Get more bang from your conference buck with social media

As I make final preparations for my annual spring conferences, I’m thinking about how social media has changed the entire conference-going experience—and how what’s happening online at the event can be as valuable as what’s happening face-to-face.

Case in point: a single LinkedIn connection after a five-minute face-to-face conversation at an industry conference led to a new client who spends five figures annually with me. Had I not taken those few minutes to connect, I likely would have ended up as just another business card at the bottom of his computer bag.

It dawned on me a few years ago (as I was wandering through the halls of another conference) just how many connections were happening entirely outside of the conference program. Meetings, impromptu get-togethers and conversations were taking place all around me, and if you weren’t engaged on social media, you were missing out.

The point hit home again just last week, as I worked with a client who is sponsoring their own industry conference. I suggested they use the speaking opportunity that comes with their sponsorship as an excuse to selectively and personally reach out to their contacts on LinkedIn. They’d never considered it before, and thought it was an excellent idea.

That got me thinking about all the ways I will engage social media to maximize the value of my next conference experience, before, during, and after the event.

Before

  • I’ll reach out to my existing contacts and ask if they’re attending. If they are, I’ll ask if we can reconnect in person while we’re both in town.
  • I’ll find out if there is a conference attendee list I can reach out to, or a conference group I can follow and connect with before I arrive.
  • I’ll check out speakers in advance and connect with ones who interest me.
  • I’ll share information about anything or anyone I may be hoping to find at the conference (like in-house marketing managers who need people like me to expand their capacity, or freelancers who can expand my capacity).

During

  • I’ll follow the #ConferenceHashtag so I can stay on top of what’s happening, as it happens.
  • I’ll comment on sessions in progress, and tag appropriately to share information, add value, and gain exposure for my own social media accounts.
  • I’ll connect with speakers I found particularly interesting or insightful using LinkedIn, and tag them in my tweets from their sessions.
  • I’ll monitor feedback on sessions to help plan my agenda, and make real-time adjustments as needed.
  • I’ll watch for opportunities to connect with people virtually, or meet face-to-face in social or networking settings.
  • In absence of a business card (which is more and more the norm these days), I’ll connect with people right on the spot using LinkedIn. Or, if I’m feeling particularly bold, I may try The Strategic Selfie.

After

  • If I do go home with a fistful of business cards from people I’ve met, I’ll connect with them on LinkedIn immediately after the conference. You never know when another five-figure connection will happen!
  • I’ll connect with speakers and attendees I wasn’t able to meet during the conference.
  • I’ll continue to nurture my new connections, along with all my existing ones by sending my Getting It Done email newsletter.

If you’re traveling to conferences this spring, I encourage you add a few of these tips to your networking strategy—if you haven’t already. Safe travels and happy conferencing!

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