I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend (and speak) at the LMA 2018 Annual Conference, which is the largest annual meeting of legal marketing and business professionals in the industry.
If your experience was anything like mine, you learned a lot, you made many new valuable connections, you reconnected with industry friends, and you spent a lot of time in the exhibit hall talking to leading service providers about their products and technologies. You likely saw Mario Lopez and quite a few wrestlers in town for Wrestlemania in the common spaces at the Hyatt Regency, and you returned to the office with a ton of information to digest and ideas to implement, which is exciting but also quite overwhelming.
Although the conference is over, my work (and your work) is just beginning if you smartly choose to use the conference as a way to bolster your brand and expand your professional network. Now it’s time to continue to cultivate these relationships and implement the valuable takeaways you learned at #LMA18.
Consider this your post-conference personal marketing action plan.
Now let’s get to work!
1. Organize Your Thoughts
If you’re like me, you took copious notes during the conference. First, organize them into categories. I have notes scribbled on paper as well as on my iPhone, and so I find that putting them together in a Word document or a program such as Evernote also helps me to better organize my thoughts, as well as to reinforce themes. I’m one of those people that learns by re-reading my notes. It helps me to absorb the concepts and flesh out ideas. So try grouping your notes, which will then be your main index for everything LMA18 conference related. Some possible categories/lists you might create are:
General insights from the conference
Takeaways from the keynote speaker and GC panel
Ideas to discuss with your boss/team
Potential new offerings to offer clients
People to contact/follow up
Great ideas (for later)
Taking the time to organize your notes is an exercise well worth doing. Think of this as your personal LMA18 encyclopedia.
2. Offer Feedback
One of the most valuable things you can do after attending a conference is to provide your honest feedback. By now, you should have received a follow-up survey from the LMA – be sure to answer it.
In addition, the LMA is always happy to receive direct feedback from its members by email, regular mail, in person, carrier pigeon, you name it. And when you get in touch, be sure to say thank you to the many people who made the conference happen (that means you Kristy Perkins!).Think about your overall experience, beforehand and during. How was the flow of information beforehand? Was the check-in process easy? What did you think of the keynote speaker? How would you rate the GC panel? Were there enough sessions on topics that interested you? Were the sessions too easy or too advanced? Did anything disappoint you or fail to live up to your expectations? What could have made the conference even better? Your honest feedback will help to enhance the LMA experience for you and your fellow attendees next year.
So speak up!
3. Seize the Opportunity
If certain speakers resonated with you or inspired you, take the opportunity to email them or send a personal note on LinkedIn, and tell them why. This type of gesture is a great way to build relationships, add valuable contacts to your network and potentially even gain a mentor or two. Always remember that genuine compliments are a great way to build stronger relationships with those individuals who you aspire to get to know better.
4. Say Thank You ASAP
If your employer paid for you to go to LMA18 or gave you the opportunity to take time off to attend, say thank you immediately if you haven’t yet done so. Be sure to offer your appreciation for the opportunity and reiterate the benefits of the experience. A sincere “thank you” is such a simple gesture that can go a long way.
5. Follow Up
Following up not too soon and not too late is one of the most critical things to do after any conference or event. Spend time to make a thoughtful connections plan to build stronger relationships with contacts from LMA18.
First, go through all of the business cards that you collected from the conference. Then do the following: Send each person a connection request on LinkedIn with a personal note. Follow each person on Twitter if they have a Twitter handle. Add their full contact information to Outlook, then recycle the business cards (who needs all that extra paper anyway?!) Write follow-up emails to those individuals to whom you promised to send materials/information or make an introduction. Offer to get together in person with anyone who is in your local/regional area in the next few months.
Also, continue to share insights and learnings after the conference and foster relationships with key contacts by having a strong social media presence. The conference hashtag (#LMA18) will still be used after the conference, and it’s a great way to 1) identify other legal marketers who provide/share great content and 2) make new/strengthen existing connections. You can also tag #LMAMKT as well as your LMA region to help your posts become more visible and searchable.
