Promote Like a Boss: How to Be a Successful Conference Attendee and Shine as a Thought Leader

 

(This webinar was developed as an extended session for Classy.org’s Virtual Collaborative Event in June 2020.)  

Don’t miss my other session – You Don’t Know Until You Ask: The Art of Negotiation

 

Read the full transcript.

Friends – 

We are a couple weeks post Collaborative. We took the time to participate in the amazing virtual sessions. We joined the Slack Channel and maybe a Brain Date or two. 

 

That said – we don’t get to pat ourselves on the back yet. Here’s Why: We ALSO go to conferences to build our network. And what THAT translates into is this…promoting our causes by promoting ourselves. 

 

Now let me say this: As someone who coaches people for a living on building self-promotion skills, I know alllll the ways we get in our own way around self-promotion. Here’s what I want you to focus on instead: the compounding impact you can make, for both yourself and your organization, if people know you.

 

During the next few minutes, I’m going to give you some tips on how to stand out, get people to know, like, and trust you and how to make the most of the Collaborative (or any conference) as an attendee. 

 

Since we are past the Collaborative event, I’m going to start there. It’s time to reflect on our personal experience. I know…I know… you don’t want any more laptop time. I get it. But humor me. Take a stretch break and get back to your screen, open up a Word doc and set a timer for 20 minutes. Here’s what you’re going to do: You’re going to reflect on what you’ve learned by writing and posting an article online. (If that feels scary to you – let me know and I can help). 

 

Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • What session/topic discussion stands out the most to you and why?
  • What is a new tool you learned about and why are you excited to use it? 
  • What is a conversation you’re still thinking about? What impact did it make to you? 
  • What’s a perspective you have that was challenged? How did that feel to you?
  • If you could propose a session at the next event, what would it be about? Why is that important to you?

 

See what I’m getting at here? YOU have a perspective! I want you to SHARE it! You’ll need a headline for your post. Avoid using “What I learned at [event name].”  Instead, make it engaging by starting it with something like: “How to…” or “What to do when…” or “What will make you…” or “The app that will…” 

 

Weave in a personal story and how it connects you to the mission of your organization. Talk about the impact you’re making on the lives you serve.

 

When it comes to content creation, I have one rule: Don’t overthink it. As my coach says, don’t be precious, BE PRODUCTIVE. Overthinking is the #1 way we get in our way when it comes to sharing our perspectives. It’s 100% vulnerable – I get that – and so we try to find the perfect words. That’s a perfectionistic trap. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in it because there is someone out there that needs to read what you’re saying. And they could benefit from knowing about this event the next time it’s offered so help them find it. (Side note: If you know when conference registration happens again – include that in your article). 

 

From there, I want you to open LinkedIn, take what you’ve written and post it as a LinkedIn article. If you’ve never done this, Google “How to post a LinkedIn Article.” It’ll pop up. Beyond a headline, you’ll also need a photo. I personally use Unsplash for royalty-free photos. Make sure to credit the photographer in your post. 

 

When you publish the post, a LinkedIn post will pop up asking you if you want to share. YOU DO. Make sure to tag the event, your organization, anyone you referenced in the post, and anyone you want eyes ON the post. Use relevant hashtags. If you need ideas, look at the posts by the people you follow and see what they’re using (just make sure it’s relevant to your content). 

 

You can also use this same strategy on Medium. Anyone can publish articles there. Just make sure to also post them on LinkedIn to help build your professional network, too.

 

Now you can go back to your other social media channels and post your content again and tag all the people and organizations you’re looking to engage with. You can also DM specific contacts a link to your post and ask to have a conversation and/or thank them for the inspiration from their session.

 

If the event uses an app like WHOVA, you can message speakers and attendees there to keep conversations alive after the conference. I can’t tell you how many new connections I’ve made this way after an event is over. In fact, doing this a few weeks out is a great strategy because it gives folks time to catch up on work they’ve missed post event. 

 

Now that we’ve covered the AFTER event strategy, let’s talk about how you can make the most of any upcoming conference you have. 

 

First and foremost, make sure you’re taking advantage of whatever networking apps the conference hosts have made available. Don’t know what they are? ASK. Most conferences will have an email address for general questions, use this! Generally there is a human on the other side that is eager to help answer your questions and get you excited about the conference they’ve built. It’s pretty easy to stand out in these networking opportunities because MOST people don’t take advantage of this. For the Collaborative, those opportunities were the Slack Channel and Brain Date features. Again, this is a great way to start connecting BEFORE the event has even started. Log into each app and at the very least update your profile and include a photo.

 

On Slack, make sure to introduce yourself. Include your LinkedIN URL and any other social handles you have.  Find 3 people, read their intros and say ‘hello.’ Easy peasy. If it’s a speaker and you’re attending their session, let them know you’re looking forward to it. As a workshop speaker myself, it feels REALLY good to receive notes like this and I WILL remember your name so if you follow up with me after, I’m going to prioritize you. 

 

On Brain Date, I want you to do the same thing. Update your profile. Scroll through the topics. You can propose a brain date topic (with the Collaborative, you could do a 30 minute 1:1 or a 45 minute small group) or join a brain date. If the event has an opportunity like Brain Date, I challenge you to do at least ONE of those things. And actually STICK to your commitment. Don’t bail. What does it hurt, and who knows how much you might gain?

 

Alright, now I want you to think about how to leverage something you’re already on every day…your social media. If there’s someone you’re excited to connect with, find a piece of their content, quote them in a post and tag them. Use the event’s hashtag, in the Collaborative’s case it is #WeAreCollaborative  

 

So here’s my next take action challenge to you: within the next 24 hours, pick an upcoming event you’re attending and decide who this person is for you and engage with them. Let them know how excited you are to connect and/or ask them a question relevant to their session.

 

Let’s talk about what to do DURING the event itself. Since we’re all living on Zoom right now, first things first, if you’re able to rename your webinar/Zoom id, do it. Add your organization and/or geographic region/city for easy connections. The chat box is also a place for easy networking. Take advantage of it. That does not mean being obnoxious. It means at the very least, introduce yourself and invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn or IG or wherever you hang out. Pop the URL right in there. Don’t be afraid. Others will follow!  If you’ve proposed a Brain Date related to the session, promote it in the chat. 

 

You will also see the Q&A box. Challenge yourself to ask at least one question. Not only will you feel more engaged during the session, it gives your name stage time. It will leave people thinking “Wow, Anne is really into this! I’d like to get to know her!” (And if they don’t, they’re missing out). It may even leave the conference organizers saying “Let’s invite Anne to be a speaker the next time! She clearly has an interesting perspective to share!” 

 

If there’s ONE thing I want you to take away from this, it’s this: you have to be your own PR person. No one is going to do this for you (unless you’re secretly rich and you can afford to hire someone to do it for you. I hope you’re also donating to lots of causes). And when you do PR for yourself, your organization benefits. We are the spokespeople for our missions. It’s time to own that role and practice the skills that will make this more comfortable. 

 

If you want to talk more about a strategy, please reach out to me. You can follow me at @coach_lins on IG where I post self-promotion tips. You can also join my 7 Day Self-Promotion Challenge on my website lindseylathrop.com.