How To Have An Amazing Conference Experience

ICMI knows how to throw a party. I had the fortune of attending their Expo and Conference this year in Orlando, FL. Speaking at a major conference for the first time, I was pretty much a ball of nervous energy for the first two days. Even so, I managed to pull out several great learnings which I will memorialize and share right here on this blog :).

    1. Invest in People Throughout the Year
Twitter is the first big (unexpected) win. I hated Twitter at the beginning of last year. It seemed like a giant hodge-podge of worthless information. Roy Atkinson and others helped me to stick with it, and now I see Twitter as an even more powerful networking tool then LinkedIn. Walking into the expo the first day, I thought I was completely alone. As it turns out, I had walked into a room full of friends with which I had developed a great relationship with through sharing knowledge. It was an absolute blast learning from and engaging with them in person. My favorite moment of the whole conference was sitting on a panel for a live twitter chat complete with Sean B Hawkins, Leslie O’Flahavan, Neal Topf, Erica Marois, and Jeff Toister.  It is so much more exciting to learn with you are sharing the experience with others and participating in robust dialog.


The best way to avoid a conference “summer camp” experience, but a much deeper and sustainable one,  is to engage with industry experts on Twitter throughout the year. Two of the greatest chats are the #icmichat on Tuesdays at 12:00 PM CST and the #custserv chat on Tuesdays at 8:00 PM CST.

     2. Make Fun a Priority
I was really confused when I first got my speaker ratings back. I gave two completely different types of sessions. My first was around the “Effortless Experience” and how to balance this with customer delight. It was very well researched and heavy on the content side. I expected this to be by far the more popular and highly rated session of the two. The second was moICMIsm6re about having an exciting dialog in the room and learning a topic (gamification) together. I had considerably less “solid” content and I was afraid I would take a bath in the ratings for my (very) nontraditional approach. The “Effortless Experience” session was rated 18th out of 44 sessions, whereas the Gamification session was 9th out of 44 sessions!!
I still can’t believe that result. It tells me that if people want to listen to someone drone on about a particular topic for an hour, they can find that on YouTube. If they are showing up, in person, we as speakers need to give them a unique live experience. Find ways to extrapolate great ideas from those gathered in the room….engage them with games and prizes…whatever it takes to have them walk out of the room feeling as though they all shared in something special.

      3. Put Yourself Out There
ICMIsm3We learn so much more through the process of contributing to industry knowledge rather than just being satisfied as a consumer. You do not have to be some type of call center wizard to contribute to the conversation. Those who have the courage to express their opinions have those thoughts developed and refined. I was so nervous when I saw that the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) was at the ICMI Conference in full force. A big part of my “Effortless Experience” session was on their book, and one of the contributing editors was present in the session! Instead of discouraging me, the CEB was incredibly supportive and helped me to understand several things about the concept. It was a major confidence booster for me and helped to bring the concept to the next level for future sessions.  Major thanks to Sarah Stealey Reed for her encouragement and guidance to get out there.

Overall an incredible experience! A huge thank you to ICMI for putting on such a fantastic conference. I, for one, can’t wait until 2016!



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Author: Nate Brown

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    Great thoughts on how to make the most of a conference. It looks like you had an amazing time!

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