Having finished the annual Social Media Conference for 2016 in New Zealand, my sights are now set on planning for 2017. Running a conference of this size is no easy task and there were heaps of learnings again this year. Three years on and there is always something to learn. For those of you running conferencences or events, I hope that the learnings in here will help you. 

What we did differently  for this Social Media Conference compared to our previous two years. 


We ran the conference over 2 days instead of one.

As this conference is aimed predominantly at Business Owners, We were a little concerned that two days out would be a stretch for some Businesses, and therefore the attendance may drop. Making a choice about the two days was also important. Do we choose two week days or the weekend or a combination?

We chose a Friday and a Saturday. The decision was based on phone calls to a segment of our target audience and the majority opted for these days.

Each year we have mre and more larger corporates attend and we also had Massey University and Auckland University representation. having researched a segment of large corporates, their preference was to attend conferences during the week on work days, so we were pleasantly surprised. Next year we are aiming to have more large corporates represented.

Facebook Group for the conference

We decided to create a Facebook Group for the conference to be used to keep the communication open and a place to update information leading up to the conference.

One learning for us is that we should have done this sooner in the timeline.

On a positive, we had comments like ‘great communication, other event organisers can learn from you’.

The biggest concern we had about the Facebook page was if people started using it to promote their businesses, or if people started finding each person in the Group (irrespective of whether they not met at the conference) and connected.

The former is easily controlled by explaining Group rules and making sure that people don’t promote.

The latter, although annoying for people on the receiving end, still means they have a choice of accepting someone’s request.


We ran Table Topics

We invited Industry Experts to present at the Table Topics. This was very successful and feedback has been to run a Table Topic on each day.


Right up front, our biggest concern was that people could only choose 3 of the 12 table topics. How were we going to make this work considering we could not video it.

Viola!! Enter Facebook Live to be streamed in the Facebook Group. Lots of fantastic feedback on this as people felt they were completely engaged in the conference, even after it finished.


Our super awesome Louisa Rook from Ten Ten, got the staff together and sorted a schedule of who would video which table, so that we captured them all.


I think this is the first conference I’ve heard of to live stream the Table Topics via Facebook Live.



Live Streaming International Guests.

Another first was to live stream overseas social media stars. I was already connected with Tom Walter from Tumblr Australia, and Samantha Kelly the Tweeting Goddess from Ireland, But I had only met Vincenzo Landino at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego and I was sure he wouldn’t remember me.

Tom and Samantha both agreed to live stream and we needed to organise the times carefully. One in Australia, one in Ireland.

How did I land Vincenzo? I was following a hashtag on Twitter about a Social Media Conference in Alaska and Vincenzo and Jay Baer were doing some awesome tweets. I asked a question and they both did a live video tweet back. I was so stoked and they were having fun.

I sent Vincenzo and another well known social media expert a private Twitter message asking if they wanted to live stream into the conference and gave details.

Honestly never expected an answer and the second expert still hasn’t replied to my message but Vincenzo was a true star and agreed to stream in from New York.

Having the three of them being interview by Jam Mayer worked out brilliantly. Everyone loved each of the Speakers and the content was so valuable. I was really humbled to have them on the big screen, in New Zealand.


Learnings were that we used a free zoom account and a message came up saying the meeting would end. I know, I know you’re saying that this was a silly mistake and look I could have chosen not to share it but I want to be real and help anyone from making our mistakes.


So the message pops up and we are working against a clock on another computer to enter credit card details and get it loaded before the zoom call cuts out. ALas, we don’t make it by a split second and we loose all the Speakers.

A trick is to go back on the same link, each Speaker came back in. True professionals with none of them skipping a beat and continuing as if nothing had happened.


Some awesome surprises that weren’t planned.

The replacement Speaker for our International Speaker indicated before he went on stage that he may finish earlier than expected. While he was on stage, Pauline Stockhausen, another awesome Speaker for the conference, asked if we should get Chocolate Johnny live streaming in. After all he had been mentioned by both Vincenzo and Pauline in their talks.

While Pauline contacted Chocolate Johnny and he graciously agreed, Naadia – Virtual Assistant extrodinaire was setting up the zoom call. It’s a treat when one of your table topic Speakers also happens to be an awesome VA. Naadia had it all sorted and the link emailed ready for Johnny to stream in.


Chocolate Johnny was another phenomenal Speaker, very authentic. Pauline did a great job of interviewing him.


Learnings here we’re just because you have a schedule, you can work in some flexibility and surprises. Another learning was how people were willing to rally around and get this going without disruption. True professionalism.


Another awesome surprise was one of our delegates Bonita Nuttall requesting if she could challenge the crowd to join the 22daychallenge.

