One reporter's top highlights from the 2018 LMA Annual Conference.
You may have seen Andy Laver and I around the 2018 LMA Annual Conference this year armed with a microphone and a camera crew led by Rob Kates. Some of you may have been confused about it. Others were a bit intrigued. Others were just annoyed. And a small number of you actually enjoyed watching our interviews with LMA leadership, speakers, sponsors and other members of the LMA community.
Regardless of how you felt about Andy and I (we hope you felt somewhere between great and lukewarm), serving as the official Facebook Live reporting team for the conference gave us a unique perspective on the event. Here are some of the things we learned from our 2018 LMA Facebook Live reporting experience.
- Key takeaway #1: Invest in your happiness. Why? Being happy is good for you at work and at home. During the keynote talk by the highly likeable University of Amherst “Science of Happiness” professor Catherine A. Sanderson, we learned that successful people are not necessarily happy, but happy people are more likely to be successful. Catherine delved into why happiness is significant and what truly makes us happy, and provided practical ways that each of us can incorporate happiness into our everyday professional and personal lives. Sanderson stressed that happiness in your personal life doesn’t only correlate with success at work — it paves the way for it. In short, we become more successful at work when we are happier at home. I left her talk feeling energized and, well, happier. Watch my interview with Catherine here.
- Key takeaway #2: There’s something for everyone at the LMA Annual Conference. From deep-dive immersive discussions, to panel presentations, to interactive workshops to TED-style talks, there is no shortage of learning opportunities. The LMA Annual Conference is the largest annual meeting of legal marketing and business professionals in the industry. At the event, these professionals come together to learn from each other, engage in peer-to-peer sharing and experience unparalleled networking. You’ll even learn from talking to people in the halls. Don’t miss this event or you will have serious FOMO.
- Key takeaway #3: It takes a village. So much goes on behind the scenes to successfully orchestrate this conference. Neither Andy nor I had an idea of the sheer level of details or the work involved. After peeling back the curtain the planning process, I am even more thankful to the volunteers on the 2018 LMA Annual Conference committee and LMA leadership for their hard work and dedication. There are also so many people who work for the LMA and ACI all year long without whom none of this would be possible; on behalf of all LMA members, I thank them too.
- Key takeaway #4: Always remember that everyone is your client. This concept came from several sessions at the 2018 LMA Annual Conference. It’s also important to remember that the role of the client can be different things to different professionals. For example, if you are an in-house legal marketer, your clients are not only your traditional external clients, but also the lawyers at your firm, your colleagues in other administrative departments, your COO, etc. And if you are a service provider, anyone and everyone can potentially be a client or a referral source. Those who are successfully able to adopt the client-centric mindset and delight their clients will have a significant advantage over their competitors. Period.
- Key takeaway #5: Give your clients what they want if you want them to pay attention to you. In this crowded market where law firms are vying to capture the attention of many of the same in-house clients, you must stand out. And to do that, you must provide something of value. The in-house counsel who comprised the annual GC panel discussion at the conference reinforced this idea and explored how to effectively reach them with ideas such as:
- If you want to get their attention, send high-quality, “snackable” (meaning short), relevant thought leadership content (think succinct, timely and well-written client alerts and articles).
- Receiving unsolicited, out-of-the-blue emails is a big don’t and can actually turn them off from a prospective law firm. Be targeted. You must have a pre-existing relationship with a GC before you put them on a mailing list.
- GCs are paying attention even if you think they aren’t. Your lawyers and your firm are being Googled and researched every day. Every single post and piece of content matters.
- Hearing attorneys speak at conferences continues to be a key way for outside counsel to be hired. In fact, one GC on the panel remarked, “When I go to a conference, I am shopping for outside counsel." Another GC noted that he wanted to talk to a lawyer panelist after his session at one conference, but that lawyer quickly ducked out of the session — a huge missed business development opportunity! The lesson here: Outside counsel should maximize every speaking engagement and smartly network while there.
- Key takeaway #6: The LMA is helping to bring about change to our profession. The LMA now has a Diversity & Inclusion Committee and SIG to effectuate change by empowering and equipping LMA and its members to build diverse and inclusive marketing and business development teams. The leaders of the LMA diversity initiative held their second town hall at the conference to discuss how to be a voice for change within your organization, and to say that it was a success would be an understatement. I had the opportunity to interview the co-chairs of the initiative, and you can watch it here. This is an initiative of which you are going to want to be a part.
