Headed to a conference soon? Whether you are attending a gathering of 50 or 5,000 people, networking skills are critical to generating new leads and business opportunities.
Fortunately, technology has caught up with our need to network and provided numerous solutions to help even the most socially awkward person network like a pro. Here are just a few tips on how to use social media and apps to get the most out of your conference.
Set goals and do your homework
Be prepared and set networking goals in advance. Go online and take a look at the list of speakers and attendees a week or two before the conference and learn as much as you can about the ones you’d most like to meet. Google searches and company profiles on Facebook and LinkedIn are very helpful. Utilize research tools such as Refresh, an app that delivers an instant dossier straight to your mobile device about the people you know or would like to meet to make it easier to strike up a conversation.
Connect with all social media sites related to the conference
Go to the conference website and look for links to any social media channels (most conferences have them). Participating in LinkedIn Groups before, during and after the conference is an excellent way to stay connected. We also recommend following the conferences Twitter feed, Facebook updates, YouTube videos, Instagram photos, blog posts, etc. One of the best ways to grab someone’s attention is to engage with him or her before the conference.
Reach out to the people you want to meet prior to the conference
Once you have learned more about the people you would like to meet at the conference,
reach out via email, Twitter or LinkedIn. If you are at a booth, give them the location and invite them to stop by or invite them to a 10-15 minute meeting over coffee or a drink. Figure out how you can help them and offer your help.
Take advantage of social media tools during the conference
Chances are, your event will have a Twitter hashtag. Use it! Post updates on who you are listening to and what they are saying. Share your feedback. If you have done your homework, you will already have the Twitter addresses of the people you most want to meet. This will help you stand out among the others.
Get savvy with business cards
Bring your business cards, but focus more on collecting cards from the people you want to stay in touch with and follow up with them promptly. Card Munch is a great tool to gather business cards. With this app, you simply photograph the image and the card details are automatically added to your address book contacts and can even be uploaded to your LinkedIn account as new connections.
Dave Kerpen, CEO, Likeable Local, NY Times Best-Selling Author & Keynote Speaker advises to skip a panel or two and hang out in the break room in this helpful LinkedIn article.
“As valuable as the content of a conference can be, if you’re there to meet people, it can be more valuable to hang out outside the panels, in the breakroom, trade show floor, or by the coffee or snacks. There, you’ll have more time to meet people – a speaker who’s just arrived, or an attendee who stepped out to take a phone call, or a sponsor you might be able to partner with. Most conferences have built-in breaks and networking time, which can be very valuable. But consider making more of this time for yourself – you can always get the notes from that panel later.”
Here are some more resources to help you fine tune your networking skills and get you on your way to a successful convention!