@Midwest 2014 Initial Thoughts

Last night wrapped up this year’s @Midwest conference down in Normal, IL. And man do I have a lot to discuss, both as a speaker and attendee. There are a few topic I’m just going to note now that will end up being other posts this week:

First Thoughts

This was another amazing year for the conference and I was so honored to be able to present. What’s always interesting is the different industries and skill levels in SNS (social media). I fear I might have nerded out to hard in my session, but the initial feedback has been so awesome and I cant wait to further expand on questions brought up. It really hit home for a few attendees, so I’m glad I didn’t go too meta.

And seriously, thanks to everyone who attended and gave feedback. While the concept itself is a digital take on an old tradition, I do get that bringing it to a smaller scale (without the staffing and finances of the pop culture examples) can seem hard. I’ll tell everyone here what I discussed in a separate post-session conversation for now and expand upon it more in the upcoming post. One attendee was speaking with me about how her non-profit offers one service, so having different content on different platforms was hard to contemplate.

Here’s the two questions to ask yourself: Just because I’m offering a single service, does that mean I’m truly addressing only one need? Do I feel like I can only speak to one aspect of my business?

Let that settle for a bit and we’ll jump into it more in a few days. Even if transmedia storytelling is an approach you don’t need or want to work on now, I’d still argue there are some aspects worth pursuing.

Why Social Media?

When it comes to technology and how we use it, everyone has their little niche–your world, your language, and your favorite platforms. Each presenter has a different spin on what they enjoyed in terms of digital resources, how they work their content in, and what they do with the feedback loop. Because no matter what works for me, no matter what chunk of pop culture lights a new idea for me–you may have a different source of inspiration. Harry Potter, LOTR, etc. get me sitting down at the laptop or with a pen, jotting down personal ideas streams for hours.

I can’t tell you what your voice is. I can only share the part of your voice that resonates with me.

Social media is a passion of mine. The power of story is a passion of mine. How we choose to tell it and share it is what makes it our own. I can’t tell you all how excited I was to keep hearing the word “story” mentioned. How often in each session a different brand’s successes and/or failures served as a springboard for discussion. No matter how short my conversation/interaction with another attendee was, we added another facet to each other’s social journey.  Isn’t that a beautiful concept?

I’m an observer by nature. While I can talk up a storm with the right subject, I really like just watching people interact in their environment. Have you ever taken a moment to just think about what it means when you are sitting in a room full of people? You’re surrounded by a room full of stories–at least double the number of people in the room. Each person has their life story, their education story, work, social journey, etc. They also have the story of their reactions to everyone else present.

Over two days at this conference, we all had a sampling of content. Some of us articulated that by using the event hashtag #atMW. Others snapped photos for later reference. Some attendees told their story by body language: excitement on their face, confusion and/or contemplation of a subject covered, laughter over a speaker’s comment, etc.

One attendee told me she burned off the information overload by literally talking a walk around the campus and letting her mind regroup. It’s a lot of information, by a variety of sources at different skill levels, and you’re trying to mentally fit your business or brand into it. The questions are running rampant. The connections do not always neatly falling into place. It’s a joyful chaos we are all embracing at different speeds every day.

What can you really get out of a social media conference, though?

When we hear the phrase “social media conference”, our uses for each platform sometimes are the only thought (be that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube,  etc.). Trust me, I get it. You want an easy answer and timeline for how your business can turn this effort into profit as quickly as possible. But when we get together at these events, it’s so much more than that. Or I should say, I’d hope it becomes more than that.

Yes, some are blessed and have that fast traction that sky rockets. Others grow their brand over a longer period. But how are you personally defining traction? How are you personally defining success? We all need an income to survive. Fact. We all want people to advocate for our causes and business. Fact.

And we can and we do–through relationship building. Now it’s just predominately in the digital space. t’s a delicate balance focusing on both the “social” and the “media”. Solidify your ratio and stick to it.

Why @Midwest?

I loved the dynamic of this year’s conference. Being a presenter gave an additional perspective on the workings behind it (which I’ll dig into more in another post). I felt like the interaction was stronger between attendees and speakers this year. The conference isn’t afraid to experiment. They rotate both the speakers and subjects each year, trying to make sure different skill levels are taken into consideration.

Did anyone take a moment to study that awesome NUVI setup that the ISU School of Communication is working on? Deep dive data visualization and analytics. More than that, real-time analytics. This is powerful. This is where you want to move as you get more advanced with SNS use. I’m a data nerd, so the work they are doing makes me so proud.

The other presenters this year were fantastic. I’m not even kissing butt for this one. The sessions met the expectations. You could hear the continued conversations and the feedback as attendees continued into other breakout sessions. Also, the dry humor really kept me engaged. I’m a sucker for dry humor.

@Midwest practices what it preaches

This conference demonstrates what businesses can start doing immediately. Look back at everything done in the time leading up to the event, during the event, and now post event. We received a series of emails and SNS reminders (promotion). The event hashtag was shared in every room and on all materials day-of (push to adoption). Attendees were asked to use it with incentives and staff/volunteers participated themselves (adoption and engagement). Speakers had the ability to share their own SNS handles and websites (collaboration and cross-marketing). The live NUVI display from ISU (immediate feedback via interactive data analytics). We were a part of the social media loop in every sense of the word.

Even if you never stepped foot in a session or had to float between a series of them quickly–you were a part of a campaign. It was authentic and transparent. The platforms were organized so that they covered different aspects of the conference while also giving us the complete @Midwest picture. The staff have further data to support future decisions in speakers and subject matters–well beyond even the surveys that will be rolling in these next few days.

I think it’s pretty clear this conference was another worthwhile event to me. I have a lot more to go into, as I mentioned before. But having a resource like this, having a group of people so willing to do the intensive work of finding content to appeal to the masses, picking a unique group of speakers and making sure there are strong takeaways for a reasonable cost–you can’t ask for more than that.

If you were able to attend this year’s conference, or followed the hashtag–I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

2 thoughts on “@Midwest 2014 Initial Thoughts

  1. Fetesha Downs says:

    Thank you, Mark. It was quite fun speaking with you. Everyone’s worked so hard and it was quite apparent. I had a lot of fun with the session. Definitely a lot more content to cover in future blog posts. Take care!

  2. @Mark_DeK says:

    Great post and conference! Really enjoyed speaking with you at the event and your session! And the ISU NUVI set up is the BOMB! Looking forward to reading more of your posts!


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.