inimitable Shameeka
  • Try to remember names and faces. Try hard. You can’t build the beginnings of relationships if you can’t wave to someone across the room, or say, “Good morning, Michelle!” [When in doubt, everyone is probably named Michelle.]
  • Conferences are an endurance sport. If you need protein, bring your own supply. Locate a source of water. Know when to hold ’em, and know when to fold ’em. I made the extra effort to go to a pre-conference session, got up early and heard the keynotes, but come 3:00 on Saturday afternoon I was suddenly seized by the knowledge that if I heard one more human voice I’d descend into the animal kingdom and begin barking, or roaring. I RAN out of the venue. Left my phone behind. Scampered back, scooped up the phone, and fled to the silence of my room for 45 minutes. Emerged capable, once more.
  • Sleep is overrated. Sleep on the airplane, or when you get home.
Wine Thirty Comes Early To Weary Travelers On Airplanes In Snowstorms

Because your own bed is going to feel pretty good. The blogosphere and Twitter await, in the morning.

*A brief Twitter Lexicon, since not everyone is familiar with the environment.
Handle – User name
Tweet – The 140 character messages that users post to the vast Twitter message board
Follow – Signing up to read someone’s tweets. You don’t see anything on Twitter except those you follow and the occasional spam demon.
Hashtag – Adding a search term to every tweet that applies. For Lavish!, for example, the hashtag is #lavishconf.
Client, i.e. TweetDeck, or Hootsuite, etc. If you wonder how one can follow 200, 2000, or 20,000 people, it’s all about lists and columns. Most Twitter clients now allow you to group people who talk to each other into lists. And to have lists of those you read all the time separate from those you check in on occasionally.

47 Responses

  1. #2*** I listened to the videos this morning from Ms. Bonney and loved her presentation of this. You could psychoanalyze for hours why this works, but, most importantly, it does. And its great advice as to why I don’t like to follow folks who just post their blog updates, or just retweet what others are saying. I realize that having a personal connection is, almost, paramount. [without sacrificing personal privacy, of course.]

  2. This post gave me chillbumps. Seriously. It’s beautiful. It’s candid. It’s you. I can not imagine not having you here. Thank you for sharing and engaging. You are simply stunning. Cheers!

  3. It sounds like you had a great time networking and putting yourself out there in person.

    Nice pearl/diamond wrist candy :-)

    I am curious if you feel that your blog will be affected by what you have come away with…

    Home safe,

    take care.

  4. I’m a bit overwhelmed — and inspired — by this post, so I can only imagine what the intensity of the conference must have felt like firsthand. I’ll be curious to know the difference in your blog over the next while.

  5. This was an excellent read! I commend The Broke Socialite for putting together a phenomenal “unconference”. I learned a lot and made some great new friends. Can’t wait for next year!

  6. Great post. I noted the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. Thanks for the tip! I have not blogged much lately and needed a reference point to get going again.

  7. Great information. I’ve been hesitant to figure out these blogger events. You nailed it. Thanks, thanks! I’m saving your words of wisdom and am planning on sucking it up and attending one.

  8. Sometimes I think I am just too old, tired or menopausal for all of this and other times I SO want to be part of the popular crowd. I guess I am still just a 53 year old tween. Great info – thanks.

  9. Hello,

    I am jealous that you get your mitts on Beladora jewels. You are lucky.

    Is that Julia Reed from Vogue? Who’s written all those books about being Southern?

  10. great post.

    i loved reading your tweets last weekend – they were like cliff notes for the conference. you found the best info during the presentations, distilled it down to 140 characters, and shared it with us.

    and you’re delightful in person! so glad we had a chance to connect.

  11. Thank you for taking the pictures! I willcrawl the other bloggers’ websites and see if I find your face on their blogs :-)
    Reading your today’s posting I get the vibe of the conference and know I would not fit into it. The 45 min when you escaped – that’s where I appear and join you for a break! I totally enjoy reading blog, I can not imagine myself listening to the bloggers for hours, he only “quit” button would be to leave the room just like you did. *pfouh* I obviously call very limited capacities my own until I develop a major headache. I also don’t seem to be able – or not wanting – to participate in any kind of group-journeys, my desire of freedom overrules any kind of group activity. Although this means I might probably miss out on Kamchatka. (companies offer group-hikes there).

  12. OMG, that conference looks like it was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.
    Thank you for wearing the Beladora estate jewelry. I couldn’t have had a more elegant model!

