BY ALEJA SEABRONTrade shows, training seminars, industry conferences: Sooner or later, most of us have the opportunity to be involved in workplace meetings and events. And at this point, I’m sure many of us have been to so many events and conferences that they now come as second nature. But what is the point of it all? Even with luxury accommodations, travel and networking can be stressful—and let’s not even talk about the business cards lying around the office that symbolize overdue follow-ups.
Just as we have high standards for our event hosts when we type our critiques into the post-event survey, we should also have high standards for ourselves as attendees. It is not entirely up to them to give us a good experience, and you can improve your own by using social media to get the most out of each conference you attend. With Facebook being as wildly popular and exhaustively used as it is, along with an array of other social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and Instagram that fill a specific niche, you have a formidable online reach at your fingertips that you can use to easily connect with other attendees, interact with presenters, and participate in—and even start—a wider conversation inspired by speaker topics and event-goers’ questions.
Grow Your Network
Networking is one of the top benefits of any show or meeting, so don’t wait until you arrive to start. Take advantage of the email blasts are sent prior to the show that notify attendees who will be speaking and presenting at conferences. These people tend to be the cream of the crop—the who’s who in the biz. Have no shame: Log onto LinkedIn and send the speakers an invitation with a personalized message. Let them know you will be attending the event and would love to connect with them beforehand so you can familiarize yourself with their work. The speakers want to hear from you! The fact that they agreed to present shows good faith on their part to make connections, share their knowledge, and gain valuable exposure—so make the next move. You have nothing to lose.
Right after the day’s event, take your stack of business cards and connect with your new prospects or potential affiliates right away, while you are still fresh in their minds. Use LinkedIn’s Notes section (right under your connection’s profile picture) to type details about your conversation, when/where/how you met, what they are interested in, anything you should ask about when you talk to them again (“Hey Joe, how are the kids? Did little Suzie get her braces off?”), and even set reminders for yourself. Your new connections will feel valued if you can remember exactly what you talked about during the event weeks or months after the show has passed. What’s more, LinkedIn will store these notes chronologically and no one can see them but you.
But don’t stop at LinkedIn. “Like” your new contacts’ company pages on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Create a list and add them to it before the event so when the speaker says something that resonates with you, they can be easily tagged when you post or tweet their comments. Give credit where credit is due—and if the event starts trending, your business will be noticed for posting or tweeting as well.
Post heavily during an event by offering insight that wasn’t presented; sharing data, infographics, and statistics... quoting speakers..."
Hashtags aren’t just used for promoting an event. When a particular hashtag is posted by a large number of people, it can be a great networking tool. This rings especially true for those of us who aren’t fans of networking. For me, networking is like telling someone they have food in their teeth; it makes me uncomfortable but it has to be done. Research who is using event hashtags before an event and make an effort to connect online beforehand to soften the networking blow. I end up going to the event feeling like I already have friends there, which always puts me at ease. Not only that, but it gives me a sense of pride when a fun fact or announcement is posted and no one knows what’s going on except for me—because I read the post when I looked up the hashtag.
Facebook offers a great resource that allows users to save posts. Take advantage of this. I am ALWAYS checking the host’s Facebook page before an event to see if there are any changes, updates, tips, or something I need to do later. Any time I come across a helpful post, I click “Save link” so I don’t have to scramble to write it down. After the event, I can easily remove them from my saved list, and I feel great knowing I didn’t need to waste paper or time.
No Such Thing as a Stupid Question
If you have a comment or question about the conference itself, you should post it to social media. If it is something you are unsure about or have an opinion on, others most likely will as well. Posting to social media has opened so many doors for me. In some instances, other attendees have jumped in to announce they were also confused; the hosts have thanked me because it wasn’t something they considered or marketed well; and it has even provided a great platform for some fantastic and deep discussions—discussions that couldn’t have evolved so naturally in person.
Many of us have an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise that no one else can mirror. If you weren’t invited to speak or present at the event, don’t sweat it. You can participate by joining discussions. Post heavily during an event by: offering insight that wasn’t presented; sharing data, infographics, and statistics; responding to posts; quoting speakers; or simply providing some comic relief when appropriate. Using social media for an event is the best way to get yourself and your company noticed.
If you are providing any type of service for the event—such as transportation, sponsorship, speaking, showcasing a booth, etc.—or even if you are simply an attendee (an event’s most valuable resource), highlight your contribution with pictures, videos, posts, likes, and shares. Gain that exposure—we’re all seeking it.
After the event, take some time to blog about your experience. Do a total data dump of your conference notes. Reviewing, rewriting, and sharing your notes will not only help you retain what you learned, but also provide content for your company. In the limo business, most of us have the same target audience and goals. The only major difference is location and our personality or style. Only you can talk about your experience from your perspective. Take this opportunity to talk about what you learned, how you can apply it, or how your business plans to take actionable steps. Do some namedropping so you can tag people, and give your expertise in the topic you choose to write about. You will gain exposure because social-media savvy event hosts will most likely share and you will boost your SEO with all the buzzwords and commentary that only you could provide ... and maybe your amazing blog post will land you at the podium during the next event. [CD0916]
Aleja Seabron is the Social Media Manager for The LMC Group. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.