It’s tough to find a better networking opportunity than conferences and events—you have a room full of people who share similar interests, top thinkers and presenters in the industry within an arm’s reach and the opportunity to catch up with contacts you’ve made in the past.
But not everyone who attends conferences has an outgoing, Type A personality. “If you’re shy and you walk into a conference of 2,000 people and you don’t know anyone, it can be awkward and intimidating to join in conversations and meet people,” says Patrick O’Malley, a social media speaker and consultant. That’s where Twitter comes in.
Twitter is a great resource for anyone who attends events, but even more so if you’re an introvert, O’Malley says. “The beauty with social media like Twitter is that you don’t need any qualifications to be the person that gets remembered,” he says. “Twitter gives you the opportunity to jump in conversations without feeling embarrassed or worried that they’ll look at you funny.
How can you make the most of networking at conferences with Twitter? Here are five tips.
1. Do Your Hashtag Homework
The most important key to your Twitter networking success: monitoring the event’s Twitter hashtag. Most events will promote a hashtag that attendees can use, O’Malley says, but if there isn’t one, perform a search on www.search.twitter.com to see how others are branding the conference. If you can’t find one there, O’Malley suggests to starting one yourself.
2. Build buzz.
Before you attend the event, search for the hashtag and browse its stream to see what people are saying. Jump in a few conversations. Brand a few tweets with the conference hashtag to see who else is attending and introduce yourself to them, O’Malley suggests. A simple tweet such as, “Anyone attending #ConferenceA? I’ll be there on Monday.” is all you need to receive a few responses.
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Engaging with your new contacts via Twitter first will make meeting these people in person more casual. Plus, by having their Twitter stream on hand, you can make mental notes on topics they’ve tweeted about, eliminating the fear of awkward silences.
3. Be the leader (even if you’re not).
“The great thing about Twitter is that even if you’re not a leader, you can become one and no one will know,” O’Malley says. One way to do this: Send out a tweet with the event hashtag saying you’re thinking of going to the hotel bar at 8 p.m. for a drink and ask if anyone would like to meet up.
By arranging a get-together you’ll become the ringleader for a small social circle, which will give you the opportunity to converse about the sessions you attended and what you learned in a low-pressure environment.
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4. Offer your help.
As you peruse the event’s hashtag feed throughout the day, be on the lookout for frustrated tweets or a cry for help, O’Malley says.
“If someone posts out of frustration that their laptop is about to die, send them an @ reply that you have a power cord they could borrow” he says. “It’s like when you’re at a party and encounter the frenetic host—the best thing you can do is ask if there’s something you can do. Then, for the rest of the conference, you’re the one person who sticks out in their head.”
5. Share takeaways with others.
At the end of the day, O’Malley recommends recapping highlights in a blog post, then tweeting the URL out to your followers. “Take a few minutes and write 200 or 300 words on the cool things that happened that day or what you learned,” he says. Tweeting it to your followers will be valuable to those who couldn’t attend the conference, and by using the event’s hashtag, it’ll be a nice recap for those who are there, O’Malley says. “You’ll be surprised how often it gets retweeted.”
Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Kristin at email@example.com.