Conferences and networking events are filled with great opportunities for ambitious freelancers to make connections with fellow solopreneurs and gain insights from industry leaders that can help take your business to the next level. But what if you can’t attend due to time or budget constraints?

You can you still get some valuable insights and make great connections by utilizing popular social media platforms. Here are some strategies that can help you:

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF THE EVENT

Is your main focus to build your client list or professional relationships? Looking for ways to streamline or expand your business? Knowing what you want will help you find the best panels/presentations/attendees to keep an eye on.

USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO KEEP TABS ON THE EVENT

Creating Twitter lists and following Facebook pages connected to the people and events you are interested in are great examples of ways to do this. Know a fellow freelancer who will be in attendance? Ask them what panels/events they are going to and set a reminder to follow up with them during the conference.

Use the social media platforms you are most comfortable with to stay aware of products, people, and events of interest. An event like SXSW allows anyone to set up an account and create a customized schedule; once you do that it’s all about keeping tabs via social media.

ONCE THE EVENT IS OVER, FOLLOW UP

Remember, the greatest benefit from these events comes after everything is said and done. Many waste their time with ineffective follow through after the event.

While simple outreach will help you stand out, there’s a certain art to effective follow-ups. No matter how you plan on doing it, figure out what you’ll say if you get a response. Here are some guidelines for reaching out post-conference.

PRACTICE CREATIVE (NOT CREEPY) CONTACT

Don’t be one of those “only-calls-when-they-want-something” networkers. Email and voicemail make the soft reach-out easy:

*Send something: *An article or video clip they might be interested in; a link to a good discussion board; a funny video you know they’ll like.

Congratulate them on something:

· A deal: “I saw in Industry Weekly that you landed the Big Kahuna project. Congrats! I’ve been busy finishing up [describe] . . .”

· A promotion: “I saw the announcement of your promotion. Congratulations and best wishes for continued success. I hope you’ve been well. I’ve been busy . . . [etc.]”

· A new product: “I saw your product at the trade show. It’s amazing! I hope it’s a great success, and that you’ve been well. I’ve been busy . . .”

*Ask them something: *“Have you tried that new software? It’s constantly crashing on me. If you have any advice, the drinks are on me!” A genuine appeal to someone’s authority or skill motivates them to be consistent by sharing their know-how with you.

You can sign off any way you want—including with a suggestion about getting together: “It would be great to get together later this summer and catch up” or an invitation: “I’d love to get together and catch up. How about coffee later this month?”

Respect their time. Be sensitive to their time: “I really enjoyed your conversation at the Freelancers Union meet-up the other night. Do you have a minute or two now to talk?” If they’re busy, ask if there’s a better time for you to call.

*Get to your point quickly and clearly (assume they’re multitasking!): *“So, Nate, I’m calling to see if I could pick your brain about...”

Let them talk: “What do you think?” “What’s your opinion?” “Have you ever tried that?” A conversation’s a two-way street. You don’t have to carry it alone.

*Keep your asks modest: *“Do you know anything about X Corp.? I’m planning to pitch them and haven’t found much info on their R&D.”

DON’T FORGET TO SAY “THANK YOU”

“Thank you” has boundless power. Thank them for their time and let them know what happened, even if it didn’t work out. Being appreciative of their help will only encourage them to be helpful in the future.


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