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This year was my first in-person attendance for Social Media Marketing World. It is *the* largest social media conference in the world, and takes place every spring in San Diego, CA.

attended social media marketing world 2016

I’ve joined in twice before using a virtual ticket, which is a very nice option and well worth the money if you don’t have the time or funds for the live conference.

Why I Chose to Attend SMMW16

I’ve heard and read about SMMW for years now, and 2015’s conference was the first time I had a strong desire to go. 2015 was also the year that I began writing for Social Media Examiner, which is the site and people behind the Social Media Marketing World conference. I felt and still feel quite honored to have written for such an esteemed social media marketing site, and hope to make more time in my future schedule to do so again.

While I was a newbie to SMMW, it wasn’t my first social media conference. I wasn’t really wondering so much about what attending SMMW would be like, but rather, what I was headed there for. With 3,000 attendees present plus the biggest names in the online marketing space speaking, it’s a bit daunting when you consider networking time vs. educational time. Kristin and I have been in business for over 5 years, and have had the awesome chance to network online with several people who I fortunately had the chance to meet at SMMW.

Leading up to the conference, I was thoroughly impressed with all the conference video previews and attendee tips, organized online networking opportunities, and wealth of information being passed along by the SMMW crew to help attendees get as prepared as they can for the conference. You can tell how much work and effort and planning went into establishing great connection opportunities beginning weeks before anyone arrived. The speaker line-up was outstanding, and there were 6 distinct session tracks. The location – while a long haul for me – was beautiful. Plus, the SMMW crew had very cool evening events planned for attendees.

First Year Attendee Thoughts on SMMW

Now that I’m back from the conference, I wanted to reflect a bit on my experience.

  • Networking One of the best parts about SMMW is that it’s designed to have built-in learning time as well as networking time. For example, there were morning networking walks, over an hour of time set aside for networking during morning breaks, lunch time table talks organized by type (for example, I ate at a Small Business table) meant for people to network while eating, plus networking events in the evenings. And if you were in the middle of a great conversation when a new session was starting, never fear because all sessions are recorded and you can listen when you get back home.
  • Sessions I appreciated that there were so many different tracks. I attended along with several others from Social Media Manager School, and I think I sat in at least 1 session with everyone else from SMMS, but also attended sessions on my own. I know that a couple people followed some of the podcasting sessions or Snapchat and live video sessions, whereas I stuck with social media and content marketing sessions. SMMW is not only about Facebook and Twitter; there’s plenty of video, podcasting, blogging, and even business building sessions.
  • Meeting New People I treat this as a separate line item because to really maximize your experience and networking opportunities, you really need to force yourself to ask what others are doing for dinner, sit down at an almost-full lunch table and introduce yourself, and accept dinner and meetup invitations from people you maybe haven’t even connected with online (let alone in-person). For example, Dana Sanchez took the initiative to organize several meal reservations for marketing consultants. I didn’t know Dana ahead of time (nor the other people who were also on the dinner list), but I signed up, ate great good, and had a great time.
  • Food I don’t know about you, but I usually find that conference food is fair at best. So I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the snacks and lunches were. Having water bottles and coffee always on hand was also perfect.
  • What You Need to Make It Great for You Obviously, this is very subjective. My personal suggestions would be as follows:
    • Go ready to learn and choose the sessions YOU want to hear even if they are different than the ones your friends are going to.
    • Take advantage of pre-conference networking, tips, and plans. That’s when I got on Dana’s dinner list.
    • Everyone – from attendees to speakers to staff – is so, so friendly and kind. Talk to anyone you’d like, and don’t hesitate to ask questions of them.
    • Networking doesn’t stop when the sessions stop. Also, don’t worry about missing the evening networking events. We all attended the USS Midway event, but skipped out on the second night’s event, choosing instead to eat dinner and talk the night away.
    • Plan on very little sleep. Honestly, I think I got 4-5 hours a night, tops.
    • Wear comfortable shoes and don’t worry about getting dressed up.
    • Like to write down notes instead of typing? You aren’t alone! I prefer writing notes myself and saw lots and lots of pens and paper.
    • Be prepared to have tons of fun and make a lot of memories.

networking at social media marketing world

A special thank you to Andrea, Christina, Deb, Jason, Bob, James, Erin, Jeff, Ian, Ali, and my newly-discovered twin, Kristin. You guys made this an absolute blast!