The Fall is conference season. Have you updated your business habits?
You can benefit so much more from a conference today than simply by showing up at an event with 200 or 20,000 people. Attempting to take in countless exhibits? No need. Missing productive networking opportunities? Not necessary. Lunching with delegates you’ll never meet again? Nope.
The conference in the digital age gives valuable opportunities to conference organizers, speakers, sponsors, and delegates. It takes some strategic maneuvers, though.
The good news is that event planners can send prospects to a landing page for easy registration. Social media also will help to share the message with those who want to join a waiting list. You might also consider recording and edit presentations for a follow-up offer to those who could not attend in person.
Steps before the conference
First step. Research social accounts of speakers and sponsors or someone you really want to meet at the event. This gives you an idea about how they prefer to engage online – or if they don’t. Create an Excel spreadsheet to include their contact information from social networks they favour.
- This task takes time if a conference recruits many speakers – some in the hundreds. I like to break them down into three categories: (1) keynoters (2) breakout speakers (3) sponsors. The three different categories can be colour coded for easy identification;
- Ensure there’s a conference hashtag;
- Look for any prominent hashtags that involve the city where the conference is located;
- Search for industry influencers;
- Publish advance blogs on star attractions to leverage their influence;
- Don’t forget to market these blogs;
- Conference organizers may want to pitch their story to relevant journalists. First, learn their online habits and online newsbeat. Next, share their content to nurture a relationship;
- Many delegates use their own smartphones for selfies. Hire a photographer/videographer who knows how to move fast, shoot everybody, capture quotes to share. The pro works alongside the social media lead from a shot list;
- Ensure that all pros know which equipment is being used to avoid communication breakdown.
Next steps. Taking advantage of social media still is new for conference participants. Remind them of the hashtag on any big screens and invite the audience to share insights.
- Good prizes were offered at a recent event for the most shares using their event hashtag; they loved it. Also, give attendants how-to-use-social media ideas as part of their registration kit;
- Write down questions that are relevant to the speakers using their Twitter handle and post them online. You might capture their attention for shares to their contacts;
- Compile any answers for a later blog or infographic;
- Arrange in-person meetings with those speakers to record their answers to a second question during the conference;
- Scan the hashtag for posts from individuals who may be good contacts for you during the conference. Schedule a coffee meeting or lunch/dinner;
- Tweet each speaker’s answer during their session.
During the Conference
If it’s your event, it’s better to have a team in place prepped with questions, hashtags, and speaker accounts. It’s an overwhelming task for one person to handle, if you want to make an impact. Think collaboration.
- Social media volunteers are a great support. I repeat: It’s a good idea to have a professional photographer/videographer on hand to supply you with useable materials in the various technical formats for publication;
Also, give attendants how-to-use-social media ideas as part of their registration kit.
- Prepare a list of Tweets and advance posts for release during the event. This will help reduce distractions and speed up your efforts during the conference;
- Ask, record, Facebook Live, and tweet answers for your prepared questions of speakers and delegates;
- You’ll have questions unique to the event, something like: “What’s your best take-a-away from the morning sessions? Be prepared to follow up with useful questions if your subjects give you a lead;
- Invite attendees to post their own answers with the hashtags for the event.
After the Conference
1. Compile three lists of responses: Keynoters, Presenters, and Attendees;
2. Write a blog post: Insights from global leaders on your subject;
3. Create an infographic to highlight the very best of the responses from all three lists;
4. Send the blog/infographic/video to key individuals with targeted lists on social media. Ask them to share.
Here’s 4 more tips for you.
1. Select your best platforms. The LinkedIn/Twitter combo provides business with the best customer intelligence available today. Please build up lists of followers, fans, and connections in social networks with brand images; the sooner, the better. It might take you a year in advance of the event.
Pro Tip. If you’re a delegate, do not go into your next conference alone. Content is a team sport. And so are conferences. Partner up and lean on each other for your existing connections, for idea generation, and especially for moral support and celebration.
2. Find relevant influencers: They have relevant followings and can provide introductions to the people that you need to meet. You still need to make the case for support, though. The best thing you can gain from an event is the networking possibilities. Take advantage of the opportunity to market yourself. No relationship is as valuable as one that has been solidified in person.
Pro Tip. Make a list of all the people you want to connect with at the conference. Create templates you can personalize for every stage: Tweets, outreach emails, follow up emails, and thank you notes.
3. Build distribution. It’s challenging to succeed with social media for conferences without the benefit of third-party tools. There are untold platforms that promise the world in social media. More come out every day. The key is to know which tools to engage and how to apply them for which mission.
Pro tip: Capture email addresses for your database. I use TPNI Engage but there is an entire range from low level to very sophisticated.
4. Acquire and create content. Many companies do not yet publish a blog on a regular basis. The good news is there are many sources from which to acquire relevant material. In addition, your sponsors, partners, and major accounts may have relevant blogs. Ask if you might publish their content for your event or if they will share your content with their followers. Que up your blogs, articles, infographics, and videos using third-part automatic distribution tools.
Pro Tip. Go nuts on social. Before, during, and after the event. Share the process as it unfolds. Use wins and roadblocks alike to post updates. Tag the people that are on your list of connections throughout. Get involved in the hashtags. Share.
5. Capture names at the event for follow up. My marketing platform, TPNI Engage, will capture the business card image – and after the event – I upload those names into a database already set up to sort the names.
Human Tip. A fantastic conference experience embraces real, human connections. The sound of your voice, the connection with your eyes, and the movement of your body builds relationships.
Digital marketing is amazing for conference organizers – and for delegates.
Yet, it’s the human connection that still counts.
Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. After selling the magazine in 2010, she trained in Houston, San Francisco, New York, and San Francisco before obtaining certification in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco. Training is ongoing.