The Legal Marketing Association‘s (#LMA10) annual conference is over. Moving on to #LMA11 … Orlando, April 4-6. In fact, I’m off this morning to the #LMA11 conference planning committee kick-off meeting. First off, this isn’t a conference recap post. I just want to share a bit about my overall experience from this year’s conference before moving on. If you’re interested in reading the transcript of the conference, you can read it here. Social media made my conference. I was part of a community within a community via Twitter. In 140 characters or less, I was connecting with people I really didn’t know too well. We were having a “conference within a conference” and we were growing as the hours went by. The absolutely incredible part is that the Twitter community wasn’t limited to those in Denver, people were joining in from their desktops across cyberspace. By inviting others to join the LMA Tweeters, individuals from across the country (and Canada) self-identified themselves and were starting to connect before getting on that airplane. At the conference, we were able to easily connect, meet and continue our conversations off line. I think this story about Laura Gutierrez speaks volumes to the value of social media and social networking:

Laura popped up on my radar at the beginning of the week. She was joining the LMA Tweeters and sent me her schedule. She arrived in Denver on Tuesday night and tweeted to see if anyone was going to dinner. She immediately hooked up with Nancy Myrland and Gail Lamarche. Not too shabby company, if you ask me. By Wednesday Laura was tweeting away, and I got to meet her face-to-face on Thursday. Big hugs were exchanged, because we were truly excited to FINALLY meet (mind you, it had only been a couple days since we “met” on Twitter). Laura’s been a legal marketer for three years in Minneapolis. This was her first LMA conference. Through social networking, she was able to identify a group of people to meet upon her arrival at the conference. By joining in on our conversations, she was able to establish a relationship with us, prior to meeting us. Laura joined a group of us for a dinner Thursday night which included Gina Rubel, Adrian Lurssen (better known as JDTwitt), Jayne Navarre, Aviva Cuyler, Rebecca Wissler, Lindsay Griffiths. Not a bad crowd to hang with, plus the meal was one of the best I have ever had. By Friday afternoon, Laura was hanging with us after the conference in the hotel lounge. Our group had now expanded to Tim Corcoran, 2010 conference co-chair David Freeman stopped by, Adam Severson – 2011 conference co-chair, Nancy Myrland, Ross Fishman and several others who came and went as they waited to leave to catch their planes home.

Why am I so inspired by this story?? Because I remember being new in my legal marketing career and seeing so many movers and shakers running about and feeling insecure and awkward, and on the outside looking in. I remember walking into rooms, not really knowing anyone, wondering how to break into conversations without feeling like an interloper. Everyone seemed to know each other and were so friendly, with each other. How was I going to tap into that? Before social media, it took a lot more work and effort to meet people. I got involved in LMA at the national level because Merry Neitlich was looking for volunteers for the Education Committee. We were asked to make an 18-month commitment and it was on those monthly conference calls I began to get to know other members of our community … slowly. It took me YEARS to build my presence in LMA. In fact, I was still blown away that Roberta Montafia knew me by name THIS YEAR!!! I keep feeling like I have to introduce myself to her and other LMA-lifers. I am so excited for our newest members, like Laura, who are able to tap into a resource of people so quickly. We, of course, have already volunteered her for a committee …

  • What a GREAT post Heather! First, I have never felt more a part of the LMA family than this week. Like you, it was because of Social Media, and the Social Networking we have all done this past year, keeping us in touch on a regular basis, unlike in years past. We had a connection that is very hard to describe, but it was real and it was meaningful to me. Second, the “Laura Story” is such a great one. Gail and I were sitting in the Lobby Lounge Tuesday night, and Laura walked right up with her Laura smile and personality, and asked if she could join us. I LOVE that! I love meeting new people, and I love connecting with people who are kind enough to want to spend a little time with me. Laura was comfortable, assertive, funny, caring, SMART and actually like us…”she really, really liked us!” She, like everyone you mentioned, and others, will be my friends for life, which makes me feel very, very good. My heart is full.

  • Laura Gutierrez

    I’m a little shocked that you blogged about me, Heather, but I must admit that it’s a great example of what you’re able to do with social media.

