Do you want to strengthen the connections you make at conferences?
Have you considered using LinkedIn to develop relationships during events?
As a business-centric social network, LinkedIn is valuable for connecting with peers, colleagues, and prospects before, during, and after conferences.
In this article, you'll discover 10 tips for using LinkedIn to connect with people at conferences and events.
Performing Pre-conference Prep
Before you attend a conference, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and you have all of your LinkedIn groundwork in place.
1. Update Your LinkedIn Profile
To put your best foot forward, update the following details on LinkedIn:
Give your profile a once-over before you begin your conference engagement. You want your profile to be up to date, since it's likely to be viewed by a lot of people. Look through all of the sections, but pay close attention to where you work, projects you've done, and awards you've received.
Make sure your profile picture is recognizable, so people will know who you are when they meet you. When people recognize you, it instills a sense of trust, and people do business with those they know, like, and trust.
Update your background image to reflect your current projects, your industry, or the focus of the conference.
For example, if you have a book or product that's related to the topic of the conference, put that in your background. For an accounting conference, put a spreadsheet in your background pic. If you've been to the conference before, you could use an image from last year's event.
2. Research People Connected to the Event
Look up the venue, organizers, sponsors, and speakers in preparation for the event. Also, join any relevant LinkedIn groups associated with the conference.
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Relationship development starts now. You want to connect and engage with the conference organizers and any prospects ahead of time. When you send connection requests, customize your invitations to mention the conference. Also let people know you look forward to meeting them at the event.
3. Tag Your Connections
As you connect with people, add a tag with the name of the conference. Note that you can only do this on desktop.
To tag someone, choose Connections from the My Network tab and hover over the person's name. Then click Tag and select your conference tag from the drop-down list or click Add New Tags to create one.
You can also tag new connections from the Relationship tab of their profile.
After you add tags, you can easily search your network for people related to the conference.
To start to build top-of-mind awareness with the organizers and fellow attendees, comment on and share their posts. Remember to @mention them, too.
Also, reach out to schedule time to meet with important new connections, as well as people you already know whom you want to meet at the conference. As your relationships develop, add notes to their LinkedIn profiles. Put in dates and descriptions of conversations and action items, so nothing falls through the cracks.
Note: If you know you'll have extra time, search your connections by the conference location (for example, San Diego) to see if there are other people you should meet with while you're in town.
4. Create Messaging Templates
Sometimes reaching out to people for the first time can be intimidating. To make communication easier and less stressful during the conference, have some messaging templates ready to go.
Write and save your templates on your phone's notepad app, so they're easily accessible. Then all you have to do is copy, paste, and customize.
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Start by creating a standard invitation to connect, which can be up to 300 characters.
Also write a template you can use to ask a mutual friend for an introduction. If you know your mutual friend will also be at the conference, suggest meeting in real life. For instance, “Hey COMMON PERSON, I noticed you know THIS PERSON. All three of us are at/will be at conference X. Would love to all meet up. Is there a good time?” This is one you can send before or during the conference.
Other messaging templates can include a note to someone you don't know well but want to get to know better, a “great to meet you” note, and a message with a favorite resource you like to send people after you meet.
5. Download the LinkedIn Mobile App
If you haven't already done so, make sure you have the LinkedIn mobile app on your phone to make connecting and messaging easier at the conference.
Engaging During the Event
Remain active on LinkedIn during the conference to reach out to and engage with your new connections.
6. Connect With Attendees
People will be more likely to accept your connection invitations if you're standing right in front of them. So if you can, connect with people in person at the conference, using the LinkedIn mobile app. When you get to your computer later, be sure to add the conference tag. This is also a good time to write any notes about your conversation.
The other option is to gather business cards and follow up with people later. Make a note on the card with some details so they're sure to remember you.
Use two different invitation templates: one for people you connect with immediately and another for business card follow-up connections.
Tip: Set alerts so you don't miss your must-see sessions and are on time for all meetings.
7. Take Pictures With Attendees and Speakers
During the conference, have your picture taken with speakers, influencers, and other new connections. Share these images as updates.
Gather quotes from attendees and speakers. Also, make notes during the sessions. You can use these for updates, as well as in a compilation LinkedIn Publisher post.
Following Up Post-conference
After the conference, turn your notes into content and follow up with your connections.
8. Send Invitations to Connect
If you haven't already done so, make sure you send invitations to anyone whose business card you gathered at the conference. If you don't have their cards, look them up on LinkedIn.
For any good prospects, book a call or meeting online to continue the conversation.
9. Write a LinkedIn Publisher Post About the Event
Create a conference-specific LinkedIn Publisher post, using the information you gathered. Choose the best influencer quotes, images, and tips for this recap.
Tag, @mention, and notify anyone mentioned in the post, especially influencers. That way they can easily find and share your content too.
10. Stay Top of Mind With New Connections
For the next few weeks, share your conference-related updates and messages to stay top of mind with attendees. Also send the Publisher post to your tagged group of new connections.
In the months following the conference, periodically send brief private messages to your new connections. Ask questions like: Have you implemented any of the strategies you learned and what were the results? What was your favorite part of the conference and how has it helped your business? Who was your favorite speaker at the conference and what did you learn?
Keeping in touch is especially important for those who would be good prospective clients and partners.
As the next conference approaches, send a personalized message to your conference connections asking who will be attending.
When you attend a conference, you have a target-rich environment for relationship development. Use LinkedIn to connect, follow up, and develop relationships with the people you meet.
What do you think? Do you use LinkedIn to connect with people during conferences? What other ways do you use it during events? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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