How Volunteering at #SMMW18 Made Me a Super-Fan

smmw18 San Diego Conference Centre

05 Mar How Volunteering at #SMMW18 Made Me a Super-Fan

There are a lot of reasons that people volunteer at Social Media Marketing World. For many, it’s the only way they can afford to go, some have podcasts and want a chance to interview speakers, others are super-fans of a particular speaker and are desperate for an opportunity to talk to them. Sue and I had slightly different goals for volunteering at Social Media Marketing World 18.


We were so impressed with the emphasis placed on networking before and during the event. Prior to the event, we subscribed to relevant Slack channels (#canadian, #small-biz, #smmw-icebreakers, #connections-corner), became members of the LinkedIn group for SMMW18, joined a Facebook group for SMMW18 volunteers, and downloaded the conference app (which made connecting with other attendees very easy). At the event itself, Social Media Examiner took networking to the next level with an entire team of networking concierges.

SME are also masters of hype. They had us all excited at least a month or two before the event. After all the endless waiting, it was finally time to go. Even the 3.30am wakeup call for the flight couldn’t dampen my spirits.

The Perks

USS MidwayNetworking bingo on the USS Midway aircraft carrier on the first night of the conference was a great, easy way to connect with other people and we ended up in a delightful conversation with a fellow Canuck whom we hope to partner with at some point in the future.

I discovered with trepidation that the second networking event was in a nightclub. I had not been to a nightclub in probably 20 years, but Parq was a fantastic choice with lots of different areas for every type of person. Once she’d visited the spirit-tasting bar, Sue chose to dance the night away in the karaoke zone, complete with backup singers and a live band. I opted for the quieter seating and games zone to chat with anyone who looked vaguely lonely or awkward (my kind of people!)

The volunteers were cared for very well with space to relax and chat when not on duty. We also had a free-flowing supply of meals and snacks (which were excellent and great for special diets.)


We had training materials and a very thorough webinar before arriving. We arrived a day early for additional training (with a strong emphasis on providing excellent service for attendees) and team-specific training.

Volunteering at Social Media Marketing World 18Our Role

We had been selected to be Speaker Concierges, which involved contacting speakers ahead of time, contacting them shortly before their session and ensuring they had everything they needed in order for their session to run smoothly. I was delighted with how friendly all the speakers were and the passion each and every one of them had for their subject matter.

Once the session started, we often had to leave to ensure we found the next speaker in plenty of time and had the most up to date version of slides for their session. Fortunately, SME provides all volunteers with access to all session slides/audio after the conference.

The Sessions

Session at Social Media Marketing World 18Of the few sessions, I was able to attend, Ann Handley was a particular favourite. I think I was already a little bit in love before her session even started when the fifth person had come to let her know that she had changed their life. Every time she heard this she was genuinely delighted and spoke with that person as though they were the only person in the world. In fact, all of the speakers were incredibly giving in the time they took with their fans. Some were still standing in the corridor taking selfies and giving advice when the next session in that room was half over!

I want to get to CES at some point in my life because I’m a fairly big tech-geek, so I really enjoyed one of the live stage sessions by Cathy Hackl on VR/AR.

The Sponsors

In the networking plaza, Sue and I were able to talk to G2, one of the conference sponsors. We take our SaaS tool/solution-collecting role seriously and G2 provides an excellent platform for finding, comparing and evaluating solutions for our clients. We had used it before but never considered having a consultant profile on their site. We signed up there and then and now just need to start collecting reviews from our happy clients.

San Diego waterfront

Our Stay

We had stayed about a 20-minute walk from the San Diego Convention Centre and were delighted to find rental bikes scattered pretty much anywhere we wanted to go. Despite tired legs and feet we usually found the energy to hop on one of the bikes for a quick but beautiful bike ride along the water to and from the Convention Centre.

One morning after hopping on a bike and realizing my legs were not going to make it, I switched to one of the electric scooters (also scattered randomly) and had a lot of fun zooming down to the Convention Centre.

From Michael Stelzner’s insightful opening keynote on social media trends for 2018 to Pat Flynn’s fabulous keynote about how to build super-fans, it was an incredible few days. Exceptionally tiring, but endlessly rewarding. Also apparently very inspiring since I’ve been on blogging-strike for a couple of months but suddenly felt the need to tell you all about my experience!

Now I’m headed back home to Canada hoping that Delta can conjure me up a nice cup of tea (a request that always seems to involve a slight look of panic and more than one attendant running up and down the aisle. I won’t push them over the edge by asking for milk this time).

SMMW – we’ll be back!