  13. #2 is good. Great even. Grace is a smart cookie.

    #8 Is something I couldn’t disagree more with (and something I’m increasingly hearing). I blog because I love writing. I also love making money, and it absolutely does not have to stand down. I don’t like reading bloggers who stop writing for personal fulfillment because they think that’s what they need to do to “build a brand.” Nonsense. Personal fulfillment and money making can go hand in hand if you want them to.

  14. … or as I always tell people, “Even when you’re blogging for money, its never about the money. Or it shouldn’t be.”

  15. A truly fabulous, insightful and zesty recap! I appreciate the mention, but more importantly, I LOVE that you managed to get all of this in just 2 1/2 days!! You are an inspiration!!

  16. I clicked through to the sponsors whose wares you liked, figuring that it couldn’t hurt to look. I had no idea what products I would find, but as it turns out, we have been looking for a new bed for our son’s room (now really a guest room) to replace the bunk beds that he long ago outgrew. It looks like Room & Board has what we have been seeking. So add that to your statistics!

  17. This almost makes me want to blog…..almost ;-)

    Shameeka has the cutest haircut ever! I’m going to start reading her blog immediately.

    Weren’t there any boys there? Was it all girls?

  18. LIz – In all honesty I have been guilty of underestimating Ms. Bonney. No more. Interesting that the proliferation of connection modes just makes us value authenticity more than ever. Not surprising, I suppose. Good point.

    Jan – Yes. You are a very good and original food blogger.

    TBS – Thank you very much. Thank you for having the force of will and imagination to make this happen.

    Hostess – Yes, I am thinking about how my blog will be affected. The primary impact for me, I believe, will be to increase the number of short posts I put out there. That and a sense of liberation from being compelled in competing directions.

    Mater – Overwhelm is exactly right. Those of us who have few filters to input have to manage that carefully. So far I’d say that blogging feels more fun. Now that I have clarified the various forces at play.

    Porsche – Very nice to see you here, and see you again next year:).

  19. Stephanie – I know. It’s almost too much, but I wanted to make sure I could be a real resource for anyone trying to decide whether to attend these kinds of things.

    Sue – I have found that this clarity is helping me too.

    Shelly – You are very welcome.

    Colleen – The thing that was good about this is I never minded the times when I wasn’t hooked in. One can engage at will – just walk up and say hi. It’s a conference, so “popular” is self-defined.

    SSG – My pleasure!

    kristin – I think it’d be a good venue for you. Many kindred souls.

  20. Andrea – And I hope next time I can hear you speak. Thank you for visiting Privilege.

    FF – I know! I was starstruck by my own wrists! Yes, that’s the same Julia Reed. She was fantastic. Love her voice, presence, attitude.

    Melinda – Thank you very much. I am also very happy we got to connect.

    Paula – I am hoping that the pictures from Smilebooth at the Saturday party are posted by next week. I promise to put one up if it’s not too hideous. And Lavish! was a lot, even for someone used to that milieu. In part because it was so full of good info, and in part because I care more about blogging than I did about industrial gases.

    Belle – I continue to thank you.

  21. Meg – It is not impossible to make money at writing you love. But at any given moment, only one aspect can be top priority. Of course, sometimes both gods can be satisfied. But there will be times when you have to choose either way. And for some people, the choice is so often towards unconstrained writing, that they in fact can’t do commerce. For others, the gods war rarely.

    I was really speaking to myself, if I consider. I should have made that clear, but am not always as self-aware as I’d like to be. I also like to make money, and I like to succeed at ventures. So I sometimes kick myself for not pushing further ahead in commerce on the blog. This conference reminded me that there’s no point in kicking myself since my course is determined by my strongest desires. Full steam ahead on commerce, on Privilege, would undermine the reason I’m writing it at all.

    The real issue is clarity. What are you blogging for, most of all? Then you optimize everything else in an important, but still subordinate, role. You are fortunate in that what you want in your heart to communicate is so well-supported, commercially. For others it’s going to be a different story, and their choices more black and white, more constrained.

    1. Here is a quote from Oprah herself in the current O magazine on the subject (fascinating article) that I thought said what I’m trying to say best, “I don’t think of business first; I think about what is right for me, personally, first. Which means that sometimes things work. and sometimes they don’t.”

