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Attending a Big Conference? Here’s Your Guide to Kill it on Twitter

In Professional/Networking, Social & Digital Media by Natalie Kozma

My personal Twitter activity is pretty sporadic. I’ve gone months without a peep, but then there are days I decide it’s imperative for the world to know…

This type of tweet is how I see many people use Twitter, a digital diary for your stream of consciousness. It is mainly just for kicks, with no substantive goal in mind (besides identifying fellow avocado aficionados).

But the Twittersphere is more than random proclamations. You can use Twitter to expand your professional network and build credibility within your field, especially during a work conference – if you do it right. I’ll prove it to you. Last week, I attended Social Media Week in New York and wanted to use Twitter as another way to connect with social media gurus and event speakers. Here’s what I did to prepare, with some tips and tricks that YOU can apply to your next big conference to make the most of the experience.

To have strong conference game, know the players
TIP 1: Follow relevant conference speakers and organizations

Don’t go into a conference blind. Do research in advance on who will be speaking, who sponsored the event, etc., and follow them if they have Twitter accounts. Social Media Week has 194 speakers. I looked at the sessions I was most interested in, and followed all of the speakers beforehand. Why do this? For starters, these are thought leaders in my industry and might just follow me back (a few did!). It also opens the door for you to direct message them and introduce yourself to build rapport before the event. Picture1 Boom.

TIP 2: Create a Twitter list for the conference

The challenge with following so many new people is keeping track of the content they share. So I went a step further and created a Twitter list for Social Media Week that included speakers, organizations and fellow attendees.

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A Twitter list allows you to curate a group of Twitter users to organize content you are interested in. On a regular week, I browse my standard feed. During the conference, I only wanted content that related to Social Media Week. This is another time saver and eliminates unnecessary distractions. Click here to learn more about Twitter lists.

Stay engaged in the room …and online
TRICK 1 : Use TweetDeck to schedule evergreen content

Confession: I am not a huge fan of “live-tweeting,” but I understand it has benefits and conference organizers push it. For me, the pressure to document every significant moment or quote via Twitter takes away from learning from the speaker. What message does it send if your eyes and thumbs are glued to your phone? I don’t want to sacrifice in-person engagement for online engagement.

So here’s my trick that helps you to do both: Do some research on the conference and schedule some general tweets that align with the schedule.

I used TweetDeck to schedule tweets that published a few minutes before different events I attended. That way I was able to focus on interacting with people around me.

For example, I had this Tweet in the queue for a 9:30 session on “Podcasts and Brands: A Match Made in Brand Marketing Heaven.”

Picture3 This strategy also makes it easier to tweet in the moment, without looking too distracted. My scheduled tweet served as a cheat sheet for relevant Twitter handles and hashtags to use. The key is to have tweets that are “evergreen,” so you know the language won’t become outdated. My tweet doesn’t mention specifics beyond what I read from the event description, but still shows my followers what I’m up to.

Turn retweets into handshakes

Even at a social media conference, you can’t hide behind your phone and consider it networking. You want to learn. You have questions. Heck, maybe you have answers! But you can’t say it all in just 140 characters. Consider a favorite or a retweet as an invitation to say hi – but remember, you don’t need social media to be social.

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