Well, look at you. Off to a conference with plenty of networking opportunities next week! Time to polish those shoes. Dry clean that amazing power dress. Get that mustard stain off your tie.
You may know this already (you are reading this blog after all), but your online appearance matters as much as your personal appearance. Attending a conference or large networking event is a fantastic way to grow your brand as you make connections and forge new professional relationships.
It is also a great excuse to polish up those social media skills and “check in” with your online self. But with all the work that needs to be done before you leave town, adding one more thing to your “to do” list may be the last thing you want to do.
To simplify life, below is a week-long plan of how you can improve the hell outta your social media game and be conference ready. All of these tasks are designed to take 5-10 minutes max (ok, maybe you’ll want to spend a little more time when you are actually at the conference…but we will discuss that later).
No more excuses. Time to be a badass and do this. Feel free to use the below and check off as tasks you go along. Or better yet, create action items using Teamwork.
Conference T-7 days: Business Card check-up
Find your business card. It should have your relevant handles for social media accounts, and at the very least, your Linkedin address.
- If possible, reorder your business cards to include the information.
- If you don’t have a business card, might I suggest bopping over to MOO. While I’m not a paid endorser of MOO, I love browsing their templates and the quality of their paper. (**nerd alert**)
Conference T-6 to T-5 days: Polishing your Profile
Start with LinkedIn. Give it a good spell and grammar check. Dot the i’s, cross the t’s.
- Is everything updated there, including your job title and description?
- Does your profile photo look like you? Oh hey! Good thing LinkedIn has a headshot editor! Here’s how to use it.
Give the rest of your public profiles a quick look over. Delete the pics of you double-fisting margaritas. And the one in the ugly sweater from your great aunt. Keep the one of your dog in a costume.
Conference T-4 to T-3 days: Do a little sleuthing
Go the conference or event website and figure out their social media accounts. You’ll want to follow them throughout the conference.
Figure out relevant hashtags that will be throughout the conference. You’ll want to use these when you’re at the event.
If you can get access to the itinerary, look up the speakers you will be hearing, and go ahead and give them a follow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.
Lastly, look for relevant articles pertaining to the conference. You can either share them now, or keep in your back pocket as “social media conversation pieces” to have when you are networking. People will think you are smart–and you are because you came prepared!
Conference T-2 to T-1 days: Focus on clearing your desk, you have a flight to catch!
Just be sure to read your social media newsfeeds once or twice a day, so you can see what people are saying about the upcoming event.
Aren’t you glad you did most of the legwork earlier this week? Way to be a boss.
Conference Time: aka Do I really have to live Tweet this event?
No! You absolutely do not. Personally, I find it distracting and a real pain (kudos to those who are good at live-tweeting though–a skill I will probably never have).
You do need to “show up” on social media at the event. So let’s take tips and tricks that live-tweeters use at events and implement as we choose.
First, set a goal for yourself. Say you will tweet 5 times a day, or twice every panel, etc.
Here’s where things can get challenging…figuring out what to contribute. Let’s face it, a lot of these professional things we go to are technical, boring, and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be anything to say.
I once spent two hours of my life that I will never get back attending a panel on suicides during the Civil War. Not kidding–this was a real panel topic. It was one of the most depressing things I have sat through. And the speakers were dry a rocks, reading from their scripts without looking up. So I feel your pain.
When stuck on what to say try the following:
- Retweet event speakers and presenters
- Quote speakers during panels and tweet them out. Be sure to “@” them and use the event hashtag
- By following the event hashtag you should be able to see what other people are saying. If someone at the event poses a questions, answer it. Or retweet their posts. This is a great way to make conference friends and arrange to meet with people at the hotel bar later!
- Take pics and post. Include yourself in them if you are so bold!
- As you get more comfortable, pose your own questions or state your own opinions. The ultimate goal here, of course, is to develop your own voice and brand.
If your conference has mixers or happy hours, mention the online conversations you’ve been seeing surrounding the conference. When you hand people your business you can casually slip in that you are on social media and have been covering the event. And now you’ve scored some followers!
After the Conference
Write a post or tweet in which you encapsulate your biggest takeaways. Your goal here is to provide value to those who missed out.
At the end of the day not all of us are extroverted networking maniacs. And that’s OK!
Even if you label yourself as an introvert, remember that introverts can make thoughtful contributions in a noisy space. As an introvert, you can use social media to promote yourself without having to stand in a crowded room shaking hands and making small talk for hours.
For those who are extroverts? What’s stopping you? Network!