Rocking a Conference Pt. 1
In the 6th grade I wrote a poem about a flamenco dancer. I had never been so proud of a creative endeavor. Beaming with pride, I got up to recite the poem at my all-girls’ school slam poetry night. I froze. I left the stage without saying a word... but took away with me an intense fear of public speaking.
This fear is not ideal for entering the job market, especially when you're looking toward the agency world. My first leap outside of my comfort zone was applying for a job with Beutler Ink, and every day that I’ve worked here I try to take one risk that that makes me a little uncomfortable, in a good way. This week marks one of my biggest challenges yet: I’m heading to content marketing conference Authority Rainmaker, all on my own, and I want to rock it.
Naturally, Googling “how to rock a conference” was my first strategy, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here is a curated list of 3 basic ways to #win a conference.
P.S. Because we are about nothing if not providing value, each tip has several mini-tips, so you’re really getting like 30 tips for the price of 3 here, folks.
1. Business Cards
If you’re thinking “yeah, duh, I’m going to trade business cards,” don’t let this title fool you. The physical card trading is only a small part of the battle. Author Vanessa Van Edwards gives some essential tips on how to nurture those contacts: · As soon as possible try to write on each card what you talked about with the contact and any tidbits you want to remember.
· Connect with these contacts on LinkedIn while the conference is going on. Why? You get to browse their profile in depth. You might realize you want to circle back to a person because when you realize you have mutual connections or a common interest. · Block out time to transfer all of your notes into action items before you forget everything about every single person you’ve met.
2. Social Media
Sometimes, an even bigger opportunity than the conference itself is the social media buzz surrounding it. Gone are the days of bulleted notes in your Moleskine. Welcome to the age of posting, reposting, reacting, and cultivating, all while listening to the speaker onstage. The key here is to both do research and remain active. · Curated Lists: Tatiana Natzk advises researching the speakers and organizers before the event, and creating a list of their social media handles. This way, you’re able to quickly tweet an affecting story or Instagram a photo real-time with the proper tags and @mentions. · Hashtags: Make sure to look up the conference’s hashtags ahead of time. Not only will you find a bigger audience by using these hashtags, but you can scour content from other attendees. · Want to increase your Twitter followers? Vanessa Van Edwards suggests tweeting every single person you meet that it was nice meeting them. I’m not sure I’m ready for this level of commitment personally, but I’ll make sure to keep it in mind.
3. The Other Social — Socializing
You could Tweet, Facebook follow, and LinkedIn stalk for hours on end, but communicating with someone face-to-face is still far more valuable than screen-to-screen. · The Non-Buddy System: As tempting as it may be, don’t sit with your friends or colleagues during sessions or even at lunch. Not only will you be forced to interact with others, but you will be far more approachable if you’re not trading inside jokes, exclusive handshakes, or any other kind of Hardy Boys hubbub.
· Attendee List: Conferences, while based around the backbone of amazing speaker series and panels, are primarily networking events. Thus, the people you attend sessions with are as important as the sessions themselves. Crystal Washington, of Personal Branding Blog, advises, “Check the event website as many publish attendee names/title/companies prior to the event for registered attendees. Create a list.” If you’re a real pro, reach out to prospects ahead of time to find a time to connect.
As a dedicated member of the “Checking things off lists makes me happy” club, I’m happy to see so many tasks set ahead of me that I can achieve with a little research and gumption. The Non-Buddy System, however, gives my 6th-grade self the chills. To that point, a conference-going Beutler Ink colleague suggests that having a buddy makes it much easier to talk with groups or individuals you would normally be too nervous to approach. I, however, will be attending this conference sans sidekick, so I have no choice but to persevere with the Non-Buddy System. With these tips in hand, I will attempt not only to survive this conference, but to #win.
Stay tuned for Part 2 to read about my experience at Authority Rainmaker.