      By which I mean to say, I don’t read blogs that are about making money. They are not very interesting. I think if you keep the focus on what you want to write about, the money will come. Yes, the wedding stuff can turn a faster buck. BUT. Even still. I have a small readership for a professional wedding blog. I make money because I absolutely focus on writing what I love, and damn the consequences, and as a result I have a really devoted readership (which is much easier to monetize).

      So if only one aspect can be top priority, I think it should always, always be the writer and the readers. Even when you (yes you) start to monetize with content campaigns, what they really care about is how involved your readers are. And that has a direct relationship to how much you’ve focused on writing what you love.

      I think things are getting confusing now because everyone is seeing that there is money to be made in the blog-o-sphere, and there is a great rushing to make that money. But we forget that the people leading the way worked for YEARS for free, only writing what they loved, before they made a dollar. Maggie & Heather have been blogging for more than a decade. They make a good living now, but that’s really new. And even now? Those women write for writings sake, they don’t let commerce rule the day. And that’s why they’ve done well.

      So. I’m saying I think you are doing it absolutely right, but I still disagree with this statement.

  22. Monica – Thank you so much. I get more and more impressed by you every day.

    Buckeroo – You would LOVE Grace. Do you read design*sponge? You could also move your blog towards commerce. I think it’d work, if you wanted to.

    MJ – Thank you! I now understand that giving advice and suggestions is very high on the list of reasons why I blog. So knowing that I have been a resource, had a moment of influence, makes me very happy.

    Patsy – Ha! Yes. Shameeka has a great haircut. And there were almost no boys AT ALL. Maybe one. Or two.

  23. Loved your recap! I so enjoyed reading your tweets while you were there. Glad you were able to have such a wonderful time and simply ADORED the pieces from Beladora!

  24. FYI, I was able to stop by the Room & Board store in NYC to see if the bed looked as good in real life as on the web. It did, and I bought it and nightstands. Please be sure to take full credit for the sale if you ever find yourself in a situation where that would help.

  25. How wonderful that you were able to attend! I need to re-read this again to digest all this! Wishing you all the best this holiday season! Best to you and your blog too.

  26. Oh, goodness. I don’t think I could handle Twitter. Sometimes I can barely handle blogging! Sad, no? I guess that’s part of the reason that I didn’t know about this conference – pretty close to where I am. Dang.

    Wonderful recap, Lisa. You sound happy and the blog looks great. Makes me so glad.


  27. Oh my word, this one is extraordinary. I am going to come back and re-read it to try and digest more, or perhaps even print it out, it’s that good.

    For openers we’ll do something easy – the Beladora estate pieces. Simply stunning, especially the charm bracelet. Sigh.

    And meeting Grace from design*sponge? Along with all the others, many of whom I admire greatly? Too wonderful.

    I’m so glad you went, but am even happier you come back and distill it for all of us in such an amazing fashion.

    Thank you Miss LPC,

  28. Thank you AP for this review AND for the Twitter overview. One thing I took away from the conference was that I NEED to be on Twitter and I’m learning…slowly. It’s almost like another language. Thank you for your advice and being some approachable. Hope to see you here in the South again soon.

  29. ya done good! and this is a great informative piece too, that you wrote, on the powers and inner-workings of blogging! I need to earmark this and read again! what about a blogging bible a la AMidPrivilege?!



  30. I’ve never wanted to attend a blogger conference before (BlogHer? Just… no.) Reading your write-up of Lavish!, though, and having followed your tweets while you were there… I’m sure I would’ve loved this un-conference! Thanks for sharing.

  31. Muffy – Thank you. It was hard to send that stuff back to Beladora!

    MJ – I am going to let them know. I’m chuffed, as my British friends would say.

    pve – Thank you. You’d be a great speaker at an event like this.

    maria – Thank you! And you have small children. I understand not taking up something like Twitter.

    TPP – Thank you. It was a lot to absorb, but wonderful.

    Southern Peach – It was a pleasure to meet you.

  32. Amanda – The only bravery I know is just one foot in front of another.

    QBS – Glad you enjoyed it – I’m still an infant in the world of blogging, but if someone sends me a meme about blogging I’ll play:).

    Maggie – I think you would have felt right at home.

  33. I was looking forward to reading your recap and although I think being involved in all the current technology to market oneself is interesting it just seems like an awful lot of work that fosters more upkeep than enjoyment of expression. I am finding as I get older I find more enjoyment in simplification. It’s purer to me and allows more thought and creativity to flow but I also find conflict in my desire to understand what possibilities are out there made by this technology. I am torn.

    Notice no emoticon… ;) sorry. :)

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