To say I am excited about the next two weeks of my personal and professional life is an understatement. Why? Because I am preparing to attend two very important conferences.
The first, which is what I am focusing on in this post today, is Social Media Marketing World 2017, or #SMMW17. The website describes it this way:
“SMMW17 is the world’s largest social media marketing conference. By attending, you’ll make connections with 120+ of the world’s top social media pros (plus 3,000 of your peers) and you’ll discover amazing ideas that’ll transform your social media marketing. The event takes place in San Diego, California on March 22, 23 and 24.”
There is a half-day of pre-con workshops that are included in our registration fee, plus 120 more sessions from which to choose over the following 2 days…not an easy choice!
The second conference I will be attending the following week is the Legal Marketing Association annual conference, or #LMA17. I’ll be publishing a similar networking post for that conference in a day or two. The difference between the posts will be that the names and tips I have gathered will be different. You will notice overlap in concepts, though, which shouldn’t be a surprise.
This Is My 1st Social Media Marketing World
This is my first Social Media Marketing World conference. It doesn’t feel like it, though, because I’ve spent the past several years connecting with many of the people I will see next week. Many of them I already call “friends” because we have been in mastermind groups together, have brainstormed in Facebook groups, have taken online courses together, have spent time livestreaming together, have presented on webinars together…you know, connecting.
The layers of unfamiliarity have been stripped away for many of us, which is what I focus on daily in my marketing consulting business…helping lawyers connect and become more familiar with their audiences in order for relationships to accelerate so business can be done. Social media helps advance that concept exponentially. It works.
Networking Can Be A Daunting Expedition
Attending a conference with over 3,000 others can be a daunting expedition for first-timers or veterans. To help that along, I decided to gather networking tips from many who are attending the conference. I posted a request in the conference LinkedIn group, as well as 3 Facebook groups, and the #SMMW17 Event Page on Facebook. I think you’ll enjoy the wide variety of tips they have contributed.
Enjoy! I’ll add my networking tip and wrap-up at the end.
A Very Good Place To Start
I think it is appropriate that we start with Social Media Marketing World’s fearless creator and leader, Michael Stelzner. Mike is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of the Social Media Marketing Society, and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He also hosts the weekly Social Media Marketing podcast and the Social Media Marketing Talk show.
Tip: Take full advantage of the Table Talks taking place during lunch. There are dozens of tables focused on topical interests. You never know who you’ll meet that could change your business forever.
Tip: Create a simple Google doc spreadsheet and share with your team. Get clear on the specific types of people and contacts you wish to meet in person at the live event. Research the Bizzabo app, the LinkedIn group, the Facebook Event and the hashtag #SMMW17 across all social networks. Add key contacts to your spreadsheet with columns for adding notes, key points to remember about the person, follow up notes, and more. Have your team at the ready to follow up promptly via email, social channels and a hand-written note and/or phone call from yourself. Remember time is limited and that it’s not humanly possible to meet and follow up with 3,000 people! Focus on key contacts, follow up with a warm personal touch and really think how you can make people feel special.
Tip: Make a list of the people you want to connect with and be sure to follow them on social and start a conversation before you get there.
Tip: If you want to meet a speaker be sure to go to their session – create a graphic beforehand that you can tweet – (make sure you grab a quote that they use ) – you can find them on social. Interact with them on twitter and Instagram.
Tip: Do not aim to give out your business cards the first time you meet someone. It is disrespectful and you show that you are not interested in knowing the person that could be your potential client.
Tip: Help the people you meet feel like the event was totally worth it. Follow up with them and offer value in the form of an answer to a question they may have expressed to you or an introduction to someone you may have met additionally who could be a good connection for them. The more you connect people with value the more you’re remembered as someone they can trust and potentially work with. Don’t waste time with the follow up to help make this happen!
Tip: I carry a small moleskin book and tot stapler. If I’ve made a connection, I staple the card to a page and write notes. Of course, a card scanning app and decent CRM does the same thing. It’s so quick and easy for me to go analog. Of course, I go digital when I get back to the office. I actually wrote an email address on my wrist at a show that eventually turned into a nice bit of business. I guess I like pens. Be interested in others and others will be interested in you.
