Last year, during my first Social Media Marketing World (SMMW), I met Deb, one of conference’s organizing committee members. I’ll never forget the advice she gave me, advice I’m still grateful for to this day: “Joe,” she said, “believe it or not, the real value in the conference is the people, not the sessions. The session recordings will always be there, but not the people. Make the most of it.”

This will be my second year attending SMMW. Just as Deb helped me through my first conference, I thought I’d share some lessons learned and my own advice on what you can do to make sure you get the most from your time at Social Media Marketing World.

Lesson #1: Relationships > Sessions

Deb’s advice was so powerful. It made me approach SMMW and every other conference I attended in a far more strategic way.

The people are what makes a conference, not the sessions. Think about it. With our busy schedules, it’s hard to believe that thousands of social media marketers take the time to get together in one location each year to share experiences with one another.

SMMW group 1

Get into the mindset of building relationships during the conference and you’ll be amazed at the connections and ideas you walk away with. Oh, and the SMMW does a great job at helping attendees network. Be sure to check out the Networking Plaza. They have it sorted by areas of interest.

They even have a networking team that helps put you in touch with the people you’d most want to meet. Go on a braindate!

Lesson #2: Do Your Homework!

Building on the point of relationships > sessions. Find out who will be attending and who you would like to meet. Do your research on delegates and speakers. Facebook creep them if you must.

Understand who you’d like to talk to and why. There are plenty of ways to do your homework. For starters, check out the speaker list and make a shortlist of speakers you really want to meet. (Pro tip: It’s a lot easier to meet the up-and-comers that will have time for one-on-one chats than the “celebrities.”)

Make sure you follow those speakers on social media and attend their specific sessions. Make a point to walk up to them to introduce yourself. Remember, the point here is not to pitch your company or even get in-depth thoughts on your problems. The goal here is to introduce yourself and see if they would be open to having a conversation after the conference. Just 30 minutes of one-on-one time.

Make sure that you connect with them on LinkedIn after the conference, and remind them about how you met. Reiterate the question you asked them during your conversation to spark their memory. They go through hundreds of handshakes on a given day so be as specific as possible without coming off as creepy.

Delegates attending the session are probably some of the most underrated people at the conference. You can learn so much from networking with delegates. Join the Slack group related to your area: Agencies, FB marketers, Nonprofits, Universities. Make a point to introduce yourself and see if you can set up a time to meet during the conference. I found that texts work best during conferences, as it’s really hard to coordinate via email.

Lesson #3: Recharge

Conferences are exhilarating but draining. Make sure you have enough energy to carry you through the next day.

Pro tip: Pick a spot where you would go to catch up on emails and maybe catch a little snooze so you can be 110% ready for networking and the hundreds of sessions you’ll be attending later.

Pro tip: There are some great hang out areas that the SMMW team will set up. My favorite was the Bean Bag Lounge. Bring a sleep mask if you take recharging seriously!

Speaking of recharging, make sure you pack external chargers as well to cater to all the battery juice your devices go through. You don’t want to be disconnected from social at a social media conference because your devices ran low on battery. Oh, and make sure to bring comfortable shoes. Tennis shoes are perfectly acceptable as part of your SMMW #OOTD!

Lesson #4: Follow up, Follow Up, Follow Up!

I hate to break it to you, but the real work starts at the end of the conference. Now that you have all the knowledge and relationships built out over the course of three days, put it to work.

Synthesize your key learnings from the conference on Google Slides and present it to your coworkers when you get home. I’m sure they’ll be curious about what you’ve learned! This is also the perfect opportunity to share some game-changing ideas or mindset shift that will 10x your business.

You want as much buy-in as possible. What better way than to recap it to your team? The knowledge is of no use if it’s all in your head. Get it out of your head and see what it can do. Follow up on the relationships you’ve built as well. Connect with them on Linkedin and schedule a call to get to know each other better.

Some of these contacts will be your lifelong career friends, so make sure you seize the opportunity. The next time you come to SMMW, it will be so much more powerful.

Lesson #5: Have Fun!

Above all, make sure you have fun! You’re in San Diego, one of the best cities I’ve ever visited! Great weather with a really great vibe. Also, SMMW throws a sick party on an aircraft carrier. I hope that they’ll be doing it again this year. Enjoy the experience and make sure you’re learning as much as possible. Be a sponge.

SMMW group 1

HeyOrca is sponsoring this year’s Social Media Marketing World and we couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity! We are passionate about how social media is shaping the future of marketing, and look forward to another great conference where some of the brightest minds in the industry congregate to share knowledge and talk about the future of social media.

See you in sunny San Diego!

Want to meet up with the orcas on the ground at #SMMW18? Reach out to us at @HeyOrca on Twitter.