The Louisville Digital Association’s annual conference (which serves as the organization’s main fundraising event) is one of my favorite local events to attend to. What is LDA? This is the digital, social, and emerging media organization that hosts talks, workshops, and conference events around the year.

This year, the conference was a day and a half, similar to what it was like last year. I feel this really allows people to learn, network, and engage in current conversations about the main challenges and opportunities we are seeing in the industry.

As a professor, this is such a great organization and event to go to and be able to share these insights with my students. For me, this was also getting more professional education and understanding of what are the current elements that need to be discussed and emphasized for young professionals. I felt this year’s event accomplished all of these elements and then some!

Latest trends and issues

This is one of the things I love about going to conferences is you get a chance to hear from some of the best in the business.

All of the speakers who attended were fantastic, but I’d have to say, Dave Delaney (awesome talk on networking and follow through!), Mark Schaefer, Dorethea Volpe (by far the most entertaining and fun talk about IG!), Frank Guardi, Marcus Sheridan, and Amy Schmittauer Landino were my favorites. Dave discussed the ins and outs of modern day networking (SO important in today’s landscape) and Mark (one of my favorite professionals and friends in the industry) discussed personal branding.

Mark and I had a chance to catch up (I first met Mark when I was down in Knoxville during my time at UT), and we had a great conversation. The work Mark is doing in the field, and his book (I’m using his sfor my advanced social media class #FrebergSM and I am THRILLED he will be speaking to my class) is tremendous. I thought Frank was very good – the work IBM is doing related to influencer marketing has been considered (I know amongst my friends who are professors in social media) the gold standard. His insights on what they do with influencers, but also what are the elements that need to be taken into consideration when evaluating and working with influencers is also key. Really enjoyed hearing this, Frank!

I also wanted to give a special S/O to Amy. Her Vlog Like A Boss talk was fantastic (if you have not gotten her book yet, go and buy it here via Amazon!) was awesome. I was taking lots of notes and her resources, tips, and advice were very strong. What struck out to me the most is what Amy did after her talk. I was sitting at a table during her presentation with one of my former #Freberg17 students, Natalie Brown (she is now working with the marketing team at Kentucky Venues). She and another classmate helped create a video series for UofL during their internship, so she is very comfortable with video and this talk was right up her alley. I could tell Natalie wanted to meet Amy, so I said “hey, let’s go and talk to her!”

Amy immediately responded positively and was engaged in a great conversation about video and topics related to social media. Natalie was excited to learn more about Amy’s book, and what Amy did next was awesome. She said – come with me and I’ll give you a signed book. She was able to sign it and then take a selfie with the three of us. Amy – you truly made an impact and I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us. Keep up the amazing work and Vlog Like A Boss will always have a S/O place in my social media classes.

Rise of personal community along with personal branding

I have written a lot over the years about personal branding, and this was of course discussed related to all of the talks happening at the LDA event. However, I saw a shift of the conversation from having a personal brand (which we all need to have) to make sure you have a personal community. I think that’s important – not only how do you manage yourself, but how do you foster and create a dynamic community where you are viewed as a resource and valuable member of the community.

These messages were not only being shared publicly during the talks, but I had a chance to see this first hand in person. I had a chance to navigate the conference and meet people, and this was the first time where I had professionals, those who I highly respect and admire in the industry, stop me and ask if they could take a selfie with me. I was like – WOW! I should be asking you for a selfie!

The reason they wanted to do this? Because of the active presence I have established in the community. They have seen what I have been doing with my classes and students on social media. I had others who connected with me at the event and said they had heard and were told they needed to meet me because of the work I was doing with my social media classes. This was a pleasant surprise, but goes to show the growing importance of personal branding and investing generously into the community with ideas, resources, and stories.

Meeting #SMprofs IRL.

I had a chance to meet Melanie Bruce from University of Tennessee, Martin. Melanie and I first met on the Facebook #SMprofs group I started, and thought this would be a great event to attend. Plus, she was able to bring one of her social media students with her to the conference, Brandon. I had a chance to meet Brandon and he was very professional and inspired to be at the event. He was networking and making sure he was making connections, which was great to see. It was an absolute pleasure meeting you in person, Melanie! I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and I hope you had a great time in Louisville!

Major, MAJOR shout out to Jason Falls! I have said this many times (and have written many posts about how amazing Jason is), but Jason is one of my most favorite people ever in the field. Not only is he a thought leader, but he is absolutely one of the most generous and kind people I know. While I was talking to Mark on Thursday, Jason invited me to come along to a dinner he was hosting with some of the speakers and LDA board. This was probably one of the most rewarding, fun, and engaging dinners I have had a professional conference. You are the best, Jason! Also, let me know if you ever want to call in your lifetime of bourbon (to give you all some context – Jason helped me out in 2013 getting back to Louisville when we were both stuck after a conference in WV. Just say when and I’ll make sure you get it!)

Thank you Jason, Christine, Leah, Jonathan, Kara, Hailey, and the rest of the great board of directors who made this event so amazing! We all really appreciate your hard work, dedication, and support to making this event happen.

I can’t wait for the event next year!

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