Creating an inclusive social media event

A few years ago, I was speaking at a social media event in New York. A student wrote me and said, “I would love to come to meet you but I can’t afford the $375 ticket!”

I ended up working out a “scholarship” for this young person to attend but I started thinking about the chronic problems on the social media event circuit:

  1. The tickets are so expensive, excluding many students, young professionals, and those in career transition who really need to attend the event. And because the events are usually in New York or L.A., the travel and hotel costs can also be significant.
  2. Networking opportunities were limited. The speakers took the stage and then escaped to their lounge or the airport.
  3. It seemed like every event had the same people over and over again. Chris Brogan. Guy Kawasaki. Gary V. Aren’t there any new voices we need to be hearing from?
  4. There is a “glass ceiling” on the circuit. Unless you are an A-Lister or conduct an aggressive popularity campaign to get voted on to a SXSW panel, you simply had no opportunity to be invited to speak at a major event, no matter how worthy your ideas.

I just don’t think that all social media events should be so elitist. So I decided to do something about it. With the help of dozens of volunteers and the extraordinary efforts of the Social Media Club of Knoxville, I helped found Social Slam, an inclusive social media event.  It has been a tremendous success. In our inaugural year we sold out three weeks before the event and had 430 attendees from 17 states and Canada. This year we are raising the attendance level to 600 — and I don’t want you to miss this event on April 27!

This is what is different about Social Slam:

  • This is the best social media educational value in America. By far. Every person involved in the event — including the speakers — is volunteering their time. That allows us to keep our costs low and offer a rock bottom ticket price of $79, a fraction of what you would pay anywhere else. This is a conference built from the heart, not to fatten a wallet.
  • But that’s not all. With the help of our sponsors, for that low ticket price you also get breakfast, lunch, an after party, a free book, and other valuable benefits. We’ve even created a special $99 hotel deal. So you can literally drive or fly to Knoxville, stay over night to enjoy our parties, and attend this event for less than it would take to buy a single ticket to any other event!
  • Networking is a priority. The speakers are generally available to meet all day. Time is built in to the program to meet new friends and share ideas.
  • Knoxville TN, Home of Social Slam 2012

    We are featuring world-class speakers including Mitch Joel, Gini Dietrich, and Tom Webster (and you might even hear from me!) but we’ll also feature some amazing, fresh new voices like multi-media whiz Stephanie Wonderlin, blogging sensation Stanford Smith, and content marketing tornado Marcus Sheridan. Where else will you hear inspiring presentations on the spirituality of social media, or how social media saved a bankrupt business?

  • The event is held in a park-like setting (actually it IS a park) at the beautiful Knoxville Convention Center. Everybody gets an electrical outlet and the wifi will work!

The Internet was built by volunteers. Our favorite apps like Wikipedia were built by volunteers. Now, the best social media conference in America is built by volunteers too.  Come see for yourself. I can’t wait to meet you there!

Everything you need to know is here:

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  • Let me be the first to attest that #SoSlam is awesome. The speakers are wonderful, but what makes this event really special is the networking and the chance to meet people “IRL” that you’ve been talking to online for ages. I bought my ticket when they first went on sale because I didn’t want to miss it. You should get yours now before they are gone!

  • I have to say that this is a wonderful plan you have and I hope it inspires others to do the same – I’m adding it to my list of possible 2013 events! I’m pleased to say you’re not the only one doing this, too.

    I’m on the organizing committee of Social Capital Conference (Ottawa, ON) and we have very intentionally kept our pricing as low as possible, including offering student rates. Our first year was an undeniable success with local experts covering a broad range of topics. It’s exciting to offer opportunities for everyone to benefit from the networking and knowledge-sharing that happens at conferences.

  • Awesome Karen. I hope to see you at one of these conferences soon! 

  • We’ve already sold 200 tickets and the VIP tickets are almost gone/ Look forward to seeing you there!

  • You reminded me to reserve my hotel room, Mark!

    The best part about attending #soslam was meeting everyone from Twitter!
    Second best part was getting new ideas from all the presenters. Christina Kelly was a real powerhouse on stage!

  • Last year was a hard act to follow … but I think we going to have an even better event! Can’t wait to see you!

  • Last year was amazing! Mark, thank you running with the idea and spearheading this event! Will try and make it again this year. 

  • Sounds like a very intriguing and worthwhile event.

  • Freak-yeah Mark Schaefer. I can’t wait to be a part of this bud. 🙂

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  • That’s great news!

  • Rosemary

    Just booked my room, so it’s official, I’ll be coming out from behind my screen name and meeting people in protein form.  I’m ridiculously excited.

  • “I would love to come to meet you but I can’t afford the $79 ticket!” 😉
    Joking aside, this looks like an awesome conference. Would love to make it but we will have to see! 

  • I am SOOOO going to try to make it down for this. Mark, what you are doing for people is incredibly helpful and valuable here. I hope people can appreciate how you’ve created an amazing opportunity that’s truly affordable. I know events like this are a TON of work. Thank you so much for taking a different approach and helping make this event available to everyone.

  • Do it.  Best decision you will make this year 🙂 

  • Would love to have you come down! We will have a ball.

  • Marcus, just loved Mark’s description: “content marketing tornado Marcus Sheridan”  You should get tee shirts made. 🙂

  • Do it.

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