In about a week, I leave for my third BlogWorld and New Media Expo Conference in Las Vegas. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with friends like Artist Tara Reed from Oregon, Carlos Hernandez from San Francisco [if you'll be there, please leave a comment or tell me "I'm going to BlogWorld!" on twitter] and a complete cadre of folks I haven't seen since the last one. Not to mention all of the Chicago folks I hang out with regularly. In getting ready to go, I'm sharing a revised article I wrote about conference PR with an updated focus on personal branding.
Want to get the most out of your conference or seminar experience?
Almost all of these conference PR tips work for seminar planners as well as attendees. In this article you'll learn how to hack out the hype, evaluate speakers, calculate your return on investment and market yourself before, during and after the conference. Whether you’re an event planner, a speaker or an attendee, you’ll learn how to make your conference experience more valuable.
Hack out the Conference Hype
Have someone you trust read the sales page and registration site. Ask them what they think they would get out of the experience. Google the speakers and check their track record. Remember, a one-time success story is like getting recipe for one dish that can be made one time by one person. Check out presenters on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter so you can make a personal connection when you meet them. For authors, read their reviews on Amazon. Reading a book may be more useful than traveling for 3 days.
Examine the speakers' products onsite or online before you buy them at the seminar.
It’s okay to plan to buy the speaker’s products, but be prepared for a sales pitch. Most of the presenters will offer a money-back guarantee that lets you return the materials if they’re not what you’re looking for. It’s better to find one person you can relate to than to buy two different products from completely different perspectives that promise the same results. Trying to run on two tracks is confusing and distracting.
Calculate the return on your time and money investment.
In addition to your registration, travel, hotel, meals and any products you plan to buy, budget time and money both for a promotional presentation piece for your company and follow up contacts via email and direct mail. Will you lose revenue if you’re away? What do you expect to take away that makes you more money – partnerships, products, knowledge? Does the return equal your time and money investment? If so, how long will it take for you to see a return?
Set Intentions Before You Enter Your Registration Information
If you can’t come up with at least five good reasons to attend, don’t go. Plan your presentation pitch and your follow up offer. Dress the part. If you’re attending a relaxed weekend at a retreat center, you’ll pack a completely different wardrobe than the only you need in Vegas at that snazzy trade show. Overdress a notch or two and you’ll be taken more seriously.
Pace your networking, learning and relaxing.
Choose the top 3 actions you need to take from each session and implement them as soon as you get back – preferably, to your hotel room. Get approval from the organizer and the speakers before sharing any content information. Some seminars do not allow video or audio taping. Many request that information be used for your personal purposes only. Why should someone else attend the seminar if you’re already told them all there is to know about it? Stay up late to network one night and go to bed early the next.
Begin following up before you check out.
Send in your testimonial to conference organizers immediately. Write and send postcards to the ten most important people you met. Call them when you get back to see what they thought of the seminar. Out of all the hundreds of people I’ve met at these events, only one person called me. Will I remember them? Of course. On these calls, don’t sell anything at all. Use the time to get to know the other person better and see what they picked up as being important and relevant.
Follow up Tips
Carry a pen to write on business cards [ okay to use your iPhone instead]. When you make a connection you'd like to keep, ask if your new friend is on Facebook, Linked and twitter. Then, make a note on the card. You can go back to your hotel room and add them to your networks that night or early the next day. Don't worry about acting too fast. As your networks update, people will notice.
Take Pictures and Videos with People You Want to Be Associated With
Pack the best conference digital camera with digital audio/video [affiliate link] loaded with a mega storage card and fresh batteries and follow these tips on how to look good in pictures.
Know How to [Really] Use Your Phone
Last year, two days before I left for BlogWorld, I got a new phone. But, I didn't know how to use it. Make sure you know how to update twitter, check email, upload pictures, live broadcast and do anything else that you want to do. Although I didn't install a twitter app, the GPS function saved me when I got lost in the desert.
Form a Posse
You don't have to take one with you, but you can round one up while you're there. Talk on twitter before and during the conference. Invite people to dinner on LinkedIn. Post a message on Facebook. You have people. They're looking for you. Gather them.
Written for Wired PR Works by Barbara Rozgonyi, founder of CoryWest Media
To request permission to reproduce or republish this article, contact connect AT corywestmedia DOT com.
How do you maximize your personal branding at conferences and events?