How to Maximize Every Conference and Event You Attend (and Build Your Professional Brand)

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As I get ready to attend and present at LMA Tech West this week and the 2018 conference season kicks off in full swing, I’ve been thinking about how I can maximize my time away from the office and use these events as opportunities to not only learn and network, but also to build my professional brand.

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 enhance your professional stature (and can often lead to great opportunities). And the best part is that you don't even have to have a speaker slot to do this. 

So how do you transform yourself into a thought leader with clout vs. being just another conference attendee? Here are some tips to help you put pen to paper (or finger to mobile device).

1. Cover the Conference for Everyone Else

One of the best ways to build your brand and network is to give yourself the job of chief reporter at the conference. What do I mean by that? Reach out to speakers in advance and collect tips from their presentations as a way to help boost attendance to their session. 

...give yourself the job of chief reporter at the conference.

Use your iPhone to do video interviews of speakers and industry leaders at the conference. Record podcast interviews with the same individuals. Capture tips on video from attendees and compile into a video or written piece. Visit exhibitor booths and ask them a question which you can then compile into a story. Survey attendees on their favorite takeaway/insight from the conference which you can again turn into a story. It’s all about being resourceful and creating newsworthy content.

2. Make It a Teachable Moment (For You & Your Audience)

Don’t just be a stenographer and create a play-by-play of the event’s who, what, when, where and why. Anyone can do that and it doesn’t help to differentiate you. Instead, create content that focuses on the top takeaways/insights from the sessions that resonated the most with you. Write about how the topics at the conference impact you and your audience.

I’ve had a personal success with these types of articles, especially when I’m breaking down a conference into snackable, digestible takeaways. I will then self-publish the article on LinkedIn and share it with my connections. I have also often sent these articles to content hub JD Supra for consideration for publication as well as to the Legal Marketing Association. These are powerful content tools that are regularly seeking content contributions. Incorporate them into your personal marketing strategy.

3. Be Timely

It’s tempting to wait, but it’s usually better to draft the article as soon as possible so that the details and insights from the conference are top of mind. I always carry a notebook with me at a conference for note taking, and other times, when I live tweet at events, I will go back to the tweets I wrote and compile those into an article. Think of those tweets as a great first draft/outline to your longer story. At the end of the event I have a collection of tweets that sums up the event for me.

In addition, I also search under the conference’s hashtag (which is easy to find on the conference materials or via a Twitter search) to incorporate some great insights from industry experts as well, giving them attribution, which helps to strengthen with relationship building and reciprocity. I try and write the article on the plane or train home when I am somewhat captive and focused.

4. Be Social

Speaking of live tweeting, make sure to tag the speakers from the sessions you are covering in your posts to foster relationship building and to give them shout outs. Even better, send them a LinkedIn request complimenting them on their session. Always remember that no one dislikes a compliment ever.

5. Share Other People's Content 

Curating content is another way to easily produce content at a conference. Use a tool that enables you to turn that people post on social media into compelling stories - these are called curation tools. Storify was the  curation tool of choice by many until it recently shut down. There are other alternatives (Feedly, BagTheWeb, Listly, Bundlr, Pocket and Scoop.it) and enable you to create stories from social media posts. These types of curation tools are most commonly used to collect social media interactions around an event, but you can also use it to create your own story of a conference. Plus, you don’t even need to be at the event to do this if a conference hashtag is consistently used.

Whether curating other work or writing your own, consider utilizing a “listicle” format. They are easy to digest and effectively summarize the main points of the event. Having numbers in your headline also is proven to draw in the reader. For example: “5 Great Ideas From (Insert Event)” or “Five Takeaways From (Insert Event)” or “10 Lessons I Learned From (Insert Event).” For example, lists with five or 10 items, tend to have higher readership rates than articles without them.

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One of the highest-read client alerts at one of my prior firms was a piece that a lawyer wrote about her views on the top takeaways from a conference she attended.

It was a terrific way for her to leverage the firm's sponsorship commitment and her time away from the office and billable work. Instead of just being one of the 500 attendees at the conference, she made herself a relevant, key contributor during and after the conference with this piece and its resulting social media coverage. The piece was published as a client alert, and leveraged on social media and the firm’s web site. She also sent the alert to a few key clients and prospects who she knew could not attend the conference.

That was strategic, proactive marketing that helped to keep her top of mind with those individuals and showed she cared about the business issues they were facing. The best part of all of these efforts is that she was offered a speaking slot the following year at no cost. Could you do the same? Could your lawyers? Absolutely. 

One more word to the content wise: I always keep the show versus tell rule in mind with everything I write. Simply put, this is the concept of showing your audience how you are a subject matter expert versus telling them that you are. Be authentic, be unique and demonstrate what makes you stand out from the pack whenever you can. That's the true key for how to create compelling content of any kind.

If you think of every professional activity – such as attending a conference or event – as a way to build your personal brand, you will more effectively maximize every opportunity you have to differentiate yourself. Do more than your peers and you will shine brighter. This is what separates the good from the great. 

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[With more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing, Stefanie Marrone leads the business development, marketing and communications functions for full-service, mid-size law firm Tarter Krinsky & Drogin LLP. She has worked at 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. She is currently the secretary of the LMA Northeast Region and is a frequent speaker and published author.]

 

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