Tips to maximize your presence and activity at a large group meeting
When you attend a conference held by an industry trade group or a professional membership association, you plan to learn the latest in your field, contribute to the discussion and be seen by your peers, among other activities.
Follow these tactics so you will stand out from the crowd. Connect with the panelists, plus be noticed by other attendees and the conference organizers.
- Identify the speakers who are of most interest. Contact each panelist at least one week in advance of the conference with an email about your mutual interest as it relates to their presentation. Perhaps ask a question, so that you begin the conversation before you walk into the conference session. At the event, briefly introduce yourself before the discussion starts, simply to put a face to the name, then take your seat. It’s easiest at this time, when there will be fewer people clamoring for the panelist’s attention.
- Wear a distinctive jacket or tie. Women should wear a colored blazer or suit and avoid black and navy at all costs. Men might wear a light gray or camel sport jacket; it gives a professional appearance and also stands out in the sea of dark suits. Alternatively, men might wear a tie of a less ubiquitous color, such as green or orange. When you contact panelists (and perhaps attendees) in advance of the event, mention you will be wearing this article of clothing, making it easier for them to locate you in the crowd.
I had notified several panelists, at a one-day meeting of 300 attendees, that I would wear a royal blue jacket. Four speakers scoured the ballroom during the lunch break and sought me out, so that we could have a conversation. One of them subsequently referred three clients.
- Plan to ask a question. Take the microphone, stand up and introduce yourself with your name, and, if appropriate, your profession and the name of your company. Ask your question and remain standing while the speaker answers it. Now everyone in the room will know who you are. Plus, because you are wearing that distinctive jacket or tie, other attendees will be able to locate you and speak with you after the session to continue the discussion.
- Volunteer to represent the breakout group. When attendees meet in small groups and then report back to the larger body, offer to summarize the discussion. As noted, take the mic, stand up and introduce yourself, before launching into your remarks. Most people in your group will shy away from this task, so confidently step up for your moment in the spotlight.
In the above photo, I summarize a breakout group’s discussion at New York CFA Society’s Alpha Women Event, May 22, 2019. Note the colored jacket.
- Post a summary of the sessions on LinkedIn so others may learn vital insights and the latest trends. You’ve taken notes of the speakers’ remarks, correct? Compile these highlights and takeaways within 24 hours. Write them up on your company letterhead, save the document as a PDF and attach it to your post. Add a snapshot of one panel for visual interest.
After attending a two-day conference that featured top social media professionals, I wrote two posts on LinkedIn. Each discussion cited the speakers (e.g., @Speaker Name) and summarized that day’s highlights in an attached PDF. By mentioning the speakers’ names, the LinkedIn algorithm displayed the write-ups on their respective feeds; the posts were shown to many of their several thousand connections. Each of these two posts was viewed more than 16,000 times; people now associated my name with these experts and were prompted to view my LinkedIn profile.
- Connect with the conference host. As the program ends, take a moment to congratulate the organizers on a fantastic event. Offer some feedback, both positive and negative, and exchange business cards. Perhaps you have an idea for a session for next year, whether or not you are a panelist.
This Month’s Tip
Take selfie-photos with the attendees you meet and event hosts. Post the pictures individually on LinkedIn with the name (@New Contact) and refer to the idea you discussed. Email the photo (and perhaps the link to the post) to the person with a note about your great conversation, along with the article or contact you promised. Invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. You’ve started an in-person conversation; keep up the momentum.
Check your calendar for the next conference and consider which of these activities are most appropriate for you. Contact me at 212.677.5770 or email at Janet@JanetLFalk.com. Let’s brainstorm so you will make a stand-out impression on the speakers, attendees and hosts at the upcoming event.
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See also: Speak at an Event AND Report