    Through Twitter, I was able to respond to and meet people I’ve never met. Like Heather told me, it’s about taking the conversation offline, and that’s exactly what I did. Social media is all about the conversation and interaction. We all shared the experience of social media, which just happens to be a large, growing network!

    For me, social media took the nervousness out of a being in a group of 800 people and not knowing any of them (save a few–but let’s face it, even those that love to network get nervous sometimes). I was able to easily meet people that were online because of the LMA10-hashtag. A network within LMA! It puts everyone on the same playing field. There’s no intimidation factor. And that kind of feeling spreads; I was able to use that to randomly stop at tables and introduce myself.

    There is no way I can deny that if I hadn’t connected on Twitter, I would not have met the wonderful people I did!

    What a great experience!

  • Just for the record, I met Laura Tuesday evening when she joined our crowd at, naturally, the lobby bar. Since she will likely be our LMA president in 2018 or so, it’s important to remember the details of my brush with fame! And I totally agree with the post – with social media one can become part of the community even before meeting members of the community!

  • This is the perfect story and example! I’m grateful to you Heather and Nancy for spear-heading this twiproject. I really felt like this conference connected a long-distance family. The friendships will last much longer than the conference! And who knew Tim could play such good basketball?

  • Aviva and I had a spectacularly good time hanging out with many of the people mentioned above – friends new and old. Thanks to all of you for including us in the community.


  • Jon Holden

    It’s funny to read about Laura because I met her through Twitter as well. We were sitting in the opening keynote and she was three seats to the left of me and I recognized her twitter pic and saw her furiously tweeting from her sidekick. I sent her a message saying “look to your right three seats”, and with a casual wave, we were twitter friends. Being my third LMA, I remember how I felt, especially coming from Canada to LMA in Atlanta… not knowing anyone, and it was intimidating. In Washington, I was in full force on Twitter and met some of the legal tweeps such as Lindsay Griffiths, Heather, and Nancy. Coming into LMA2010, I felt like I was going there with about 100 friends, all twitterers. I have never seen technology enable more personal communication and networking than Twitter, and I really can’t imaging LMA without it now… It would seem like such a missed opportunity. One suggestion for Orlando, we should set up a quick Twitter 101 before the conference starts to introduce many others to Twitter, and get them all involved. Exclusivity should never be a condition of Twitter, so something to keep in mind. Thanks again, great to see you all in Denver.

  • I, too, have to echo what a difference twitter has made for me at the last two LMA conferences, and how great it was to meet Laura as well. I’m pretty shy by nature, so my first few conferences were painful reminders of how inept my attempts at smalltalk and networking can be. Twitter has helped me get to know, and feel comfortable with, people on both a professional and personal level, which adds such a lovely dimension to the conference and makes me feel more at ease. Because I already “knew” people, I was able to relax about the social side and concentrate on learning, both in and out of the sessions. And it’s been such a gift to get to know people online, to take those relationships offline, and then be able to continue bonding, particularly with such passionate, intelligent people. You’ve all inspired me to be and do better in my own career! I am already excited for #LMA11 and growing my group of twitter friends, as Jon suggests. And I promise to sum up my own thoughts on the conference and the sessions I attended tomorrow, unless this storm washes me away!

  • Heather: Your opening articulates perfectly how I felt about this year’s conference: “Social media made my conference.” It was a great event, and the constant connection — to friends new and old, to simultaneous sessions and feeds, to the outside world looking in on LMA — made all the difference in the world.

    The added bonus? Maintaining these connections via Twitter and other channels until next year’s meeting rolls around.


  • Lance’s comment got me thinking: as a sales tool for the conference, will the LMA Tweeters return to LMA 2011 in higher numbers because we are ENGAGED throughout the year?? Will we have a higher level of LOYALTY to the organization than the non-social networked member?? Will a socially networked member find a higher sense of career fulfillment and longevity??

    I suppose time will tell, but could make for an interesting case study.

  • As a part time Tweeter, I can only say that I was blown away at the report that 250 tweets per minute were flying out from the conference. That information and the great stories above have made me promise myself to get mo’ serious about tweeting right away. I’ll come prepared to LMA Orlando 2011 and we’ll hit 252 tweets per minute, easy.

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