It seems like an oxymoron. How do you “work a room” without being there? The answer is one of those potent networking secrets that very few people know – and in a few minutes, you’ll be among them.
Let’s dive into this by way of an example. Imagine that you’re a new author from Boston, and have just written a game-changing book about social media strategies. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’re traveling, and can’t make it to the biggest social media conference in the country until the very last day. How can you make a splash and meet the top dogs in the room – but without making a dash?
In the past, you couldn’t. But now, if you apply these little-known tactics, you’ll be able to “work a room” like a seasoned networking pro without being there:
1. Do Your Homework
Research the conference and identify the main organizer contact (this information is usually on the website, or in a press release, or can be found with a little digging). Then, introduce yourself via email, social media and a phone call. Offer to help with promotion, and share any tips or suggestions that will make you look great. For example, if you know of a great and little-known restaurant in the area, share that information. What seems like the smallest or simplest tip can be extremely well received.
The bottom line is that you’re being helpful, positioning yourself as a strategic ally, and you already know one person who will personally welcome you with a smile when you arrive at the conference. Plus, if there’s a special someone or a celebrity that you’d really like to meet, chances are this new connection of yours will go out of her or his way to make that happen. After all, one good turn deserves another, right?
2. Connect with Speakers
Check out the conference agenda and see who the speakers are. You may recognize some of the names as industry leaders, and it’s perfectly fine to give them a call or connect online. But, chances are, there will be other speakers you don’t know (yet). This is an ideal opportunity for you to reach out and make connection. Tell them how much you enjoyed their last article, blog, book, TV appearance, etc. Also mention that you’ll be attending their upcoming conference, and when you get there, you’d love to say hello.
This pre-connection strategy works for any meeting, whether you live nearby or 3,000 miles away. Connect with the speakers via email, LinkedIn, Twitter or FaceBook. Just because they’re speaking doesn’t mean they don’t want to connect with people – in fact, they’re in the “people connecting” business.
One last thing: if you use social media to connect, make sure that your profile includes a high quality photo. This will really help your new connection remember who you are, and recognize you.
3. Get Ready to Talk
Once you arrive at the conference, find your “top targeted” speaker, introduce yourself so you’re remembered (as noted above, ensuring that your profile has a professional photo of you goes along way here!), and start up a conversation.
Also keep in mind that you don’t have to come across as a “raving fan” if, in fact, you aren’t. Talented professionals appreciate praise – as we all do – but they’re also open to new and different points of view, as long as they’re presented politely and professionally. So be prepared to share your opinions. Who knows? Your insights could be the BIG THING that this expert remembers long after the conference – and that could spark a relationship that lasts for years.
4. Own the Q & A Session
And of course, make sure that you attend the Q + A session where your top targeted speaker will be presenting. Scope out a good position in the room where everyone can see you. When it’s time to ask a question, ask a thought-provoking question that you’ve prepared well ahead of time. Since you’ve already personally connected with this expert, there’s a much greater chance that you’ll be addressed by name, and that there will be instant rapport – which is something that others will notice and that could really boost your credibility.
Plus, here’s a very powerful and even lesser-known secret: before asking your question, introduce yourself as the author of the newly released book on changing social media strategy, give your Twitter handle, and then pause. Don’t be surprised if heads turn, and people want to meet you after the session.