This year you will not get a folder filled with schedules, bios, and panel descriptions. Instead, organizers chose the eco-friendly option and made a mobile app that will contain your personal schedule, the conference schedule, and all the information you need to attend, post, share, and access the content and excitement of the 4th annual Dance/USA conference. This app will be free for all conference attendees and is available for iPhone, Blackberry, and Android. In harmony with the fact that this conference is set up campus-style, utilizing three different locations to house the events, this app will travel in the palm of your hand and integrate information with utility.
Leading up to the conference
Prep your tech–take this opportunity to make sure you have everything in order on you phone and lap top. This is a great opportunity to update you mobile apps, brush up on Twitter protocol and etiquette, try out a new social media management system, and get your Facebook, Google+ Circles, and Twitter lists in order. Don’t forget to download a QR code reader to your phone and test it out. I am told there will be QR codes in play this year. Do this now. If last year you spent a good amount of time accepting friend requests, following people on Twitter, and trying to show up physically and online to the conference, this is your window to approach this conference more prepared. Remember technology is simply a tool. By attending a conference, physically or remotely, you are agreeing to show up and make connections.
Plan ahead and test all of your tech. Do not wait until you land in San Francisco to try the app, test out your Twitter skills, or implement a social media management system.
Tips and tricks
1. Set up lists on Twitter that you feel will be useful at the conference. Perhaps these are grouped by specialty: large, mid-sized, small companies, consultants, and administrators. Or maybe by topic: ballet, technology, contemporary, mix-media, and dance writers. Or perhaps by region: northeast, southeast, mid-west, etc. make sure you include lists of interest groups outside of the conference and dance world because this is how we grow–audiences, interest, and knowledge. Include people in your lists who are dance lovers, but work in business, government, policy, healthcare, and loop them into the conversation via Twitter when something strikes you that you feel they will appreciate.
2. Follow the Dance/USA hashtag: #DanceUSAconf. Do this now–and start tweeting using this hash before the conference. Check the thread this hashtag represents in order to listen to what people are saying and sharing. Chime in when you have something to echo or add–this ‘addition’ could be an opposing view, just keep it respectful, please.
3. To # or not to # – some simple tips:
Do use the #DanceUSAconf (or how to make friends)
– when sharing useful information learned, overheard, gleaned at the conference
– when replying publicly to colleagues and other attendees about the conference, the field, or other relevant information shared by others
Do not use the #DanceUSAconf (or how to loose friends)
– when having a twitter chat not meant for the entire conference to hear
– when making snarky, nonconstructive comments about the conference and / or a participant
4. Retweet things that you find helpful or interesting and add your 2 cents, if you have something to say.
Managing your Social Self
Take a moment now and check in with your relationship to social media and technology. There are no hard and fast rules here. If you are completely overwhelmed by the idea of live-tweeting–meaning sitting in a panel and simultaneously listening, taking notes, and tweeting–then formulate a different plan. Perhaps carve out reflection times during your day when you might send out select ah-ha moments via social media. You might even schedule these using a Social Media Management system.
The one caution I would make when considering this approach is that social media is all about the present moment. So make sure you acknowledge this and indicate that you are “sharing a reflection” from a panel or that you’ve “been thinking about this breakout session and…”.
If your Facebook and Twitter accounts are linked, I would highly recommend unlinking them, at least for the conference. Hopefully you will be doing A LOT of Tweeting during the conference–keep your Facebook clean and only share highlights, articles, happenings, photos, and musings there, don’t over-load your page–particularly your organization’s page–with twitter-chatter.
A quick note about Facebook
During the conference, use Facebook to highlight and solidify relationships. Do not merely chat on your page–save that for the hotel lounge, direct messages on Twitter, and texting. Make sure you are tagging people, when appropriate, on Facebook and tagging Dance/USA. Lastly, like and comment often. The actions you take on Facebook help to solidify and bridge your online and off line relationships. It’s a way to share more of yourself and find commonalities with people that may be hard to find in the few minutes between sessions.
Other Ways to Connect
Launched two years ago, at the 2nd annual Dance/USA conference in Washington DC, #SKYNOVA is an internet TV show featuring “culture warriors in their native habitat(s).” Hosted by Sydney Skybetter, of Skybetter and Associates and Edwards and Skybetter, and Tim Cynova, of Fractured Atlas, the show will be on site in San Francisco and ready to capture the collective wisdom represented at Dance/USA, serving it up on skynova.tv. Tim and Sydney will be on site and have been provided with space to film for the three days of the conference. Look for them in the lobby of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and at the offices at ODC.
New to Skynova? No worries, as they just launched a #SKYNOVA APP, free to download and available for iPhone / iPad, Android, and Windows. You can catch up on older episodes and watch as the show has grown and traveled to the Bessies, the Dance NYC symposium, and of course, to the Dance/USA conferences. Remember to follow @sydneyskybetter and @timcynova and add them to your Twitter lists.
Remember to Breathe
The best way not to feel overwhelmed at the conference is to be prepared. If social media is newish or uncomfortable for you, practice before you get to Dance/USA this year. There will be a lot of sharing and networking happening online and face-to-face in San Francisco. It may feel like opportunities are swirling around you–as if you are on the outside of a hidden inner-circle. However, when used well social media will capture that information for you and you can relax and enjoy the conversation.
@JenniferEdwards is a founding partner and consultant at EdwardsAndSkybetter.com. She is also a choreographer and the president and creative director at JenEd.com, a tech + wellness media company. JenEd is currently making a suite of stress management apps called home/body (homebodyprojects.com) and building an audience inclusion, choreo-experiment called #VisitingHours.