At eZanga, we love going to trade shows and conferences. We get to learn more about our industry while meeting face-to-face with other industry professionals.
But while one purpose of trade shows, conferences, seminars, and conventions is to provide an environment for offline communication, they can be even better when you use online tools in tandem with your in-person networking.
If you work social networking into your experience before, during, and after professional events, the relationships you form there will be different. That's what's so great about social media. The conversations you have at a trade show can easily be continued later, it's easier to stay in touch and follow-up, and you can talk to people you never even saw.
Social media gives you the opportunity to form more, longer-lasting, and deeper relationships at professional events. (click to tweet)
Here are some things you can do to leverage social media at the next trade show, conference, convention, or seminar you attend:
Before the Event
- Connect With the Event's Accounts. Before the event, find all of the event's social media accounts and connect with them. This can include following a trade show's official account on Twitter, "Liking" the conference's Facebook page, or joining a convention's LinkedIn group.
- Find the Conversation. There'll probably be a hashtag on Twitter people will be using to discuss the event. If the official Twitter account isn't promoting a specific hashtag, search around for what others are using. There may also be hashtags for specific sessions, keynotes, etc. taking place at the event.
- Let People Know You'll Be There. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, start talking about it on your social media accounts. Tweet about it using the hashtag or mentioning the event's Twitter handle or mention the Facebook page in a status, just let people know you'll be there and start talking to other people who will be as well.
- Make Plans. Through finding and joining the conversation in advance, you may meet certain people you know for sure you'll want to meet in person at the event. Make concrete plans to meet at the event, or exchange cell phone numbers so you don't leave meeting to chance.
- BONUS: Create a Dashboard. Using a Twitter client or app like HootSuite or TweetDeck, you can create your own social media dashboard for the event. Create streams for all of the event hashtags, import the streams of the official accounts, and create a Twitter list of other attendees. This way you'll have an easy-to-access hub for all of the event conversation and updates.
During the Event
- Use the Hashtags and Backchannels. Using the channels for conversation you found before the event, join in on conversations and talk about your experience.
- Upload Media. If you're taking pictures or video at the event, share them with other attendees and followers. They'll enjoy seeing your tweeted and Instagrammed pictures, and video can be great for people at home to feel like they're there.
- Use Mobile Apps. There are a lot of great mobile apps that are useful at professional events. Something like Sonar can tell you who's nearby, and a lot of events will have their own mobile app that may pull in social streams and conversations.
- BONUS: Live-Tweet. For most industries, having a smartphone, tablet, or laptop out during a speaker isn't considered as rude as it once was. Quote your favorite nuggets of wisdom and share what you're learning! Don't forget to include tags and hashtags, and mention the speaker.
After the Event
- Connect. After you get home, set aside time to connect with all of the people you met and talked to online and offline. Follow them on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn, etc. It's also nice to send them a message telling them how much you enjoyed meeting, and possibly continue conversations you had at the event.
- Show Gratitude. Don't forget to thank the people that made the event so great. Tweet, message, or tag the event's accounts, as well as your favorite speakers, hosts, and leaders.
- BONUS: Create a Storify. Storify is an absolutely fantastic way to curate social posts to tell a complete story. You can pull in posts from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Tumblr, and the list goes on. You can also link to websites. When the Storify is finished, you can share and embed it almost anywhere.
- BONUS: Write a Blog Post. You can also write a blog post about your experience about the event. Talk about what sessions you attended, who you met, what you learned, etc.
How do you use social media at networking events? Share your tips in the comments.