Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to evaluate a social media conference

This is the second of two posts on how to find a social media conference and then having found one how to assess its merits. Full disclosure: I am an organizer of a conference at the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology on Sept. 29 called the Social Media and Communication Symposium. To avoid seeming self-serving I will not specifically reference that event here.

You’ve found a couple of social media conferences that look interesting and you’re ready to take your social media strategy to the next level. But how do you decide which conference is right for you AND a good deal?

It comes down to three things:


When considering cost it’s a good idea to add up all of the costs:

The ticket price: This is somewhat obvious and if you have an unlimited conference or training budget may not be a concern, but for most of us …

Other bills: Travel, hotels and meals can add up fast. Is the conference local or nearby? Will it require several nights at a hotel?

Opportunity cost: This is trickier, but you need to know: What business am I not conducting while at a conference? Will what I learn there outweigh any income I lost while away from my business?


As you assess the quality of an event there are several things you should do:

Ask your network: Check with others who have attended the event before. Did they like it or did they love it? Would they drop everything to go again?

Check the footprint: Just how often do the presenters speak at conferences? Get quoted by industry media? Or, how often have they presented in the past 12 months? All of these things will give you a sense of whether the speakers are a big deal or not.

Score the presenters: Using a tool such as Klout will help you find the range of their scores (which measures how influential they are in social media and to some extent how active they are). A recent comparison of two conferences I looked at found one charging $375 per ticket with an average Klout score of 41 and another charging one-tenth of that with an average Klout score of 59. Joe Fernandez, CEO of Klout obviously believes a Klout score is a great starting point for evaluating speakers for a conference, "but I'd encourage you to also check their influential topics on Klout and who they're influenced by. That will give you a more holistic sense of their influence and expertise."


What are you looking to get from the conference? Here are some things that may tip the scales one way or the other:

Networking: Conferences aren’t just about hearing from experts they’re also opportunities to connect with people you may only know via social media or not at all. What will the quality of the audience be at your desired events? How relevant is their background and experience? Ask others who’ve been to conferences organized by the same company for insight on this.

Stepping stones: Do the events you’re looking at fit into where you are right now and where you want to get in social media? It makes no sense to go to a beginners’ conference if you’re well beyond that and vice versa.

Continuing ed.: Will there be follow-up opportunities to learn from the people you hear from at the conference? How likely is it that what you take away from the conference can lead to even more learning? Again, check with others who have attended before. Did the learning and growing continue after the conference or was it “one-and-done?”

So, there you have it: A few ideas to help you assess any social media conference you may be interested in. What do you think? Are there other considerations?

Previous post: Social media conferences: How to find them


  1. I'm planning a move to Milwaukee and also a move into the social media industry. I looked at a as a possible event. While it's certainly not $350 like the example that you gave I'm a little light on cash.

    I really liked your suggestions and will certainly try to dig up some information on this one before I spend my precious loot (I'm quite reluctant to spend that kind of money on my first real social media event). Have you happened to have heard of this one?


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