Get the Most Out of Your Conference Networking Using Social Media

poker-853125-mThe Catapult Conference is less than two weeks away. Have you started networking with the speakers on social media yet? If your answer is “no,” then you’re missing a big opportunity.

Whether it’s Catapult or any other conference, one of the biggest mistakes you can make when attending a conference is to ignore the opportunities for online networking through social media. While it’s true that you’ll have an opportunity to talk with conference speakers, panel participants and attendees at the actual event, what will really make you stand out is networking with these people BEFORE and AFTER the conference.

Before we get into exactly how to do this, let’s clear up a few misconceptions people have regarding social media and networking.

First off, the people who are at conferences – especially speakers and panelists – are there for YOU. They want to connect with YOU! So why not introduce yourself before the excitement and chaos of game day?

Many of these individuals are also in the process of building their online profiles. If they are authors, they need to show publishers and agents they have a following and can sell books. If they are lawyers, they want to show their reputation is stellar and their clients get value from their services. By following and connecting with these people on social media, you are helping them too!

Let’s take a look at what you should be doing with social media networking before and after Catapult.

Before the Conference

Look at the conference speaker list and determine whom you want to connect with. You don’t have to do this only for speakers either. If conference attendees are listed on a website or in a private Facebook group, look at the listed people and connect with then. If there’s a private Facebook group started, join it!

  • Follow on Twitter – If the speaker has a Twitter handle, following the person is the first step. But don’t stop there. Send a tweet directly to them saying, “Can’t wait to meet you and hear you speak at #Catapult2014.” The person will likely respond and may even retweet your message. All those tweets and retweets means additional exposure for you — and additional exposure is good for your overall networking.
  • Connect on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the number one online tool for business networking with more than 277 million users. People on LinkedIn expect to be contacted. Look at the person’s LinkedIn profile and send them an invitation to connect. But here’s the secret to success: don’t just use the standard text that LinkedIn auto fills for you. Customize the message so you set yourself apart. We’re not suggesting you write a legal brief in the LinkedIn connection email. Simply tell them you’re looking forward to hearing them speak at the Catapult Conference and you’ll make a point to introduce yourself in person.” You’ll be surprised how such a simple gesture will make a big difference.
  • Friend/fan them on Facebook – Use a similar strategy with Facebook as you did with Twitter and LinkedIn. Connect with speakers and conference participants by fanning their Facebook page or sending a friend request. Then take it a step further and post a quick sentence on their timeline about seeing them at Catapult. And don’t stress out if you’re not sure whether you should be friending people you don’t personally know. If the person doesn’t want to accept the request, they won’t (which is why you also need to “like” their business page too).

After the Conference

Just because the conference is over doesn’t mean your work has ended. In fact, it’s just begun.

  • If you didn’t connect with speakers and prospects before the conference, don’t miss your chance to follow up. Use the same strategies above, but customize your message to say, “I really enjoyed hearing you speak at Catapult,” or “I’d love to learn more about your business.” Better yet, if the person is local, why not invite them to coffee for a conversation?
  • If you win a raffle item that’s free coaching or a copy of a book, post a status update on Facebook or send a tweet mentioning how excited you are to read the book or take advantage of the coaching. Once you’ve read the book, post a quick review on Amazon and let them know (that’s right, via social media) you did.
  • If there were a few speakers that particularly resonated with you, post something on Facebook or Twitter about it. These people will appreciate it! Remember they want the recognition; that’s why they’re at the conference.

And remember: anytime you mention someone on social media, don’t forget to include the person’s Twitter handle or Facebook profile when you post. That’s how they’ll be notified that you wrote something.

Take 15 minutes to map out your social media networking strategy before you attend Catapult and other events. Social media is so convenient and everyone is using it. Yet very few people are using it in the right way to network and make connections. By using just a few of the strategies above, you will set yourself apart from the crowd in a big way.

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