When used properly, high-tech networking can increase the quantity and quality of professional connections. But to accomplish this, you’ll need an ‘Extreme Networking’ technology strategy — which starts weeks before and culminates in the face-to-face event.
Helping grow a participant’s professional network is a sure-fire way to increase loyalty. Last month, we explored how to do this with low-tech networking strategies. Here, we look at a tech-based “Extreme Networking” strategy. Note that this will necessarily vary from group to group, depending on where your members live their online lives.
Rather than try to do everything, it’s best to choose a few of the following 11 high-tech options and spend the bulk of your time building adoption and engagement – if you do, pretty soon you’ll attain the enlightened state of Extreme Networking.
1. Collect IDs
2. Create event pages
Encourage attendees to RSVP via LinkedIn and Facebook event pages; updates and posts to these then will display in each person’s network stream. Provide fresh content that will encourage people to participate.
3. Use crowdsourcing
Online polling is a great way to engage your audience before the meeting. It also establishes a conduit for valuable input and a forum for attendees to meet one another.
4. Compare to connect
Some event-specific solutions allow attendees to compare their existing social networks against your registration list – and reaching out in advance to people you already know is an Extreme Networking best practice. Solutions that allow you to send a LinkedIn message, write on a person’s Facebook wall, or Direct Message Twitter followers are also very powerful.
5. Host Webinars and interviews
Schedule Webinars by conference speakers or locals from the event city who can give tips on restaurants and attractions. A pre-event Blogtalkradio series for speakers and Disney-lovers was a big hit for one association, whose attendees connected via Internet radio and text-messaging during the show.
6. Play matchmaker
Some solutions allow attendees to complete professional profiles and personal itineraries. Participants then use keywords and demographics to search for those with similar interests and schedule a time to meet. Some systems take this further and provide customized recommendations of people, sessions, or products.
7. Deploy PURLs
Powerful new solutions on the high-tech scene are personal Web pages (or PURLs) that aggregate links to session handouts, archives, exhibits visited, and attendees connected with. Oftentimes a proprietary device is used, although lead-retrieval and mobile-based solutions are quickly being adopted.
8. Monitor the hashtag
Some of the best connections come from watching others ask intelligent questions or provide insight on Twitter. Pick a unique hashtag (say, #pcma10), and ask attendees to use this when tweeting about the meeting.
9. Organize a “Tweetup” for Twitter-using attendees.
10. Game on!
Location-based apps with gaming components, such as Foursquare and Gowalla, help increase networking and connections. Encourage your hotels and local attractions to play along, and consider giving out awards to top connectors.
11. Share photos
Sites like Flickr allow attendees to deepen their relationships by sharing digital snapshots – and memories. For real-time memory-making, create a “Twitterfountain” that displays tweets and pics from the event as it’s happening.
Adoption Is Key
Too often, new technology isn’t utilized by enough participants to deliver desired results. Communication, education, and community management are the three pillars of success of encouraging adoption. As such, consider hosting a networking best practices Webinar before your meeting to teach attendees how to maximize their use of Twitter and take advantage of the power of the second degree on LinkedIn.
Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. © 2009 pcma.org