Just before lunch, she was up on the stage and had members of the audience join her and do 22 push ups. The energy in the room was fantastic.


Twitter Chat.

I have to mention Twitter Chat and the hashtag #SMCINNZ16. This is the first year of running the conference that we’ve seen the hashtag really being used.

I think it’s because New Zealanders are becoming more Social Media savvy and the conference certainly had people tweeting. Plus we had awesome MC’s Monique and Thea Knight who reminded everyone to keep using the hashtag.

The hashtag was trending in New Zealand and reached 25 th position and stayed trending. That’s a huge achievement considering the rugby was on as well. So we were trending in NZ. 

I loved the tweets going backwards and forwards between Chocolate Johnny, Vincenzo Landino and Samantha Kelly the audience. The audience was saying they should come next year and appear live.

Chocolate Johnny was already tweeting and adding potential sponsors for him to attend. We would love to have all three as this conference has already introduced you to New Zealand. Everything will be dependant on Sponsorship.


Bonus for us was having two awesome Uni Students as ambassadors controlling all the Social Media Online Business Academy channels and putting info out there. Anyone looking for enthusiastic and competent social media interns, Samyson Aquileira and Jess Ferminsky are your people.

Choose your Speakers and Topics wisely.


Hearing the audience say that they have loved every talk and there were no overlaps, only trends, means the planning and selection of Speakers and their topics worked well.

I personally met with each Speaker to work out what they would talk about. It was great to have the discussions and make decisions together.

What I am most proud about is the level and caliber of speakers we have in New Zealand, They are on equal par with our International counterparts.

Acknowledging our Speakers, Pauline Stockhausen, Natalie Cutler Welsh, Andrew Baird, Simon Young, Quinton Keightley, Catherine Howell and Wanita Z Fourie (that’s me).

My dream is to Speak at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego


Structure the conference well and have good MC’s

We could not get break away rooms like they have in San Diego so our conference needed to be structured to allow for different kinds of talks.

We had keynotes, workshop style talks, table topics and live streaming. Different kinds of talks kept people engaged.

We’ve always had two MC’s for our conferences and this  was no exception. We had a mother daughter team, Monique Knight and Thea Knight, who travelled all the way from the UK to be at the conference. Thea is a millennial and has a degree in media and Monique is a Baby Boomer and a late adopter on Social Media. The contrast was fantastic as they both played on these aspects during the conference.


Speaker Dinner

Speakers were invited to a dinner to meet each other.  The opportunity to run through the conference with everyone was a way to make sure that each person knew what to expect. It was also an opporuntity for the MC’s to get to know them as well.


Learnings: communication and doing a run through of the agenda with the MC’s is very important. It’s also very important to do this well in advance so that they can collect information. Both were absolute professionals and did us proud. 

We scheduled meetings are went through each speaker and topic before the conference so that the MC’s were prepared. Monique and Thea worked out who they would introduce and how they would ensure that the event ran on time.


Advice for Speakers and Table Topic Speakers.


Conference organisers are under a lot of pressure to bring everythin, Paul Spain and Cathy Mellett from Net Branding did this really well. It means that when the website is being updated, the developer can find and copy information quickly and accurately. This then helps. The MCs with a fab bio to introduce you.

  1. Give a clear headline of your topic and a few bullet points right up front. The organiser has to get a website populated with information and getting this information
  2. If your PowerPoint is going to be on a big screen, develop it in 9×16 size. This makes the PowerPoint look great across a big screen. As organisers, we have to restructure the entire presentation when we have to convert to the right size. It’s double handling and time consuming.
  3. Get your presentations to the organiser on time. The reason why organisers need your presentations beforehand is to check that it is formatted correctly for the screens and that it looks professional. Generally we out all the presentations on one big presentation in order of Soeaker. This helps the audio guys to have everything run smoothly in the back of the room. Don’t send presentations a day or two before. You have no idea the pressure it causes an organiser.
  4. Be prepared to take feedback about your presentation, especially if you are fairly new to Speaking. You can learn a lot about what will make both you and the organiser look professional. An good organiser will give feedback where warranted. Take it and make changes. They have experience. Here are some tips we have given over the years.

Presentations that work

  • make sure screen shots are big enough for the audience to see, especially stats.
  • Use professional backgrounds.
  • Pictures work best with a headline but if you must use words, short sharp bullet points. (Don’t have too many on a slide)
  • If you have videos embedded, make sure this is sent with the presentation. The organisers will make sure it works.
  • Presentations should always be 9 x 16 for the big screens.


Lastly but not least, Good food goes a long way to making a great conference. Feed the people well. Keep them at the venue because the best networking happens around breaks and good food.


Whether you are a Speaker or Event Organiser, I hope this helps. Here’s to your success.


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