Social Media Marketing World is one of the largest, if not the largest, social media marketing conferences in the world. Michael Stelzner and the crew at Social Media Examiner do an amazing job of putting on this mammoth show each year in San Diego. Getting the most out of the show requires some advance preparation. For first-timers (and forgetful repeat attendees), here are a few suggestions to enhance your SMMW experience.
1. Stay hydrated. You’re going to two deserts for the price of one: San Diego, which tends to be a hot, arid climate, and a convention center, which tends to run air conditioning and thus remove even more water from the air. Drink water copiously. As the US Army expression goes, if you don’t have to use the restroom frequently, you haven’t had enough water. Consider bringing or buying a reusable water bottle on site; the convention center has lots of water fountains throughout.
2. Bring COMFORTABLE SHOES. You will be walking a TON. See this map? That’s the San Diego Convention Center. End to end, it’s a third of a mile long. There’s a baseball field next to it for size comparison. While SMMW doesn’t occupy the entire building, it occupies a good amount of it, and the show will be bigger this year than ever, 150,000 square feet more than last year. And that doesn’t take into account the walking you’ll do from your lodging, to various off-site events, etc. Everything is technically walkable, it’s just a lot of walking.
3. Bring a portable power strip and power banks. Outlets aren’t always nearby and you will burn down your phone battery being social. I’m partial to the Anker Powercore 26800. It weighs as much as a small brick but will keep a tablet, laptop, and smartphone charged all day. I recommend carrying a portable power strip like the Anker cube. It’s a friend-maker – bring it out and make friends. If you have a current-edition MacBook, you can plug the USB-C port of your laptop straight into a power bank on the go.
Be aware that some devices may be restricted if you’re traveling from overseas due to various travel bans, so check in advance.
Also, don’t forget your device cables. Bring 2 of each.
4. Bring healthcare preventative measures. As stated above, SMMW attracts upwards of 6,000 physical attendees who eat together, stay in the hotels, party together, shake hands, and share the same air, water, and physical proximity. We’re having a record year for influenza in the United States, and the new coronavirus is an object of concern. However, with a few simple preventative measures, you can remain healthy while at the conference. Bring hand sanitizer packs, wash your hands frequently, consider the use of reusable, washable cotton gloves, and consider purchasing an NIOSH-approved N99 face mask, especially if you’re arriving by airplane or other form of mass transit. Consult your physician/qualified medical practitioner about taking a multivitamin and/or other immune-boosting supplements.
5. Do your homework. Check out the area on Google Maps or Google Earth before you arrive so that you know the lay of the land and what looks good.
6. Arrive with a BURNING question that you ask everyone you meet. What one question MUST you get answered in order for the conference to be worth it? If you don’t have a burning question, you’ll enjoy the show but you won’t get the most out of it.
7. Plan your sessions in advance. Got that burning question handy? You’ll find session planning on the official agenda much easier. Use the event planner to start and be sure to add key sessions to your calendar using the handy add to calendar feature. There’s of course a mobile app as well – be sure to install it!
8. Party responsibly. If we speakers are doing our jobs right, your brains should really hurt by the end of the event. You want to get the most out of the event, so pace yourself when it comes to entertainment options. That business-changing insight you’ve got a burning question about may happen on the last day of the event, and you want to be sober enough and awake enough to catch it.
9. Bring earplugs. I always travel with ballistic earplugs. They’re great for reducing that screaming baby on the airplane to a dull roar, and priceless for major events like SMMW. Loud convention centers and concerts and parties are awesome… for a short while. Enough loud noise will tire you out. Bring a bottle of earplugs and you will end up much less fatigued. If you plan to attend any of the major parties or go out to eat at the local restaurants, you’ll want earplugs in your kit.
10. Bring business cards. Lots of business cards. SMMW will host upwards of 6,000 physical attendees this year – the largest year yet.
11. Bring space. As in, pack lightly so you have room for all the fun stuff the various exhibitors have to offer. The people at the office or at home love a good souvenir.
12. Bring a day pack/bag. There will be times you won’t want to lug around heavy luggage or a full laptop case. A small messenger bag will fit the bill perfectly. I’m personally a fan of the Osprey line, but any small bag or pack will do.
13. Participate in pre-show activities. Social Media Marketing World offers great pre-event activities like Facebook groups and forums. I’m moderating the Analytics chat, which gives people a chance to meet, ask questions, and discuss my favorite topic well in advance of the show. By the time we all arrive in San Diego, we’ll have our tribe.
14. Commit to getting to know one person in depth. There are bountiful networking opportunities for casual interactions, but some of the best interactions occur over a meal or at a break. Commit to finding one person you don’t know, sitting down with them, and listening carefully to what they have to share. You might be surprised how one or two strong connections from a conference create massive change later in your life.
See you at Social Media Marketing World! Haven’t bought tickets? Get them here.
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Disclosure: All links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. I earn a small but non-zero fee if you buy something. The Social Media Marketing World link is also an affiliate link. This post was originally written in 2016 and has been updated annually. The most recent additions for 2020 include the influenza update, coronavirus update, and the in depth recommendation.
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