As the lines between personal and professional become blurrier each day, I’m often asked whether you should “friend” a professional colleague or accept a friend request from a colleague or industry friend on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. On these more traditionally personal social media platforms, my advice is to always think carefully before you accept or send friend requests and be very careful about what you post on each of these channels. (While Facebook has audience selectors, Instagram does not once you accept a request.) There is no right or wrong answer here. Remember that everything you post on social media can be screenshotted and sent to anyone (even after it is deleted). You never know, so that’s why I say to always err on the side of caution.
6. Pay it Forward
You learned a lot at LMA18, and one of the best things you can do with this information is to share it with your co-workers, colleagues and friends who were unable to attend the conference. Write a synopsis of key takeaways, include them in a PowerPoint presentation and present them at a brown bag lunch session. Sharing what you learned will also help to position you as a thought leader with your peers.
7. Never Stop Learning
The LMA offers all conference attendees the opportunity to download the presentation decks during and after the conference. Make sure you have the ones from the sessions that you thought were the best, as well as those from the sessions that you were unable to attend.
In addition, most of the sessions were professionally recorded and will be available to purchase in a bundle soon through the LMA web site. For those who missed the conference this year or LMA18 attendees who just want a refresh on the sessions they loved, or the many of us who could not be in two places at the same time and had to make hard choices on which sessions to attend, this is a gold mine of information! It is money well spent for you and your teams that can be used as continuing education material throughout the year.
8. Have Zero Regrets
Attending a conference is just as much about enhancing your professional development as it is about networking, so in addition to thinking about all that you learned at LMA18, it is just as important to identify the areas where you still need to enhance your skills. Maybe you are a communications person and business development is still an area where you need advancement. Then work with your boss to develop a plan. Also, maybe you didn’t get a chance to visit all of the exhibit hall booths that you wanted to or catch up with certain industry colleagues. Don’t feel guilty about it. Simply reach out to those individuals in the coming weeks and schedule a follow-up online demo/call or an in-person visit the next time you are both in the same city.
You’ll be able to buy the conference recordings of all of the sessions, so you don’t need to worry too much about the sessions that you missed. The most important thing is to not walk away from LMA18 with any feelings of FOMO.
9. Become a Thought Leader
Professional conferences and events are great opportunities to position yourself as a thought leader. Offering value-added, educational content to your peers during and after a conference is a strategic way to enhance your professional stature, which, in turn, can open other professional doors. Why not publish an article just like I’m doing here?
If you are lacking inspiration, search on Twitter under the conference’s hashtag (#LMA18) to incorporate some great insights into your article from industry experts. Make sure to tag the individuals mentioned in the tweets and from the sessions you cover to foster relationship building. You could also do a post-event survey of attendees on their favorite takeaway/insight from the conference, which you can turn into a story. It’s all about being resourceful and thinking about your audience.
10. Be a Superconnector
If you made a contact at the conference who might benefit another contact, remember to follow up and make the introduction. You can be of tremendous value to your network (and build stronger relationships) by connecting people to each other. They will appreciate you for introducing them, and you will strengthen your relationship to each of them in the process, which is a win-win for everyone, most importantly, you.
One final note, I have said this before, but I really can’t say it enough – if you think of every professional activity – such as attending a conference– as a way to build your own brand, you will more effectively maximize every opportunity you have to differentiate yourself. Do more than your peers and you will shine brighter.
So now it’s time to put all of these great insights and ideas from LMA18 to good use. One final note, please save the date for LMA19 - April 8-10, 2019 in Atlanta. Before you know it, we will all be together again, and I’m already looking forward to it. See y’all soon!
[Stefanie Marrone helps law firms effectively tell their stories and find their unique voices. Over the last 15 years, she has been working with some of the most prominent law firms in the world, developing and executing global revenue generating, business development, internal and external communications strategies, including media relations, branding, content marketing and corporate journalism, and multi-channel content marketing and thought leadership campaigns. Learn more.]