Tip: I use Infusionsoft and we can snap the card and type notes and drop them into a contact record or funnel designed for the event.
Tip: I think the most powerful networking tip I’ve picked up over the last 30 years in business is the following: Don’t be shy, introduce yourself, and engage others. What’s the best way to do this? That’s easy. Use one or more of these ten questions http://bit.ly/start-a-conversation.
Tip: The biggest miss for many networkers is setting your intentions before you go to a conference. When you’re clear on who you’d like to meet and what opportunities you’d like to focus on, you’re more likely to ‘attract’ those connections. In addition, you’ll get ideas about whom to reach out to beforehand to set up 1on1s. Clarity is power.
Tip: Wear an eye-catching name tag! As an entrepreneur launching a new business one of the creative ways I have found to help build my business and drive in clients was by wearing a name tag! I’m in social media and my Snapcodes on my name tag and made it easy for people to be curious and want to know more about what I do.
Tip: Standing in line is an excellent opportunity to make a new friend. Say Hi, introduce yourself, tweet a pic. You never know where a new connection may lead.
Tip: Monitor the conference hashtag #SMMW17 and use it to connect with speakers and attendees. When tweeting, be sure to tag people you mention so they’ll get a notification. These two simple tips will go a long way to helping you make valuable connections before, during and after the conference.
Tip: One of my favorite tips is to make dinner reservations well in advance with extra seats so you can invite fellow attendees you meet and want to build a relationship with to a nice dinner where you already have a spot.
Tip: Create content as part of your conference experience. Not the usual “best lessons” post … but one question you ask attendees and speakers the entire time (recording everything). I did that and it was fabulous!
Tip: Look people in the eye when you meet them.
Tip: Join the early morning walks or runs as a relaxed way to meet a few people before the day starts. This can be great if you are on your own or a little shy as it gives you familiar faces to see during the day. Everyone has a name tag so when taking photos make sure the tag is visible to help you remember names later! Don’t forget to join the conference Slack channels !!
Tip: It’s always a great idea to start networking or engaging with people before the actual event, that way conversations can go even deeper when you meet in person. Use the event hashtag on Twitter!
Tip: I may be biased, but this always works for me: http://bit.ly/SMMW17MeetAndEat
Tip: Wear a name tag so people don’t have to ask. Wear it on the opposite shoulder from the hand you shake hands with so when you reach out to shake hands people can still easily see your name.
Tip: First of all – be authentic in all communication, regardless of whether it’s before, during, or after. Show up to sessions a little bit early so you can introduce yourself to the people you’re sitting near. And if you’re on the other end of that, be open to meeting others – you never know what opportunity or new friend might come up!
Tip: Make good use of the networking opportunities provided. Most events have topic tables, networking dinners and functions and more. Just get involved!
Tip: I’m all about personal connections. LET SLEEPING BABIES LIE – You get an all-session recording pass included in your ticket. Live in the moment. Don’t end a great conversation to run to a session. Just like Netflix, it will be there for later viewing.
Tip: Look up from your phone and engage with the person next to you! Topic tables!
Tip: Make sure to dress the part, it’s hard to take someone seriously when they show up with jeans to a conference. What you wear is a reflection of your brand and your work.
Tip: My tip is to connect with conference speakers BEFORE the conference. Share your excitement and comment on their content. Start to network way before you get to the conference!
Tip: Don’t start the convo with a pitch.
Tip: These days, I feel like the social (AKA: people) part of social media is often secondary. Social is about listening, learning and then (inter)acting. Remember that you don’t always need to start the conversations … sometimes the most valuable effort can be entrenching yourself into existing ones. As for the “social” part again, I always like to make connections between people—whether both are there at the event or not. I love how Twitter with the appropriate hashtags allows you to turn virtual interactions into in-person relationships. We’re shifting beyond products and services … and that means interaction, trust, value and experiences are the new norm. Digital transformation is all about connecting the dots between people (first), processes and technology to drive experiences. Use these capabilities during events and conferences to ensure that experiences and relationships happen off screen as well. Don’t just be the person behind the phone or app.
