Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Latinos in Social Media (LATISM) annual conference in Chicago. LATISM is credited as the largest organization of Hispanic professionals engaged in social media. The 2011 conference, held at Chicago’s Navy Pier, was two and a half days of sessions and workshops that focused on opportunities for Hispanic professionals to use social media in public service, community empowerment, and business development. To augment my participation in the LATISM conference, I designed an infographic to show how Latinos currently engage in social media across the U.S. Originally, I had planned to write this blog post as a follow up review of the professional development and networking opportunities provided at the LATISM conference. Although there were certainly plenty of these opportunities, I decided to modify my post’s focus in light of all that transpired for me both personally and professionally during my attendance at LATISM’11.
Simply stated, being a part of LATISM’11 was como familia – like family. This is a significant statement for attending a professional conference. Beyond the informative sessions, the workshops, the gatherings to encourage networking with your piers, what LATISM delivered was a sense of empowerment, unity, camaraderie, and …well… family. The fellow Latino professionals I had the pleasure of meeting were like old friends; and for many of the attendees that had been to LATISM in its previous years, they certainly were. In the short time that has followed since the conference’s closing, I have kept in touch with my new friends on a daily basis. This is due, with no irony, to the power of social media and, not surprisingly, to the social power of our uniquely Hispanic disposition.
There were many significant moments far too numerous to mention in a single blog post. However, just to whet your appetite, here are a few that stand out:
- Basking in the presence of legendary civil rights leader Dolores Huerta.
- Engaging in vibrant discussions with other professionals about how to “change the world” through social media.
- Being inspired by the stories of other Latinos who dedicate their resources and efforts to educate those in less fortunate parts of the world.
- Sharing the excitement of my fellow bloggers (y blogueras) who won awards for their achievements.
- Listening to the music of world-renowned guitarist Tony Melendez – a man born without arms who elegantly plays the instrument with his feet.
One the final night, I once again had the privilege to connect with my fellow attendees and leaders who made the conference possible. LATISM founders Ana Roca Castro and Elianne Ramos, along with other chapter board members, extended their hospitality at an impromptu post-conference gathering. We laughed and shared our experiences into the night and departed with embraces and kisses when it was finally over. Some of my fellow bloggers in attendance have already posted some of their reflections about LATISM’11. Some of these sentiments include, “a conference with soul”, “relentless inspiration, love, and energy”, and “gracias a mi familia”. I couldn’t agree more.
Those of you who regularly read my blog know I like to end some of my posts with a few considerations for those who seek to make connections with and learn more about Latino culture. Here are a few points to consider based on my experience at LATISM’11:
- Some suggest Latinos have cultural tendencies to value and engage in social circles. Does this insight correspond to the fact that Latinos excel in social media use?
- I met many attendees at LATISM’11 who are entrepreneurial and engage in multiple interests. Is this in alignment with recent studies that suggest Latinos are leaders, not followers, in digital content?
- Even at a professional conference setting, Hispanics carry a universal feeling of family and unity. How does this compare to the cultural insight that Latinos tend to value extended families?
Marketing analysis aside, the LATISM conference was one of the most enjoyable and informative experiences I have had in a long time. I hope to return next year when the conference travels to Houston and once again enjoy the company of my peers. For those of you seeking to share and learn with other like-minded Latino professionals, I encourage you to facilitate your attendance. It truly was, como familia. Actually, in the greatest sense of the word, it was family.