The inherent problem with attending an industry-related conference is that all or most of the attendees are on a similar mission. You are all seeking the same connections and, as such, are unlikely to directly meet your goals. After all, the speakers cannot have meaningful interactions with everyone in attendance.
So, if you have an Eventbrite ticket for your next conference in your inbox, you may be asking yourself, “now what?” As a serial conference attendee who attends a conference roughly every other week (really!), I’ve come up with a method that helps me get the most out of any given event. Here are five ways to maximize your investment of time, energy, and money:
Most conferences have a website listing the speakers and their bios in advance. Visit the sites and see if the presenters whom you are most interested in hearing and meeting have social media accounts. Follow them on social, and let them know that you are looking forward to hearing what they have to say. Speakers like this type of early publicity and it’ll set you apart from other attendees. They may even look you up to see who you are and why connecting might be advantageous to them too.
Pack a tablet or small laptop with plenty of battery life, or a smartphone with portable batteries. Then sit in the front row (or as close as possible). You may hear some really valuable nuggets from speakers, so it is important to take notes. It also keeps you engaged and gives you quotes that you can use later (I’ll say more about this in the next tip). Having close proximity to the speaker also helps with engagement and enables you to take the best pictures (fewer heads, etc. in the way), which makes you look like a VIP to people who see your posts.
Take those quotes you jotted down from key speakers and be ready to post about what is being said via LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook (in that order). Remember to use the conference hashtag. Double check that the presenter's name actually matches their social media accounts (there's nothing worse than quoting the wrong person). Panels are the best because, when you take a picture, you can tag everyone from left to right. Hopefully, they will notice the tag, acknowledge it with a “like” and, best case scenario, retweet or share your post with their network. This provides you more likes, greater reach, and also further exposure to the presenter should you want to follow up later. More on that next.
After all of your effort and hard work, this is where you reap the benefits of your labor. In a perfect world, the presenters will have recognized your proactive outreach and already know who you are. If not, kindly let them know that you enjoyed their advice (mention something that they said that moved you or that you could use their assistance with) and ask how you can stay connected beyond the conference. Always try to offer something that you can do for them in return. A personal touch goes a long way and may inspire presenters to remember you out of the hundreds of people that they met that day.
This is the step that separates true networkers from everyone else. As you exchange business cards with everyone you meet, scan their cards using an app like Evernote or Camcard, get their contact info into your contacts, and write in the notes section where you met them and what you discussed. Do this within 48 hours, or you’ll probably forget. Then use that same information in a customized LinkedIn request from your desktop or www.LinkedIn.com (not the mobile version) to add them to your professional network. Once accepted, you can develop a stronger relationship with them and leverage it over time.
Images courtesy of Kevin Nichols