You know those folks who are super-organized about the business events they attend? The ones who research the companies who are going to be there, reach out to organize meetings in advance, have a plan for walking the floor, never eat — or even have coffee — alone? Yeah, I hate ‘em, too.
All kidding aside, even if you aren’t the model of getting the most out of trade shows, webinars and other events, they can be a great part of your content marketing — and your content marketing will help make the events themselves more productive.
One way to do this, of course, is to begin talking about the event on social media in the weeks leading up to it. Mention what it is you’re excited about, whose presentations, what topics you’re looking to explore. Yes, you’ll open yourself up to some unwanted sales pitches. But you’ll also find yourself connecting with like-minded folks who may have insights and experience that could help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
For that matter, talk about it afterwards, too. You can focus on the highlights, what you learned, who you met, and even what you missed. Again, the goal is to do so in a way that encourages interaction with others so you might make additional connections.
On a more one-to-one level, you can use email in a similar way: Ask clients and potential clients if they’re planning on attending. If so, set up a time to chat, even if only briefly. If not, ask if there’s anything of particular interest that you can look into for then.
Once you’re at the event, staying active on social media can be productive, but don’t do it to the exclusion of, you know, actually picking up your head and paying attention to the people around you or the presentation you’re sitting in. That’s the real opportunity.
And it should go without saying that you want to occupy the space between obnoxious and coy. In other words, don’t go rushing from person to person pressing your business card into their palms and immediately moving on. (I’m exaggerating, though not by much …) That’s just not going to get you any traction. Just as your content has to provide value rather than being purely promotional, your personal interactions have to be interesting to your audience. It’s about them, not you.
At the same time, there’s no reason not to be clear and direct about your networking intentions. You’ve gotta give to receive if you want to make networking work, especially at live large events which tend to be somewhat more rushed.