Imagine the season finale of your favorite TV show. I’m currently in post-conference fatigue mode and catching up on all things Shondaland. It got me thinking about that one episode of Grey’s Anatomy (that I’m still recovering from) where McDream became every viewer’s McNightmare and Meredith lost her husband. Millions of broken hearts sat glued to the television wondering what the heck was going to happen next. Week after week I enjoy storyline after storyline and invest in the series and the characters on the show. I feel as if I know them in real life. I then find myself Googling spoiler alerts as I impatiently wait for the next season. I’ve always wondered how shows like this managed to pull off so many cliffhangers while still leaving its obsessed fans with a feeling of inclusiveness and completeness at the same time.
Well, these are the same feelings I had after leaving the inaugural Military Influencer Conference, an event designed to unite community leaders, digital entrepreneurs, and influencers by service and content that matters. Curtez Riggs, retired Army 1st Sergeant and founder of Milblogging, and his team captured our attention for two and a half days while keeping everyone in suspense wondering if and where there will be a sequel.
Here’s the thing, I’m a seasoned conference go-er. I’ve made it my mission to inspire women and military spouses to pursue entrepreneurship as a career path. This means staying ahead of the game and building my network before I need it while allowing myself to step outside of my retail bubble and take a look at the big picture. Without a doubt, there’s no better way to learn from experts in your industry than to experience them in person.
Many of the military conferences I’ve attended overlook the importance of thinking of the event from the attendee’s perspective. Not to mention they tend to recycle the same speakers over and over again. The Military Influencer Conference delivered value for all types of influencers and was designed with the audience in mind.
Here’s why this conference reset the standard moving forward:
The thing some conference organizers forget to focus on is driving diversity to their conference both through speakers as well as attendees. It’s no secret I celebrate culture and diversity. These are two precious jewels that make our country the greatest land in the entire world. And nowhere is culture and diversity more important than in the area of communications and to be able to share those forms of communication at conferences, social gatherings, and events. It is through communications, especially at these events, where symbols are so powerful. This event was by far the most diverse military conference I’ve ever attended.
2. No fluff.
As a speaker at the conference, I love that we were encouraged to focus on delivering an attendee-centric experience. Not only did the speakers bring their knowledge, but they also brought the funny too. I learned about new ideas and solutions to problems that I’m experiencing in my own business, and I was able to connect with the speakers on a more personal level.
3. Not focused on sponsors.
Conferences are about people, not organizations. I’ve never planned a conference, but I imagine it’s hard work, expensive and nerve-wracking up until the last speaker exit the stage. I know these events don’t happen without the generosity and support of the sponsors. But I appreciated minimal plugs about sponsors and promotions. It humanized the executives and sponsor representatives and allowed the attendees to get to know the real people behind the brands.
It wasn’t just about exchanging business cards. It was about taking a selfie with someone who’s influenced me or sharing a business idea with someone I admire or making a connection that could (fingers crossed) lead to my next mentor. The Whova app was an unexpected addition to my networking experience. I didn’t have to flip through pages of printed materials. I was able to plan ahead of time for a productive event and sync my schedule with my calendar. The app also allowed me to scan business cards, send digital contacts, interact with speakers and so much more.
There’s a good reason why those who didn’t attend are tagging #FOMO (fear of missing out) alongside #MilBlogging17 on social media. I built relationships at this conference that will not only enhance my business but will help grow the community as a whole.
Do yourself a favor and plan to attend the 2018 Military Influencer Conference.