Attending conferences can be a big expense for your business. It’s important that you get a return on investment for all this and for most businesses that return needs to go beyond just learning.
Often it’s the people you meet and the networks you develop that provide the real value of attending conferences. But it can often be difficult to meet all the people you wish to connect with, particularly if it’s a large conference.
That’s where the value of social media kicks in. Social media can provide the perfect platform for you to stand out from the crowd at a conference. If used effectively, it will assist you in meeting new people and strengthening current relationships, while also increasing brand awareness for your business.
Let me show you how.
Don’t wait until you get there to start making the most out of your attendance at a conference. Any pre-work you can do before you head off is going to make a massive difference for when you arrive.
Most (decent) events these days have an event hashtag that is promoted well in advance of the event (and sometimes even all year round). Jump on the event hashtag nice and early and start getting active!
Use it in all of your social media posts related to the event and have some fun with it to demonstrate your personality.
— Loren Bartley (@Impactiv8) March 13, 2017
You can use the scheduling tool in Agorapulse to schedule to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram in advance of the event. Better still, use Agorapulse’s requeued feature for those posts that you wish to be seen more than once. This will help you get far greater reach for the content you create and share using the event hashtag.
Start engaging in the posts by other people who are using the event hashtag. This is a great way to discover who the influencers are and being active online prior to the event make it much easier to strike up a conversation with them when you meet them #IRL (in real life) at the event.
You can create a search in Agorapulse for the hashtags of any conferences you have coming up and then regularly monitor activity around those hashtags, engaging as appropriate in those conversations that most interest you.
Often there will be Twitter Lists of speakers and/or delegate lists. Following these lists (or creating your own if there isn’t one available) are great ways to start putting yourself out there and connecting with other attendees prior to the conference.
If you do create a Twitter List, make sure that you make that list public, then others may follow it as well and you may find your followers increasing as people will start to perceive you as an influencer (regardless of whether or not you are) just because you were the one who took the initiative to create the list. 🙂
There may also be an official event social media group, event page, event app or Slack channel set up by the conference organizers that you can join – join them all, start connecting and get chatting. You need to be active in these spaces in order to get yourself noticed.
Introduce yourself. Let people know what you are looking to get out of the conference. Share some information about yourself and your business (without going into your full sales pitch) – this is your chance to get on other people’s “I’d like to meet” list.
— John Kapos (@ChocolateJohnny) March 12, 2017
Don’t sit back and wait for others to make contact. Reach out and connect with event organizers, speakers and delegates via your social media platform of choice. You will find that people are more likely to connect with you if you let them know that you will be attending the same conference as part of your initial contact. Twitter provides the perfect platform for this.
You can also meet up with people before you get there. If you follow the event hashtag in the lead up to the event, then you can get to know people and perhaps even organize a catch up before you leave, or better still, plan to travel together if you are coming from the same location as other attendees.
Once you have engaged in conversations with a few of your targeted connections, consider organizing a time to catch up with them at the conference. It is very easy to go to a two-day conference and never bump into someone that you were chatting to online in advance of the event. Perhaps they look nothing like their avatar or maybe every time you go near them they are swamped with a line of people waiting to speak to them. You can jump that queue by being organized and planning in advance a place and time to catch up.
When you are at the conference it’s important that you are “socially active” both on and offline.
Use the event hashtag, tag other attendees in your posts, retweet or re-share other people’s content and engage with those conversations going on around the event online. Several times I have been re-tweeting other people’s content at events only to stand up at the end of the session and realize I was sitting right beside them. This can be a great conversation starter!
Some conferences will have the conference hashtag feed displayed on screens within the sessions and around the conference venue. In these cases, actively using the event hashtag can make you more likely to get noticed, particularly if your avatar has been hogging the limelight on the big screen right throughout the event.
— Allison Guidetti (@Allison10za) March 1, 2017
However, it’s not enough to be the social butterfly online during the sessions and then curl up into your cocoon when you come face-to-face with other delegates in the breaks. You can develop relationships online, but it is offline that you turn hashtags into handshakes and cement long lasting relationships, so make sure you are getting a balance of both.
Take loads of photos – visual content rocks on social media!
Take and share photos of yourself with the people you meet. This is a great way to remember and be remembered by the people you have connected with, as those photos will remain on your social media accounts (and theirs if you tag them) as a curated history of who you networked with. This will remain as an ongoing reference long after the event. It is also a great way to show your followers the calibre of people you have been hanging out with.
This is one of my fave photos from Social Media Marketing World 2016:
A post shared by Loren Bartley (@impactiv8) on Apr 19, 2016 at 2:42pm PDT
Sitting toward the front of the room allows you to take better photos, which increases the chance of your images being shared – awesome for creating brand awareness into new audiences.
It also allows you to connect eye-to-eye with the speakers, which makes it much easier to connect with them afterwards (especially if you are highly engaged and smiling at them throughout their entire presentation). 🙂
Sitting toward the front of the room also increases your chances of getting selected for random stage acts, as was the case when I got asked to play cards with Pat Flynn as part of his presentation at #PBEvent back in 2013.
You can combine all the awesome images you are taking into animated videos using tools like Ripl. Here’s an example of Ripl in action that comprises of some of the happy snaps I took at We Are Podcast in 2016:
You can also create really cool quote images using this tool. Social Media Examiner does this to highlight some of their key speakers as part of their promotion in the lead up to their events. You can create these yourself and post them while the speaker is still on stage for maximum impact.
Before, during and/or after the event you have the opportunity to create live content around the event. Not many people will do this, so this tip provides you with one of the biggest opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
You can go Live on Facebook within Groups and Events, so if either of these are set up for the conference you are attending (and it is within the guidelines for that community), then you can go Live in those spaces and start sharing value with fellow delegates. You can use these platforms to share your excitement and goals for the event, as well as offering tips to other delegates.
However, most conferences won’t allow you to broadcast the presentations live, so don’t do that unless you have prior permission. It’s much more fun to do impromptu interviews in the breaks anyway. Like that time I kissed Gary Vaynerchuk Live on Facebook at Social Media Marketing World in 2016.
Keep the momentum going long after the event by connecting online with all those people that you met at the event. Work out which people it would be mutually beneficial to maintain regular contact with and then follow up with them (both on and offline) in the days, weeks and months after the event to explore those opportunities.
A video montage is a great way to showcases some of the amazing connections and friends you have managed to make at the event, like this Adobe Spark video I created after Social Media Marketing World in 2016:
Don’t forget to tag all your new friends that you met that appear in the video. They are sure to enjoy the trip down memory lane. 🙂
From this point onwards it’s up to you to continue to build the relationships you created. If you do that, then it’s going to become easier and easier to stand out from the crowd at the subsequent conferences you attend.