Leadership Conferences, Social Media, and Social Excellence

by Branden Stewart

friendship-textsThis past weekend marked the second weekend in a row that Phired Up staff members attended conferences for undergraduate fraternity and sorority leaders.  Thanks to all of the students who attended our sessions at AFLV Central, NGLA, and SEIFC!

In the coming weeks and months, almost every member of our staff will have the opportunity to connect with students at these conferences by engaging them in socially excellent conversations (AFLV West and SEPC are coming up!).  It is our goal to challenge students to live a life of Social Excellence through being curious, generous, authentic, and vulnerable.

While I was at the AFLV Central conference a couple of weekends ago in St. Louis, a professional sorority woman expressed her frustration to me about some of the students she saw at the conference being less than socially excellent.   She specifically was frustrated by the amount of students she saw on cell phones during educational sessions, and asked me what I thought about it.

Her question sparked a few thoughts.  Initially, I thought that there could be no better way to spread the messages you’re learning at a conference instantly than through using social media! Whipping out your smart phone to send the latest tweet about a topic you just discussed, or to skim Facebook status updates about which session your friends are going to seem like valuable ways to keep updated on what’s happening.  There is, however, a time and a place to use your social media.

Given the fact that there are still plenty of conferences, conventions, and leadership academies just around the corner this year, I thought I’d provide five tips on how to use the power of social media at a conference while remaining socially excellent.

1. Don’t Tweet While Others Are Talking.
This is simple.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in a small session with ten participants, or a giant session with thousands of students.  If you were talking passionately, working to educate and share important knowledge with others only to look down and see half of the people in your audience on their cell phones…how would you feel?  Most of the people you’ll run into presenting at a conference will be seasoned enough not to let this distract them, but remember that you’re there to learn.  Share your knowledge with the world later.

2. Be Polite. Be Thoughtful.
This goes two ways.  If you’re in a session that wasn’t so great, using social media to complain about it may not be the most polite thing to do.  Using the old advice, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is typically a good idea in general when posting on the internet.  Alternatively, I do encourage you to be generous and thoughtful with your praise once you’re finished with a session.  Let the speaker and other conference participants know when you’ve learned or liked something.  You never know, you could be the person to make their day.

3. They Still Make Pens and Paper.
A lot of times, my instant reaction to things I hear that make me laugh or think is to tweet it in the form of a quote.  Don’t forget that while you’re at a conference you should always be carrying around a notebook and a pen to jot down the quotes, ideas, speakers, and thoughts that can help to create motivation and positive changes for you back home.  You don’t need to update your status each time you hear something amazing, but I do encourage you to write it down.

4. Remember: You Represent Your School and Organization.
If you’re on your phone rather than paying attention to what’s happening, surrounded by other people from your school/fraternity/sorority doing the same thing, people are going to notice.  They probably wont say anything.  But they will take a mental note.  Remember that you’re always representing the values of your school and your organization while you’re at a conference.  Be on your best behavior.  This goes for the things you’re posting online, too.

5. Consider Face-to-Face Conversation.
I believe that you can have some pretty powerful and impactful conversations over social media.  The great thing about social media at a conference is that you can see what conversation is happening and jump in no matter where you are.  Instead of carrying on your entire conversation through typing 140 character messages, suggest that you meet up in person.  Conferences provide a rare opportunity to get hundreds of people in the same place at the same time…use this to your advantage to meet new friends and have powerful face-to-face conversations.

You can Tweet Branden Stewart here (and Phired Up here).