by Anna Degtereva, CEO & Founder at LinkUpConferenceShow
When it comes to conferences, everyone thinks they are prepared. It seems easy enough to show up, present your best self, and reap the benefits of attending.
But many of us know better. We’ve been caught off-guard by an unexpected pitch opportunity or found ourselves face to face with someone we wish we were more prepared to speak with. We have learned (often the hard way!) that there is no such thing as being over-prepared.
And now, in this age of digital interactions, we need to focus even more on being prepared. We can no longer buy ourselves time with witty introductions, a sprinkling of charm, and a tasteful outfit. Online interactions are focused, fast-paced, and unforgiving. It’s a new environment with new etiquette and expectations, and the best way to navigate successfully is to do your homework.
Before you register
Preparation begins the minute you register or apply to be part of a conference. Make sure that the event is focused to address your goals and that you are a member of the target audience.
This year at LinkUpConferenceShow, for example, we are specifically targeting top-level managers and executives in the telecom and fintech industries. If you’re looking for investors for your HealthTech startup, this isn’t the place (but check our events next year!). Always make sure you sign up for events that address your industry and your needs. This helps organizers ensure that the event remains focused and it helps attendees make more valuable connections.
Polish your LinkedIn Profile
As soon as you’ve registered for an event, update your LinkedIn profile. This is a powerful tool that will help people learn about and connect with you. As other attendees register and begin browsing profiles, you don’t want yours to be a big blank space. Outdated or half-empty profiles will land you on fewer “people-I-want-to-talk-to” lists than you can imagine. Share your projects, experience, expertise, and goals for the future.
You should also use LinkedIn as a platform to research other attendees. See who you want to connect with during the conference, and learn enough about them to make those interactions meaningful.
LinkedIn is powerful in so many ways, so use it to your advantage.
Revisit your goals
Don’t show up to a conference without a clear set of current, relevant, and articulated goals. If you don’t know what you want to achieve, you will have difficulty focusing. You will absorb a lot of information without being able to categorize and apply it to your own situation. Formulate goals in a clear way so that it’s easy for your new connections to understand them as well –after all, they are the ones who may be able to help you get where you want to go.
It’s also helpful to prepare questions for the people you want to connect with. Have questions about their expertise or experience in mind and ready to roll when the opportunities arise. And, spend some time preparing answers of your own. Sparkling improvisation works much better on a foundation of preparation.
Have your digital setup ready
Everyone thinks that they are ready to log on, but often – something goes wrong. One of the worst things that can happen is joining a digital conference and realizing your camera is broken or your microphone doesn’t work.
A few days before the event, make sure that every element is functional, connected, and fully charged. A checklist of things for any event should include many things: Is your camera working, and how does it make you look? Is the lighting sufficient for other people to see you? How do you sound? Is your mic working or is it making miserable scratchy sounds? Is your equipment fully charged? Your laptop, your headphones, and your own personal beverage should be topped off and ready for action, with power cords and refills close at hand. Check your internet connection strength, and maybe have your phone prepared to hotspot in case of emergency issues. Make sure your browser is updated, that you’ve signed into the platform smoothly before the event day, and always double-check your avatars and usernames. There’s nothing more unprofessional than having little_princess or fifalover69 as your screenname…
And never forget to prepare your background. We really don’t want to see your messy bed or your clothes hanging to dry during networking sessions. Backgrounds should be clean, simple, and free of distractions (and this includes children and pets, cute as they may be!).
Pro-tip: Zoom allows you to install a background that will appear during meetings, and on the latest version of Google Hangouts, you can blur your background.
Your introduction should be short and sweet
Everything online is fast and fierce because our time has become more valuable to us than ever. So when it comes to introducing yourself, keep it simple. Think about the most important info you want to provide and split it into 3 parts: an intro about yourself with your background and your business, your expertise, and your needs. Deliver this information clearly in a maximum of 3 minutes (1 minute per part).
You want to keep the other attendees focused on you and getting to know more about your goals. A 20-minute introduction about your life, struggles, business, and family is not going to accomplish this.
After the conference
You have your connections, now make sure to follow up with them! At some conferences, information about attendees is only available for a short time after the conference has ended. But at LinkUpConferenceShow, we will have all profiles, interviews with special guests, and recordings of networking sessions available to you for 6 months. It’s not a 1-time deal because we believe that having that information available can refresh your memory and provide opportunities for further connections. Something you shared with a person during the conference can be a good opening line for your follow-up.
We’re not catching people during lunch or coffee breaks anymore. At LinkUpConferenceShow, we are building facilitated and structured digital relationships that will help you reach your goals and get you the connections you deserve. But remember – you have to do some of the work. Proper setup and preparation are essential for your success.