As a lawyer there are many industry events and conferences I love to attend, whether it’s the local bar association meetings, an event about a distinct practice area, something that’s affinity group specific or a combination of these topics. As we emerge into a more solidified hybrid environment, it’s great to have the opportunity to get outside and see each other in person again.
Unfortunately, much too often, people attend events without a clear plan in place, and subsequently miss out on opportunities to connect with people, build relationships with individuals and organizations, and elevate their brand, both in person and on social media.
If you’re going to spend the time, money, and energy to attend a conference or event, you want to ensure you’re doing everything you can to develop your network with community members while you’re there.
To help you avoid missed opportunities, here are 12 key ways to maximize your relationship building and your personal/professional brand building at any event or conference:
Preparing Before the Event
1. Think about your goals for the event. Do you want to connect with organizers, raise your visibility in your areas of practice or interest, communicate with leaders, your peers, or potential clients about your work, or learn about new developments in your industry? Actually write down your goals so you can create a clear plan.
2. Follow the host organization on social media and identify the correct event hashtags.
3. Share your plans to attend the conference on social media and with your organization’s email list or your newsletter. In your social media posts, tag the host organization and use event hashtags to start to network with the broader community.
4. Post on your social platforms about what you’re looking forward to. Are there featured speakers or specific content at the conference you’re excited for? This will help people know about the highlighted content and speakers and it will also help others understand what your interests are.
5. If you want to speak with specific colleagues, speakers, organizers, attendees, or awardees at the event, organize those meetings in advance (when possible) so you can plan your schedule accordingly. Connecting with attendees is a strategy to use both before and after the event.
Networking and Engaging During the Conference
6. Take pictures! Get multiple shots with individuals (including attendees and speakers) and groups. I’m a huge advocate for capturing and documenting moments using photos and video. Remember — this particular event with these specific attendees will only happen once, so make sure to take as many pictures as possible.
7. Post your images and text updates on social media during the conference, and make sure to tag your friends, colleagues, and the hosting organization. All social media platforms are helpful, but LinkedIn is especially great for professional networking and expanding relationship building in your areas of interest.
Use the event hashtags when you share your updates in order to broaden who sees your posts. Think about what resonated for you at the conference or event. You might write updates about (and take photos of) keynote sessions, panels, awards, meals, and other memorable networking moments.
That said, you don’t have to post contemporaneously. Many people will rush to post immediately during the conference. Before the pandemic, that was me, but now I’m more interested in being focused on and fully present during the event, rather than constantly feeling the need to post photos and updates. I want to embrace the experience, not spend time trying to reflect and create content all day long.
That being said, there is a hybrid way to engage. I do this too. For example, you can post right away if the topic is more timely, and other times not post at all. Or, you might tease a future update, and say “More to come on this topic!” if you know you’ll be sharing more takeaways on the event or subject. A successful strategy really depends on the actual event. To make a strategic decision, you can reflect on questions like, “What is the context of the event (celebratory, topic-focused, serious, fun, etc)?” “How do you want people to perceive your participation in the event (thought leader, well-connected, etc.)?”, and “What are you trying to get out of your attendance (clients, new job, general visibility)?”.
Leveraging Relationship Building and Takeaways After the Event
8. After the event, share pictures and takeaways from sessions and awards on your organization’s social media account (or ask them to share your posts). This helps with continuing to foster engagement for the content and the event with a broader audience.
9. Follow up with new contacts, including speakers and attendees. Send out connection requests to their professional social media accounts and maintain regular contact after the event. In your follow up correspondence, you may want to remind people how you met, share a photo or video, or share a helpful resource.
10. Be a superconnector. If you met a contact (or reconnected) at the event, and you think someone else might benefit from that connection, check in with both parties individually and follow up with an introduction. This is a great way to provide value to your network and strengthen your relationships across your entire network.
11. Consider creating a longer-form event recap on your blog, in your newsletter, or in a LinkedIn post or article. Use a strong headline like “What I Learned About X from [Event Name]” or “Top Takeaways from X Conference.”
12. Reach out to the host organization and ask if they would like to use your event recap in their newsletter or client bulletins. This demonstrates that you’re not just doing the work, but engaged in and committed to taking your personal brand and relationship building seriously by affiliating with organizations and events that are aligned. And it helps them!
Takeaways from events and conferences are great content to share and you can always use them to build your brand around the things that are of interest to you. Sharing with your network over a longer stretch of time is critical, actually. In fact, post-conference updates can help continue to drive engagement for you, the host organization, and the speakers.
Using these strategies will help you get the most out of every professional event you attend by amplifying your personal brand and helping you strengthen old relationships and foster new ones.
Want to help your employees leverage event attendance for business development and build their personal brands? Connect with me to find out how I can help by facilitating a workshop or speaking at your organization.