Ahead of our 50th Member Meeting, we're spotlighting our top 10 Member Meeting All Stars — members who've attended the most Member Meetings during their time in the community. To continue this series, we chatted with Georgia-Pacific Director of Social Marketing Nick Ayres — who (with 13 meetings in the books) is tied for the fourth-highest meeting count — about what Member Meetings mean to him and why he's made them a priority throughout his years in the SocialMedia.org community.
How would you describe your first SocialMedia.org Member Meeting?
In a word, rejuvenating. To be honest, the details are a little hazy at this point — I'm getting old, and it's been a LONG time (we were the Blog Council back then, lol) — but I remember being so excited and relieved to be able to talk through my experiences as someone trying to get a social program off the ground inside a big organization with others who were working through the same things. It was an exhale and a “yes, these are my people” experience for sure.
While the group was much smaller then, it was already familial, and it's one of the main things that has kept me coming back to SocialMedia.org through (now) three different organizations.
What are some of the biggest insights or “aha” moments you've taken away from Member Meetings and applied to your program?
I think the biggest thing has been the idea of “third-party validation.” As unfortunate as it may be, I think most of us have experienced a situation where we've seen a consultant come in and say the same things we've been saying for years… but because it's coming from an outside voice, it's believed/acted on etc.
There have been countless times where I've been able to leverage something I saw or heard at a Member Meeting as a proof point for internal conversations. There are just so many examples of great work being done in social and we've reached a point where it's nearly impossible to see or know about everyone.
However, SocialMedia.org helps curate that for me, both in terms of the examples directly from companies that share at our events, as well as the examples that others in the group find valuable that may not be “presented” at a meeting.
Nine times out of 10, all I've had to do is reference a public example and bam!, external validation and credibility. But there's also been a handful of times when I've been able to anonymize and provide a very specific answer to a challenge we were having internally. It's also been great to know should I ever need to set an internal team-up with a fellow SocialMedia.org member company to have a chat, it's just a call away.
Oh, and also — learning about this crazy thing called CoTweet from an electronics member company way back in 2008 was a game changer.
What are some of your favorite activities or memories from past Member Meetings?
Grumpy Cat, #RIP. The Member Meeting at Catalyst Ranch in Chicago (still my favorite meeting space for any meeting I've ever been to, period). The behind-the-scenes tour of Cisco's Telepresence (before it was everywhere) was mind-blowing. The sunset boat cruise in Chicago was amazing. Lots and lots of great experiences to choose from, though.
Why do you make attending Member Meetings a priority?
In our digitally-overwhelmed lives, it's great to be able to stop and unplug for a bit and have actual face-to-face conversations with people who are walking in our same shoes, every day. While I love the digital tools we have available to connect us all, nothing can replace a little real-life interaction from time to time.
What advice would you give to someone going to their first Member Meeting?
Unplug and engage. I know it's hard and as an introvert myself, I know it's not easy, but this is one of our few chances to really get to talk about the things that keep us all up at night as we continue to navigate the world of social. So, take advantage of it. The rewards will be tremendous, and you'll meet some pretty great people as well.
Also, come prepared to gain about five pounds. So. Much. Food. Just run a few extra miles that week… or something 😊.
Meet members like Nick at Member Meeting 50 in Chicago, October 8-9!
SocialMedia.org's Member Meeting 50 is coming up October 8-9 in Chicago, and it's going to be one of our best meetings yet — in large part to amazing social media leaders like Nick who not only bring and abundance of professional experience, but also plenty of energy and excitement to every conversation they join.
We're so grateful for our All Stars and all our members who continue to make every meeting so special and unbelievably valuable. They're the reason this community has been thriving for over a decade, and we can't wait for what's next.
Learn more about Member Meeting 50 here: https://socialmedia.org/community/meetings/mm50/