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Should professional conferences be a "vibe"? An opinion on the impact of influencer culture.

Recently my social media feeds were flooded with posts about a few professional conferences that were not to be missed! These were expected to be star studded events and there were no shortage of posts about what to wear, how to network, the who's who guest list, and how to make the most of all the sessions and events that were scheduled. If you weren't registered you were absolutely missing out.

However, very shortly after the events started, a new wave of posts came out where people shared their frustrations with overcrowding, poor customer service, disorganization, and whether or not the high ticket prices were worth the investment. Essentially, the vibes weren't vibing... and my question is: should they be?

Nobody said professional development should be boring.

To be clear, I did not attend these conferences, and in no way am I asserting that those who did, did not gain any valuable information or connections from attending. Especially for the conferences that were planned for Black and Women professionals, I was excited to see all the excitement surrounding them and such large attendance turnouts. However, it is concerning that many of the attendees who posted on social media about their experiences seemed to be influenced to attend because of the celebrities who would be present, the possibilty of fun parties, dating options and other non professional reasons. Yes, conferences should be enjoyable and I love to see the infusion of culture into these learning environments, but when the buzz feels more akin to that of a music festival, I question what are the ACTUAL goals of the conference overall and WHO is the conference really for.

Influencer culture eating strategy for breakfast.

Its important to remember that an influencer's goals is to influence the lifestyle and financial decision making of their audience, often for their own financial gain. So perhaps these conference planners employed a few influencers to help create buzz, but when the public image becomes "attend because all your friends will be there", the goal of the conference gets lost under the relational tactics of influencer culture. From an external perspective, the strategy of influencer culture driving registration seemed to have led to a diminished public perception and understanding of these conference's value proposition overall. So now that the attendees have had a less than stellar experience, and are using the vehicle of social media to share this with their internet community, can these conferences withstand the public scrutiny of social media and continue to be successful next year? I believe these conferences are important and nessary events, especially considering the target audiences; but can they afford the negative associations that are being made about the experience of attendees in order to continue to deliver their mission for these communities?

To be or not to be influenced... that is the question

Using social media effectively is a balancing act. Good intentions can be lost by small missteps and you never know for sure what will be a hit or not. And for sure, this is not a call for these organizers to stop using social media. Its a great tool and, clearly, it helps them to expand their audience which is amazing.

However, what does all this mean for me (or you) and how to decide if a conference is legit or for vibes only?

Should social media hype be a immediate red flag? No, of course not. In many ways, I am glad that professional conferences are getting more social media buzz and that so many people of all age ranges are finding value in attending. I am also happy to see more Black people being platformed for their contribtutions in every industry so if the vibe is what people are looking for, I think conference planners should take note. However, I do think it's important to have a checklist to determine if a well promoted conference is worth the financial investment. So here are some of my recommendations for making that decision:

  1. Ask yourself, "What is the professional benefit of attendance to me?" Once you get past the online hype of it all, sit back and ask yourself, "how will this conference help me reach my professional goals? What will I gain from attending?

  2. Review the actual conference information. Close social media, find the actual conference website and read the details for yourself. Also, do a quick internet search to see if you can find details, reviews, etc of their past conferences for additional insight.

  3. Consider the financial investment. Even if it seems like its a great conference to be at, consider the financial investment and whether its a good fit for you at this time. Remember attending is more than just the registration fee. It's travel, airfare, food, and a list of other items to make sure you have the best possible experience.

  4. Are there similar conferences or conferences covering similar topics of interest? There have been many times where the new and shiny thing draws me in, but with a bit of research I find a lot of other similar and comparable alternatives. Even if you ultimately go with the more popular professional conference, knowing of others is also valuable to your overall professional growth opportunity. Consider keeping a running list for future attendance opportunities (or even to present at!).

  5. Write out your conference must haves and match them to the conference offerings. A great way to make decisions logically is to have a list. So write out what you are looking for in any learning opportunity and see how many the conference checks off. And feel free to add non professional items to the list ( be close to the beach is on the top of my list). Remember the goal is to make attening make sense for you and your goals.

What else should be considered? What are your thoughts on the social media hype of professional conferences? Have you been to any professional conferences based off social media influence? Share your thoughts. I'd love to hear them.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kijaffa Hall, CEO

K.Z. Hall Virtual Services

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