Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.
Maximize Your Conference (Part 7)
"Use Social Media"
by Thom Singer
Some conferences lend themselves to the use of any variety of social media tools more than others. This will depend on the industry, the organization hosting the event, the type of attendees, the person in charge (and their understanding and adoption of social media), the venue, and many other random factors. However, in today's social media crazy world even the most low tech industry is populated with high tech people who have adopted social media into their lives.
If you want to maximize your effectiveness via social media you must make an effort well in advance of the conference to get the most out of the process.
Discover in advance what tools the event organizers are using to promote the conference. Do they have a Facebook page? A Twitter account? Are they blogging? YouTube channel? etc.... Become familiar up front with where the other attendees are finding information on the event and join the communities, follow the organizers, and participate in any relevant discussions.
If you are a Twitter user, find out if there a pre-determined #hashtag for the event? If so, know it and use it. If not, talk to the organizer about selecting one. Be careful not to create your own #hashtag without knowing if there is an official one, as you can split the community if too many are created.
If you are not a Twitter user and the event will be heavily using the micro-blogging site, you may want to consider joining. You do not want to show up at the conference and find you are one of the few missing out on important information because you are stubbornly not on Twitter. Creating an account while at a conference to "catch up" with the rest of the group is both confusing and time consuming. I have seen people do this "at conference adoption" and it is both a waste of time, and sours them on the Twitter experience.
Participating in pre-conference discussions on the various social media sites is a great way to make connections with others who will be at the event. However, you want to make sure that the things you are saying are useful to the audience, not a commercial for your own products or services, and not over done. First impressions matter and are difficult to overcome. If you come on too strong in social media before the event you will have a negative "brand" once you arrive.
Once at the conference the same rules apply. Participate in discussions and "Re-Tweet" people who say useful and interesting comments. You will meet many people in person who will comment on having seen you online.
After the event, continue to promote the positive aspects of the conference on social media. Just because the program has ended does not mean that industry members (both those who attended and those who did not) will stop monitoring the social media chatter about the event. Some make decisions about attending a conference the following year immediately at the conclusion, while others will search all year long for information about the next years' event.
The internet has allowed conferences to have year round life. Make sure that you are aware of any ongoing conversations that exist amongst the community of conference participants. Your commitment to remaining active in the discussion can help you build your reputation and will thus bring you a higher ROI from your conference participation.
Have A Great Day.