Attending live events is an excellent way to grow your writing business.
Live events give you three big advantages… advantages that are hard to replicate with other marketing strategies.
#1) They Give You a Chance to Meet People in Person
Whether you’re attending an event with other writers, one that’s catering to the marketers who hire writers, or one focused on businesses in your niche, the connections you make can prove invaluable over time.
As you grow your network, you’ll cross paths with more opportunities. But more than that, you’ll have friends in the industry, and that makes your work more satisfying and fun.
#2) Did I Mention the Opportunities?
Unlike going after projects posted on job boards and sites like Upwork, when you’re in a room talking to people, you have a chance to learn about their business, what’s got them excited, what they’re working on, and what their current struggles are.
Knowing all this means you might be able to pitch a project perfectly tailored to the person you’re talking to. Or, you might learn about an upcoming project before it ever makes it to a job board.
Either way, you’re in a prime position to land that gig!
#3) They Build Momentum
The connections… the strategies… the tactics… the tools… the trends… the ideas… the skills…
You walk out of a live event with your brain positively buzzing with possibilities. If you follow through on just one or two of them, you can take your business to a new level in a very short time.
With such big advantages in play, you might be wondering if there’s a formula for making sure you get the most out of the next live event you attend.
I don’t know about a formula, but I definitely have some handy pointers to share that will have you leveraging live events like a pro.
Take Time to Prepare – It’s Worth It!
Attending a live event can be a big investment, so it makes sense to take some time before you go to prepare to make the most of it.
I know what it’s like to be busy and to feel like you can’t make the time to prepare, but it’s worth the effort to start getting ready for the event a week or so ahead of time.
Physical Preparation – It’s easy to overlook the importance of being at your best physically. But events are demanding. The week leading up to the event, make sure you’re getting enough sleep every night. Feeling well-rested going into an event means you’ll be better able to take in and retain information. And, you’ll also be in a better position to push hard for a few days — getting up early to attend sessions and staying up late to go to after-hours events or to hang out with new friends.
Mental Preparation – You also want to get ready mentally. The best way to do this is to review the sessions and activities being offered at the event. If the event offers simultaneous sessions, choose the ones you’ll attend. If any of the topics you’ll be learning about are brand-new to you, spend a little time reading some primer information — it’s always easier to retain things if you already have some foundation. Finally, pick the top three sessions you’re most excited about, and make note of some questions you’ll ask and what you’re hoping to learn.
Social Preparation – Often the biggest benefit of attending an event is the people you meet. But, walking up to strangers and introducing yourself isn’t easy for everyone. If you’re like me, and striking up conversations with new people is a little daunting, spend the week leading up to the event making some connections on social media.
Many events have a Facebook Group for attendees, so you can start having conversations there. Or, you might put a post on LinkedIn about the event and ask anyone who’s also attending to send you a connection request.
Also see who is presenting at the event. Maybe follow them on LinkedIn or X (formerly Twitter). If they have a book, get a copy and read a few chapters, so if you have a chance to meet them, you’ll be ready with relevant things to talk about.
Clear Your Calendar – And finally, do try to clear your calendar for the event. Work ahead on any daily or weekly projects, so you won’t have to worry about those while you’re there. And any other projects, plan to deliver well in advance of the event. Or, schedule your deadlines enough after the event that you won’t be distracted by the things you need to get done. If you simply can’t clear your schedule, make a plan for when and where you’ll work while you’re there. Knowing you have blocks of time set aside can help you stay focused and present during sessions and conversations.
When Preparation Meets Opportunity
Okay, you’ve prepared. You’re well-rested. You’ve made connections and have a few people you’re looking forward to meeting. You have your schedule planned. You’re ready to jump on opportunities that come up unexpectedly. And you’ve cleared your work calendar, so you can focus.
Once you’re at the event, there are some things you can do to make sure it’s the once-in-a-lifetime experience every event has the potential to be.
Have a good note-taking system: You can learn a lot from the presentations at events. You can get expert tips to improve your skills, learn about new strategies, and discover exciting ways to build and grow your business.