Tip: Do your research prior to the event, respect people’s time and focus on having conversations not just listening for your turn to talk! Give lots of hugs and take plenty of selfies, nobody says no to a selfie after a hug! #Handshakes2Hugs
Tip: EVERYONE matters and everyone has something to bring to the table. Treat others that way and you’ll be golden. Don’t try to get yourself in front of people who “matter” based on what others claim…talk with everybody you can. Tbh…I don’t even bring business cards to these things anymore, for various reasons but primarily in my mind because I don’t want a convo to end with “here’s my card”…its WAY more enjoyable (especially at SMMW) to either A) use the event app to connect or B) connect with the person right there on your platform of choice.
Tip: Have something interesting to say. But my tip has always been to make the other person feel like they’re the most important person to you at that moment. Make great eye contact and reflective listen.
Tip: Make it easy for people to do business with you – one of my mantras…. starts with something as simple as letting people know exactly HOW and WHERE to connect with you online (and off). We take for granted that people know our handles: FB, Twitter, IG, Snapchat, LinkedIn, on and on. Take a pause in the action, pull out the phones as time allows, then and there, to follow and LIKE the person on the various social media apps. You’ll exchange each other’s follows/likes, and it’s super fun! Connecting and staying connected long after the conference is as simple as that. After the hugs and selfies, of course!!
Tip: I’m an ad-hoc networker. I’ve been like that my entire life, I let life lead me where I need to go and somehow I meet someone I never intended to meet. I know this is a little against the grain because then you don’t meet the 1-3 people you really should or could meet if you put time and effort into it. But the serendipity of it all makes it feel more human to me and I feel like we aren’t trying as hard, it just happened and makes sense. That said, I do think that you must follow-up with each other following the event in order to turn it into a relationship.
Tip: I think a lot of people miss out on the obvious when it comes to the larger conferences. I have to say I’m using the Bizzabo app and the Slack community to organize face to face meeting on the ground in San Diego.. You can’t just pepper it with generic messages. You need to be interested in the other person and their reasons for being at the conference. Then – you can tell your story.
Tip: Use the hashtag of any conference. Make sure you engage all the time every day leading up to it. Just hammer it out and you’ll be amazed at the people who come back to you. I’m looking forward to seeing these people at the event.
Tip: Always remember that people are just people. Some are more visible, more outgoing, more extroverted, more introverted, more advanced in their knowledge in a specific area, more whatever…but they are people just like you. They are not more important or less important than you are. You have every right to smile and say hello to them if you’d like. If they choose not to engage, then that is probably their loss. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, or that you aren’t worthy. It simply means it wasn’t right at that moment. Think of the times when someone does engage, though. Taking the chance has a much larger upside than it does a downside.
- Go ahead…if you want to, just say hi.
- Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you have to say something brilliant. Friendly conversations aren’t brilliant. They are friendly.
- Let someone know you simply wanted to say hi and wanted to shake their hand.
- If you begin to feel awkward, that’s okay, too. You will know when it’s time to say thanks and walk away.
- Remember, you are just as important and worthy as every other person in the room and at the conference.
- Credentials, income, position and one’s circle of friends are wonderful and have likely been nurtured over a long period. It’s okay if that special connection doesn’t happen in an instant. With time, everything becomes more familiar.
Remember, not that you want to do this, but you have my permission to walk right up to me at this or any conference to say hello. Knock into me, hug me (yep, I’m a hugger) trip me, do whatever you’d like (don’t hurt me, although I am pretty strong so I should be okay), ask me my name 10 times if you forget, and don’t ever feel awkward if you have to keep looking at my name badge to remember details. It’s okay. We’re human.
To all of my authors, thank you so much for contributing! I know how busy you are, so please know how much I appreciate you!
Okay, are you ready? Let’s do this! I can’t wait to meet all of you!
Nancy Myrland is a Marketing and Business Development Plan Consultant, and a Content, Social & Digital Media Speaker, Trainer & Advisor, helping lawyers and legal marketers grow by integrating all marketing disciplines. She is a frequent LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for Business trainer, as well as a content marketing specialist. She helps lawyers, law firms, and legal marketers understand how to make their marketing and business development efforts more relevant to their current and potential clients, and helps lead law firms through their online digital strategy when dealing with high-stakes, visible cases. As an early and constant adopter of social and digital media and technology, she also helps firms with blogging, podcasts, video marketing, and livestreaming. She can be reached via email here.