Producing social media content for the BMA conference in Chicago came together quickly and was an incredible learning experience. It was also incredibly rewarding to work with a diverse group of writers & video people to create content for the conference.

Amy Lillard was at my right, tweeting, blogging, and sometimes, being snarky, throughout the general sessions. In her own words, Amy "helps smart, talented people find the words to express their smarty-pants-ness. She specializes in marketing writing for agencies, social media campaigns, technical writing, and medical writing. Her new blog on 'Making It Better,' which highlights how a turn of phrase and well-chosen word can improve any marketing piece, is coming soon; in the meantime, visit Wayfarer Writing for updates, case studies and contact information."

I asked Amy to share her take on learnings from the social media experience at BMA09. She's done so, in addition to using one word that's never appeared in Brainzooming before....enjoy!

What will social media get you?

In my case, a response to a LinkedIn question and three days of blogging and tweeting got me a seat at the sold-out Business Marketing Association 09 conference, lots of cool leads, a chance to wear some new suits, a guest post on Brainzooming, new friends over margaritas, and free breakfast at the Drake Hotel. Not necessarily in that order.

When Gary Slack, Chair of the Business Marketing Association, posted a LinkedIn call for bloggers, tweeters and videographers to attend the Unlearn conference, I jumped at the chance. Through luck (and minimal stalking) I joined Mike Brown and eight other folks on the social media team at the jam-packed conference. After three days of non-stop blogging and tweeting, my brain hurt, my fingers ached, and I needed (several) drinks, but I was exhilarated and educated.

What exactly did I learn from the experience?

  • Think you know how to multi-task? Yeah, I did too. I can listen and take notes with the best of them, and I pride myself as a writer at getting to the meat of what’s being said. But keeping it up over three days? Tweeting main points, responding to questions, retweeting, and taking notes for blog posts, all while paying attention to the nice gentleman/lady and their nifty slides on the podium? Good gravy, my head was mush. I’m lucky I didn’t resort to “Picture's r pretty, man has beard” as a tweet summation.
  • When people know what you’re doing, you’re seen as an expert. We’re talking palm fronds and lots of bowing and scraping. (Wait – that may have been a dream.) Gary Slack was kind enough to call attention to our row of computer junkies at the beginning and in the midst of each day, and as a result attendees visited our section for social media questions and technology support. It led to some great discussions and tutorials.
  • When people don’t know what you’re doing, dirty looks will abound. For most of the conference we were in the main room, and our team was seated in a fixed location. During breakout sessions, however, we weren’t as easily identifiable. As I typed away (on an older Dell that sounds like a typewriter or drum kit), I’d often get the pursed lips, the creased eyebrows, the stern librarian shush, and some eye daggers of death. Next time perhaps I’ll wear a tablet: “I’m not a rude prick. I’m part of the social media team.”
  • DMs are like the new version of passing notes during class. Full disclosure - I stole this line from Mike. But my theft does not diminish the truth of the statement. During one egregiously bad presentation that had slides and examples from 1982 (all B2C, no less), direct messaging on Twitter] allowed some team members to vent and practice their comedy routines - without the chance of a teacher picking up the note mid transit and reading it to the class.
  • Social media and conferences: a match made in geeky heaven. No matter the hard work (or because of it), my experience at the conference was deeply enriched. I was able to increase my understanding of presentations, meet fellow attendees and tweeters in instantly-bonding fashion, generate new leads for my writing business, and expand my social media skills. All good things.

It was a tremendous experience and rockin’ good time. And it was a clear demonstration of the conference theme – Unlearn. Rethink what you know about conference attendance. Reconsider what you think about presenting information and gleaning insight. Unlearn, and embrace social media to do it. - Amy Lillard

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