It’s tempting to try to write everything down, as you listen to speakers. But, that’s often a great way to miss a lot of key information.
Here’s what I recommend instead…
Bring a notebook with you, one dedicated to the event. And then, in each session, put the session title and speaker name at the top of the page. After that, listen. While you’re listening, the only thing you should jot down are questions you want to ask, either the speaker during the Q&A session or the internet at large.
Then, at the end of the session, write down the two or three ideas that excited you the most. Keep your summaries brief, but include enough information so you’ll know what you’re talking about when you come back and read the notes later.
Finally, follow up your exciting ideas with one action item. This can be something you’ll do as a rule going forward, but it’s even better if you choose a single action and commit to completing it in the next week.
Talk to people: The people at the event — the ones putting it on, the experts who are speaking and presenting, and the other attendees — are what make the event one-of-a-kind, even if it’s an annual affair.
Make sure you take full advantage by getting into conversations with people.
It helps if you set a goal for the number of conversations you’ll have each day. You can keep it modest. Have a genuine conversation with three people during the day, and you’ll expand your network by around 1,800 people, if you count all the people your new connections know. That’s pretty amazing!
When you’re in a conversation, ask open-ended questions that are after more than a one-line answer. It’s not, “Did you like that speaker?” It’s, “What was your biggest takeaway from that session?”
It’s not, “Have you been to this event before?” It’s, “How did you decide to come to this event?”
Then listen and ask follow-up questions that are also open-ended. Before the conversation ends, connect on LinkedIn, or get an email number or phone number, so you can follow up.
After-hours events – Most conferences and trade shows have after-hours events — either formally organized options or those that informally crop up as attendees get to know each other a bit. Try to make it a point to attend these events. They’ll give you another opportunity to get to know people, to have more relaxed, generalized conversations, and to have a little fun.
And, just to get you a little more excited about the “connecting with people” thing, I was once at an event and had a completely spontaneous conversation that turned into a six-year, highly lucrative relationship. So, these things can become a turning point for your business.
The Event May Be Done, But You’re Not
Once the event is complete, and you’ve survived the whirlwind and slurped up every drop from the firehose that you could, here’s what most people do. They head home with some new ideas and skills that permeate their work and give them real benefit… and that’s about it.
But, you’re going to do better.
Rest for a day. This is the first order of business. You’re likely exhausted, so take a day to rest. Sleep as much as you want. Go for a walk. Watch a movie. Read a book. But give your brain and body a break, because you’ve been working them hard!
Then plan for a day. After your day of rest, spend a day reviewing your notes and your action items. Think about what you learned and how you’ll implement your different ideas to take your business to new heights.
Make sure you schedule things in your calendar. Be realistic about what you can accomplish, but push yourself a little bit, too.
By creating a plan of action while everything you learned is still fresh in your mind, you’ll set yourself up to get the best possible boost from the event. And I’m talking real, financial advantages in terms of new ways to land clients, new ways to add value and deliver better results, and new ways to scale your skills, so you can earn even more.
Follow up with people. Finally, don’t let all those new connections fall by the wayside.
Send LinkedIn connection requests to everyone you met. If you got an email address, drop them a line. Tell them how good it was to get to know them. Talk a little bit about what you do and how you help your clients, and then ask them what they need in terms of introductions or services. If they gave you a phone number, send them a text.
Now obviously, every person you meet is going to be different, so begin cultivating those relationships based on what feels right and natural. But do it deliberately. Touch base through LinkedIn or email once a month to see what they’re up to, to share a memory or idea, or to ask what they think about something happening in their industry. If the person you’re connected with is a marketer or business owner, don’t be afraid to make suggestions about how you might help them, or ask them if they have things coming up they need help with.
Live events can transform your business. They can transform you as a writer. They can give you energy, ideas, momentum, and connections that propel you forward.
Because they’re so powerful, it makes sense to approach them strategically, so you get the most out of them. Follow these plans for your next live event, and watch how your business grows!