How to Get the Most out of Conferences using Social Media
I love conferences. Not only are they a fantastic opportunity to meet and engage with a huge number of people, they can be a melting pot for new ideas and new business opportunities. But in the case of large conferences such as the recent Buy Yorkshire event hosted by Yorkshire Mafia in Leeds, it is impossible to speak to everyone. For this reason, it is vital to have a conference strategy: and here is how social media can help.
Social media and audience development for event organisers
Savvy conference organisers understand that social media is a great promotional tool. Not only can help get people to the conference in the first place, it also creates a lasting buzz post-event, as people discuss what they have learned and who they have met.
Some online tools that can assist include:
Twitter – Having a presence on Twitter allows event organisers to share key information and updates in real time. The recent Live at Leeds event used Twitter to let people know which venues had queues and which people could get straight into, balancing the crowds and improving the festival experience for everyone.
Hashtags – #BuyYorkshire worked really well, allowing conference attendees and speakers to connect before, during and after the event.
Apps – Both Buy Yorkshire and Live at Leeds created really good apps, with real-tine information and live streaming of Twitter feeds.
There was so much online buzz around Buy Yorkshire, that Brand Yorkshire jokily tweeted “so is anyone at the conference?”
I posted a picture of me with Alistair Campbell on Twitter and Facebook on day one of Buy Yorkshire. On day two I bumped into someone who had heard of the conference before, but saw my picture and decided to come along on day two. This just goes to show the power of social media in attracting visitors to events and getting the word out. Also, as it’s social, people will engage and react – you get results and very quickly!
Advice on getting the most out of conferences using social media
I always say you should go to a conference prepared to learn, engage and enjoy. Go with a plan but leave it flexible enough that you have time to freely network and look round for unexpected opportunities.
Before the conference you should:
(1) Send individual tweets to all your clients letting them know you’ll be there and asking those who are attending if they would like to meet.
(2) Tweet the speakers to say “I’m looking forward to your talk”
(3) Use your LinkedIn contacts in the same way – connect beforehand and find out who is going – potential clients included.
(4) Post on all your social media sites that you are attending and what you’re looking forward to.
(5) Prepare questions for the speakers (you often need to submit beforehand)
(6) Follow this up by introducing yourself to the speakers at the event.
I did this for Buy Yorkshire and some of speakers (Carl, Michelle) retweeted my posts, which opens up a whole new network of contacts.
I got some great PR from this with lots of tweets and mentions afterwards – just shows it’s worth putting yourself in the spotlight and engaging in person with the speakers both online and offline.
(7) Follow Twitter hashtags and join in with conversations online before, during and after the event – these expose you to everyone else who is following the event conversation and can often result in some fantastic post talk debates.
(8) Tweet about your clients who are attending, and offer recommendations and friendly pointers to other conference attendees.
(9) If any of your clients are exhibiting, suggest people visit their stands and wish your clients luck for the event etc.
(10) For any new connections you have made, find them on LinkedIn and connect with a friendly, bespoke message (never just “add” without taking the time to write a personal message).
(11) Finally, and most importantly, make sure you follow up on any promises as soon as you get home: send any contacts and information requested straight away, while it is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
I hope you find these tips useful. Do you have some good tips to share? Do share what has worked for you in the comments box below.
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