There are LOTS of conferences to attend, and only so much time and money to get around. For instance, I wished I could’ve dragged myself down to Austin, Texas to attend South by Southwest Interactive. But my own conference, Video on the Net is next week, and I’m busy.

So this is how I learned how to attend without being there.

  • Live Flow- Twitter [website]- Add enough friends attending the event, as well as the official event, and you get the flow from this app. Twitter let me see which conferences were being attended by people that matter to me. It let me see which parties were where. It let me know who was hanging out with who afterwards. All of this, by the way, gives the overall sensation of what the event felt like to the people I followed, but also gave me a sense of who might be doing business with whom.
  • Visuals- Flickr [website]- I love seeing who’s there, what’s going on, and how much fun they’re having. Videoblogs can go up fast, but photos are almost instant, thanks to cameraphones and faster turnaround time to process. I just went to Flickr.com, searched on sxsw2007 (and variants), and suddenly got huge photo streams of good pictures from the event.
  • Content- Blogs- Technorati and Google Blogsearch [website] and [website]- If you want to know what was said during the events, count on the great world of liveblogging. How do you find what people have covered in the events? Swing over to technorati.com and blogsearch.google.com , and put in the tags for the event (in my example: sxsw2007). Suddenly, you get the tapestry of the blogosphere’s opinion of the event. I should also mention Techmeme, a site that captures the gestalt of the tech blogosphere, in case that’s the subject matter of your conference. (Similar aggregator sites exist for most industries, so maybe YOU can fill me in on those in the comments?)
  • Content- Videoblogs -Blip, YouTube, Google Video [Blip.tv], [YouTube], [Google Video] – More and more, conferences are being covered by videobloggers. Some conferences have rules about not covering the entire speech (after all, this content is how they make their money- and that’s important). But most of the good events allow some amount of videoblogging and off-stage interviews that help you feel there. Or, events will release all their materials after the fact onto one of the platforms mentioned above so that you can be there after the fact.
  • Content- Podcasts- IT Conversations [website] – For tech conferences, I’ve found that IT Conversations, part of the Gigavox Media network, have some GREAT coverage. I should also mention PodTech, another really great source for interesting conference coverage. You might have some suggestions for the non-tech conference circuit. If so, drop it in the comments, please, for the other lifehack types to get to see.
  • CONTACT- LinkedIN [website]- This step might not be immediately obvious, but once you know the types of people who attended the conference you wished you’d attended, you might want to add these people to your network of contacts one way or another. If you’re using LinkedIN for contacts, consider adding them to your list of contacts. With a little bit of Google sleuthing, or through some other means like their account on Flickr or Twitter, you can usually make contact and ask for a good email address to send a LinkedIN invite. This will help grow your base of like-minded people, should something of interest to discuss arise in the near future. One never knows.

There are lots of other tips I’m sure I’ve missed. I count on you to fill me in on the best stuff. But I’ve used the above to build my awareness of events, to learn some of the choice lessons I couldn’t pay to attend, or didn’t have time to visit. And I’ve found more like-minded people who then give me the buzz on the conference not to miss in the upcoming months, which is also valuable to me. I hope these work out for you. And if you can’t come to Video on the Net in a few weeks, maybe use these tips to follow the action from afar.

Chris Brogan is Community Developer for Network2 and Video on the Net. He keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com].

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