Barely a week before the Grow Smart Biz conference 2009, the registration count was just below 200 people. So it was a surprise when on Sept. 29, the day of the conference, the hall was filled with well over 400 attendees. What happened? The Social Media Buzz superseded the traditional marketing of the conference, and the attendees poured in to listen to a great cast of keynote speakers like Senator Mark Warner and Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, and Roy Dunbar, CEO of Network Solutions. Our own social media swami, Shashi Bellamkonda, known in the social media world as “Shashib” or “Shashi” worked tirelessly with support from a few of his teammates to explain the value of the conference to small businesses. The team used Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media tools to spread the word about the conference. And the word of mouth spread quickly!
After speaking with the attendees and listening carefully to their thoughts on the conference, it is clear that the verdict is that GrowSmartBiz conference was a great success.
Having attended many conferences in the D.C. area in last few years, I have seen that the afternoon sessions typically seem to retain less than 40% of the attendees that were present at the morning sessions. At the Grow Smart Biz conference, the attendees were constantly engaged and the attendance rate of the afternoon sessions was 80% of those that were present in the morning. Many who left still joined the conference via webcast. The conference had over 1000 streaming visitors and 150 simultaneous streaming viewers. We even had attendees from as far as Australia watching the live stream of the conference!
Another indicator that the conference was a success was that people showed interest in expanding this event in the future. Some talked to a few Network Solutions executives about ideas for next year’s conference, and many asked if this would become an annual event. There were also a lot of people talking about the content on social media as opposed to talking about the tools and software for social media, which is often the focus at conferences. With this insight, small businesses have a better idea of how to use social media to help them grow.
Even after a week of the conference, requests coming in are for people willing to pay for the content of the conference.