The following is the transcript from a recent interview with Jay Daughtry, author of the ChatterBachs blog. Jay is an association enthusiast and social media strategist that brings connections, innovation, and engagement to the Association world. I was honored to interview him in preparation for my first ever ASAE Annual Conference and Expo next week.
Sarah Lugo: What is your networking secret weapon for ASAE Annual 2013?
Jay Daughtry: Chocolate. Next question? Okay, seriously, I don’t know how much of a “secret” it is, but it’s social media. In my quest to be the most digitally connected man in the association world, I’ve realized just how powerful of a tool (that’s a lot friendlier term than “weapon”, don’t you think?) social media can be. Social media is the way to extend the conversation before, during, and after a conference. Many times people feel like they already know me because we’ve connected on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, ASAE’s Collaborate, etc. They’re more open to meeting in person. It also works in reverse. Meeting someone at an event and then finding and connecting with them on social media platforms is a powerful way to stay in front of and communicate with them. There are two things that I’m amazed at: 1). How many people still talk about phones and email as if they’re the only ways to communicate. and 2). The number of people who use social media, but, in my opinion, use these tools incorrectly.
SL: What are some examples of using social media tools incorrectly?
JD: Always talking about your brand, your message, or your agenda. In other words, talking about yourself is one way to use social media incorrectly. Secondly, simply talking- and not listening – is another way to miss the point of social media. Social media channels should be for listening and engaging. Social media presents a tremendous way to connect more deeply and more authentically with your audience – customers, members, and employees.
SL: I always feel torn about what events to attend because there are so many great overlapping sessions, networking events, award ceremonies, etc. With so many great concurrent events going on how do you manage your time during the conference?
JD: First of all, I’m visiting the conference website almost daily in advance of the ASAE Annual to check the schedule, read session and event descriptions, and plan what I’ll attend. I’ll also download the conference app and customize/personalize my conference schedule that way. I find that it’s best to have 2-3 sessions selected for each time slot. I’ve seen rooms that are overcrowded, sessions that don’t match their descriptions, presentations that are boring, etc. Have a back up plan, and feel the freedom to walk out of a session. Sometimes I switch halfway through, regardless, just so I can see more than one I’m interested in. Leaving a session early doesn’t have to be a vote against a session necessarily. Also, make an effort to attend evening events. They’re really well done and are a great way to network in a more relaxed setting. The host city does an impressive job presenting unique venues. Do not go back to your hotel room before you’ve at least checked them out and met a few people. You’re investing your organization’s money and your time to attend the conference, get the most out of it you can.
SL: What have you seen in years past that are major conference “no-no’s?”
JD: Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time checking email or with your eyes glued to your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Most of that work can wait. The ASAE Annual Conference only happens once a year. It drives me crazy when I see people isolated on their phones during breaks. I know that to a certain extent we all have to do it. But tell yourself, “it’s not going to all fall apart” in the few days you’re gone. Be focused on the moment.
SL: Great point Jay, what would be the ideal way of staying focused on the moment during conference?
JD: There’s a wealth of talent, experience, and insight walking past you in the halls, sitting next to you in a session or asking if a chair at your lunch table is open. Introduce yourself. Talk to people. Make it a goal to meet more people this year than ever before. It’s quite possible that one of these attendees holds the answer to the biggest challenge you face. What if you’re too busy staring at a screen to look up and ask that question and you miss that insight?
SL: But, Jay, you’re digitally connected and seem to be someone who is always online during conferences. What’s the difference?
JD: Here’s the difference, Sarah. When I’m in a session and it’s not appropriate to have a dialogue with my neighbor, it’s entirely appropriate to tweet comments and notes or to ask questions of others who are online. When it’s a break, meal, or social gathering, I’m in the moment, focused on meeting and talking to people around me. Your colleagues know you’re at a conference. So BE at the conference. Most things can wait until you’re back in the office or at least until you’re in your hotel room.
SL: What do you think will be the hot topic or trend to be discussed this year in comparison to years’ past?
JD: “Big Data” seems to be topic most people are interested in. Personally, I want to have discussions with association executives around content marketing and visual social media. I’d like to learn more about their strategies in these areas. In fact, if possible, I will reserve the flash learning room to have my own session on one of those topics. So, look for details on this conference disruption!
SL: If I am going with my colleagues to the ASAE Annual expo hall do you believe in the divide and conquer approach or power in numbers? Why?
JD: The expo hall is open on two days for a total of seven hours. If you’re fortunate enough to have colleagues with you at the conference, I’d spread out – not that you have to be too systematic about it though. Have conversations with vendors. Most are there to help even if you don’t buy from them. I know I like to serve as a resource for attendees to direct them to appropriate vendors for the areas where attendees might have needs. Exhibitors can really be a wealth of information, but many attendees don’t tap into this fully. As you have discussions, remember those booths where you want to introduce a colleague. Bring them back by the selected booths later in the day or the following day.
SL: Jay, on our blog we like to share a few quirky details about our authors and guests, can I ask you a few questions and you tell me what first comes to mind?
SL: Do you have a favorite animal?
JD: The cheetah
SL: What’s your comfort object?
JD: Bouncy ball
SL: Personal vice?
SL: Useless talent?
JD: I can make a kazoo sound with just my mouth.
SL: Unreasonable paranoia?
JD:Maybe not “paranoia”, but a compulsion…When leaving shoes by the door, the right shoe should be on the right side, and the left shoe should be on the left side.
SL: What do you wish more people cared about?
JD:Employment for military veterans
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