(Note:I originally published this story on LinkedIn for the built-in distribution and discovery. That worked, there were hundreds more eyeballs and social shares of the LinkedIn post than I would have had from a personal blog, which also didn’t exist in 2015 when I first wrote this. So there’s that. Carry on.)
Marketing conferences are prime networking and visibility opportunities. You know this. I know this. We all know this, we’re marketers for Pete’s sake.
Which means we’re all vying for attention from the same pool of eyeballs.
The influencers, the speakers and keynotes, the conference host…they’re all getting bombarded with tweets, shout-outs, links to blog post recaps, with the hope that just one of them will stand up and take notice of how amazing you are, lift you up to their entire network, and drive tons of new traffic and faces to your website.
Well, that won’t happen by itself. And who’s to say the speakers, keynotes, and conference hosts are the only people you should try to connect with in the first place? If I’ve learned one thing from attending conferences, it’s that you will build a tribe, and that tribe can collectively lift you up just as high as a retweet from a keynote speaker.
So, I’m here to lay the groundwork for you to attain conference notoriety in a meaningful way so, by the end of those 2-3 grueling days, you walk away with knowledge, connections, leads, and influence.
10 Things to Do Before the Conference
- Map out the sessions you wish to attend. Add them to your calendar, and as a bonus tip, find the Twitter handles of the speakers and put them into the “Description” field of the calendar event. Easy access when you want to live-tweet or pre-tweet a speaker (more on that below).
- Outline the type of blog post you might write that uses the lessons from each session as a backdrop. Don’t just fall back on the “Top X Marketing Lessons from [Conference]”, make the blog post (or posts) applicable to your audience. You may come up with ideas that have nothing to do with the sessions themselves, or ideas that can combine multiple sessions into one piece.
- Determine the call to action that you’ll place at the end of each piece of content. This is important, I’ll explain why in a bit.
- Identify the best venue to publish each piece of content you plan to write. Some might be best on your company blog, some might be best on social publishing platforms like LinkedIn or Medium.
- Follow the speakers whose sessions you’re attending across social media and start to build a legitimate relationship with them. Read their work, and engage with their communities.
- Locate a speaker list on Twitter (the host should have made one) and follow it. Cherry pick the people whose sessions you’re attending, or who you may have seen before, and put them in a separate Twitter list. This will cut back on the volume you’ll have to sift through to locate great opportunities to connect with them.
- Save a search for the event hashtag (obviously. Here’s the one for #MPB2B).
- Schedule some tweets to go out that highlight the sessions you want to attend, and also to ask who else is going to the event.
- Look for formal meetups and use them as a water cooler to chat with people beforehand.
- Download the conference app early, participate and network with other newcomers, and help raise awareness about it on social.
3 Things to Do During the Conference
- Don’t just post content on social media using the event hashtag. Engage with others’ content. There’s nothing like meeting someone in real life with whom you were just exchanging tweets.
- Connect (and thank) the exhibitors, strike up relationships with them and try to introduce them to people in your network. They paid to be there, be the person that made it worth their while.
- Try to publish your notes or any other content you’d planned to write.
3 Things to Do After the Conference
- Get your content up as quickly as possible, and send it to the event host in case they’re doing round-ups.
- Do all your follow-ups.
- Stay connected and engaged with those genuine relationships you made before and during the conference.
Tying it together
Does all this lead to celebrity and influence? Well, here are some tested outcomes of doing the things I mentioned above:
HASHTAG ENGAGEMENT ON SOCIAL – The more you interact with the event hashtag, the more influential the social networks will feel you are about the hashtag. This leads to more reach for your social content in the event hashtag stream, and subsequently, more activity, followers, and engagement.
While these vanity metrics shouldn’t be the end goal of any marketer, they open the door to opportunities where your personality and expertise can shine. Be prepared to capitalize on that by having handy access to landing pages, and other lead capture or business development assets.
Again, brown-nosing the established influencers isn’t as powerful as interacting with the tons of other people posting about the event. It doesn’t take much time, and even lightweight signals (likes, favorites, RT’s) establish you as a dot-connector within the social algorithms.
CONTENT STRATEGY – Too often you’ll see pre-conference content take the form of a glorified conference commercial, or worse, a thinly veiled ad for the publisher. Before you do that, ask yourself: Are either of these approaches helpful for your business, your audience and customer base? Nope, they’re about your desire to hijack the event hashtag and call attention to yourself without adding real value.
If you’re publishing that kind of content, you’re either the event host or a speaker. This makes sense, both want to raise awareness of how awesome the event is going to be, and appeal to their loyal audience to come hear them speak.
But for attendees, this approach doesn’t make sense. Your goal is to publish something that ties into your business and positions you as a forward thinker (and someone who is now a smarter marketer as a result of attending the conference).
NETWORKING/INFLUENCE STRATEGY – People attend conferences to learn and network. Through the social and content activity above, you’re positioning yourself as someone worth meeting. Will people go out of their way to say hello? Maybe, maybe not. But you definitely won’t be another stranger in the room, and that translates to warmer connections when they do happen.
Lastly, your networking and influence strategy should play to your ultimate goals for the conference. For me and MarketingProfs B2B Forum (my favorite marketing conference), I’ve always wanted to speak. Over the course of two years I implemented the techniques above. I showed my support of the conference through social and content. I networked with the host, sponsors, speakers, and attendees to build a tribe. And in 2017, I was offered the opportunity not only to lead a panel on employee advocacy, but also to serve on their Program Advisory Board.
That step will no doubt open new doors for me and the company I work for. But it happened organically, authentically, and through actual work not sponsorship dollars. For those of you who wish to build your reputation, conferences, and the techniques above, will help you get there.
(PS – I hope to see you at MarketingProfs B2B Forum this year, tweet me @stephanhov to let me know!)