- Key takeaway #7: This year’s exhibitors really stepped up their game. You may have heard Andy and I say several times that the exhibit hall is the nucleus of the conference, where attendees gather to network and learn. This year’s exhibitors got really smart to encourage traffic to their booths. Some of our favorite ones were those that were interactive and focused on the client experience. Jaffe PR featured a way for attendees to create clean water for those in need, so you could give back to the community and learn about their services at the same time — brilliant! Ackert Inc. offered massages and makeup applications for the entire conference — again, genius. ON24 invited attendees into their booths to spin a wheel of fortune and win prizes. F2 Marketing had a tarot card reader doing actual readings in the booth. (You can tour their booths here.) And sometimes all it takes is cocktails and good conversation: ClientsFirst drove traffic to their booth with a mimosa bar, while LexisNexis offered Hurricanes in branded glasses to go along with the city’s theme. What better way to draw people into your booth to learn more about your products than to offer them something of value? Other exhibitors should take note of these smart examples as they plan for next year. You can check out other exhibit hall booth tours from the conference here.
- Key takeaway #8: The pre-conferences rock. Period. From the CMO Summit; to QuickStart®; to the Rise of the Legal Marketing Technologist; to Breakthroughs in Public Relations, Content and Communications; to Impact Marketing for Small and Mid-Sized Law Firms; there’s something for everyone at the pre-conference programs (and I’m not just saying this because both Andy and I each spoke at a pre-con program). The pre-conferences offer immersive, all-day learning in an intimate setting and the opportunity to make close connections. You can really take a deep dive into a topic. Make sure to put them on your list next year as you plan your 2019 LMA Annual Conference schedule.
- Key takeaway #9: One of the most valuable things you can do after attending the LMA conference is to provide honest feedback about your experience. By now, you should have received a follow-up survey from the LMA — be sure to complete it. In addition, the LMA is always happy to receive direct feedback from its members by email, regular mail, in person, carrier pigeon, you name it. Think about your overall experience, beforehand and during. How was the flow of information beforehand? Was the check-in process easy? What did you think of the keynote speaker? How would you rate the GC panel? Were there enough sessions that interested you? Did anything fail to live up to your expectations? Your honest feedback will help to enhance the LMA experience for you and your fellow attendees next year. So speak up!
- Key takeaway #10: We are in good hands. As LMA president, Ashraf Lakhani was instrumental in selecting Catherine Sanderson as the 2018 LMA Annual Conference keynote speaker. He is passionate about creating a welcoming community for professional development within the LMA community. Cynthia Voth is going to be president next year, and she has great ideas and is focused on creating unique learning opportunities for members. I’m thrilled to report that my Facebook Live co-host Andy Laver is going to be conference co-chair next year, and while I’m sad to lose my Hoda/Ron Burgundy/Johnny sidekick, I am excited to see what he has planned for the conference. Watch my interview with Cynthia and Andy to learn more about what they have in store for next year.
Some final thoughts from our LMA Facebook Live experience: Everyone likes cookies, especially Roy Sexton. David Ackert only speaks in sound bites, and I am very jealous of this remarkable talent. I should never play a game of poker because I am unable to hide any facial expressions at any time. Andy can in fact speak for at least 30 minutes straight, as evidenced from his on-air commentary on the festive walk to the Let the Good Times Roll party.
In all seriousness, I am going to speak for Andy here when I say that we had a blast with this opportunity. Our goal was to use technology to enable the LMA community to experience the conference in real-time, as well as to reach the LMA members who couldn’t attend the conference in person.
I hope that we made you laugh, I definitely hope that we did not make you cry, and I hope that you will watch the videos if you haven’t yet done so. So never stop learning, fill out those surveys, provide your feedback and look for the Facebook Live crew again next year. See y’all in Atlanta on April 8-10, 2019!
Stefanie Marrone helps companies effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. She has worked at some of the most prominent law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating, business development, internal and external communications strategies, including media relations, branding, content marketing and thought leadership campaigns. She has particular experience in helping companies effectively utilize social media platforms for business development, revenue generation and visibility. Stefanie is a frequent speaker and author on a wide range of communications, content marketing and social media topics.