I’ve long been a fan of the Academy Awards. Every year around this time I spend who-knows-how-many hours watching the pre-event predictions, the endless red carpet coverage, the three-hours-plus event itself, the nonstop stream of Twitter and Facebook commentary and the days of post-show analysis.
This year, perhaps because the show itself was pretty boring, my mind started to wander away from the glamorous gowns and gold statues and started to ponder the genius of the whole Oscars juggernaut. I began to ponder how the Academy Awards organization, the movie studios and the nominated actors are absolute geniuses at Milking an Event for All It’s Worth.
This is a good career tip.
In today’s crazy-busy world, it takes a lot of time and energy to attend a live networking event, conference or any other career-boosting activity. Unfortunately, for many people the event itself exists in a bubble with no pre-thought or after-thought. This is a mistake. If you’re going to spend your precious time and money attending an event, you’ve got to milk it for all it’s worth. Here are some tips:
Before the event:
- See if the event is posted on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter and RSVP on those sites in addition to sending in your regular registration. This is a way to promote to your followers that you are actively networking and it also puts you on the radar screen of the event organizers and other participants.
- Research the host organization, the speakers and the participants (if you’re able to view a list) so you can make a plan for which people you’d like to meet when you’re on-site.
- Follow all of the above people on Twitter and see what topics are interesting to them. If the event you’re attending has a hashtag (for example, #MarketingConf2011), use that in your tweets to show that you are attending, and comment on issues that will be addressed at the conference.
- Here’s a tip that’s especially helpful for shy types: Reach out to a few speakers or attendees beforehand by email, LinkedIn or Twitter to introduce yourself and say that you’re excited to connect in person. This makes it much easier to go up and introduce yourself at the event since you can reference your previous interaction.
During the event:
- Introduce yourself to the event organizers. This is especially important if you’re interesting in future speaking opportunities, as many event organizers are already planning for the following year’s conference. This is also a good idea for job seekers — the event organizers may be aware of sponsors or attendees who are hiring.
- Tweet! If you haven’t yet installed Twitter on your mobile device, it’s an absolute must for making the most of conferences. I’ve met dozens of people because we’ve reacted to each other’s tweets during a conference. Again, be sure to use the event’s hashtag and follow other people who are tweeting at the same event. Also, lots of people follow the tweets for events they’re not attending, so it’s a great way to network with those folks as well.
- Take photos. People love to be tagged online, so snap a few pics (especially ones of you standing with other attendees or speakers) and ask each person if it’s okay to post and tag those photos on Twitter or Facebook. This shows your broader network that you are active and connected, and it’s gives you a great excuse to keep in touch with the people you meet.
- Consider creating an “event-within-the-event.” This is a trick I picked up from networking guru Keith Ferrazzi, who always invites a group of event attendees to join him for coffee or dinner to create a more intimate networking environment during a larger networking event. As a less complicated (and less expensive) version of this, simply invite someone you meet to sit with you at lunchtime.
- Another great tip from Ferrazzi is to briefly introduce yourself before you ask a question during a workshop or speech (and you should always ask a question!). This makes you memorable to the speaker and the entire audience and often leads to further conversation opportunities.
- When you meet someone you’d like to keep in touch with, immediately ask that person when would be a good time to follow up. Jot the person’s follow-up instructions down on the back of his or her business card so you don’t forget.
After the event:
- Schedule all of those follow-up actions into your calendar right away. In addition to scheduling follow-up with the people you met, schedule follow-up with yourself. Many of us walk away from conferences or networking events with a few ideas — “I should really buy that speaker’s book,” “That career coach so-and-so mentioned sounds like someone who might be able to help me,” “I want to look up that website the small business tax expert mentioned.” Don’t let these ideas fall through the cracks! Look through any notes you took at the event or any handouts you received and transfer those action items directly onto your to-do list.
- Write a blog post or Facebook note sharing what you learned or experienced at the conference. Many organizations will link to posts about their events, giving you broader exposure, and the people in your network will appreciate that you want to share the knowledge you gained.
- Sign up for another event. Momentum is important when it comes to networking, so look around for other opportunities to get out there and milk another event for all it’s worth!
What have you done to maximize your attendance at a live event? Please share!