At Ketchum I deliver training to colleagues about twice a year on how to get the most from networking. The key aims of the training is to firstly dispel the myth that networking is purely a sales activity that has to be suffered and not enjoyed. Secondly, is to explain that getting away from your desk and attending conferences and events is a great opportunity to meet interesting people who may also be dealing with similar challenges on a day-to-day basis.
Whilst some thrive on getting out there and ‘having a good chinwag’, the general response I receive from my colleagues is that the formal conference setting is the most overwhelming of all networking opportunities.
Luckily, I now have a great response to alleviate their fears thanks to a number of apps that have emerged that are designed to make the process of attending a conference much smoother.
Now, instead of attending a conference armed with a laptop (or dare I say it, a pad of paper), the integration of location based technology and professional networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, mean that a mobile is the only thing you need when going along to an event.
By far the best to have emerged is Bizzabo, the easy to use app which allows you to discover events that exist and then integrates your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook feeds in order to see who else is attending. This information then suggests the contacts most relevant for you, allowing you to engage with attendees before, during and after the event. Crucially, the service provides a self-service web interface for event organisers, allowing them to add their conference to the growing list of events.
Another app, Tickmeet, powered by the software platform Shhmooze, is ideal when deciding which conference to attend. Tickmeet is a people discovery app that enables you to discover the conferences and meetings that your LinkedIn and Twitter contacts are attending. The service can send you weekly updates pinpointing the events your peers are attending.
Of course you cannot forget Twitter as a great tool to connect with conference attendees. Conferences organisers are increasingly installing Twitter walls at events, enabling attendees to participate in the online conversation during a session. Twitter conversations also permit those not attending to join in the conversation, ask questions and give their point of view on the themes being discussed in the room.
Sick of spending time typing in the business card details of all the people you met? Evernote Hello allows you to scan their business card and then connect on your social feeds. Consider that mountain of cards on your desk tackled.
Finally, if you find yourself traveling to another city to attend that conference then the Around Me app might be for you. It allows you to quickly find out information about your surroundings such as banks, bars, coffee shops etc. The app has established links with Booking.com, Opentable.com and other localised data providers to make it even easier to find your way around a city you are not familiar with.
The conference related app market has suddenly burst into life over the last few months so watch out for more location-based services that provide support when networking and please do share in the comment box below any apps that you have found particularly useful.