You’re about to be in a convention hall full of people, some of whom could help your business, catapult your career or otherwise open doors for you. Logging onto LinkedIn is probably not on your pre-Pennsylvania Conference for Women to-do list. But the giant online networking site is incredibly useful for face-to-face encounters, too, says Susan Tabor-Kleiman, J.D., a LinkedIn profile strategist and owner of Your Professional Writer. Here’s what to do on LinkedIn to ensure that you make valuable connections at the Conference:
1. Polish Up Your Profile
Is your profile just a digitized version of your résumé? “It’s a common mistake,” Tabor-Kleiman says. “You want to present yourself in a professional light, but also in in the most compelling way to your target audience.” That means your profile should be conversational and written in the first person rather than the third and with complete sentences rather than bullet points.
Don’t have enough time for a total rewrite? At the very least, Tabor-Kleiman recommends reworking your summary so that it’s engaging and customizing your headline rather than letting the default, which is your current position, be your primary description. “You have 120 characters in the headline to say what you offer,” she explains. “Be strategic and use it to relay the most important thing you want people to know about yourself.”
Tabor-Kleiman also advises that you upload a photo of yourself if you haven’t already. “You’re seven times more likely to be viewed if you have a picture,” she says. (It’ll also help people remember you, post-Conference; see below.) As with a dating site, the photo should be current and not misleading. But unlike for a dating site, your picture should be professional—“so no selfies or beach background,” Tabor-Kleiman adds.
2. Join the Pennsylvania Conference for Women Group
The Pennsylvania Conference for Women group is private, so you’ll have to request membership, but approval is typically quick. “Once you’re a member, everyone in the group becomes like a second degree connection in your network, dramatically expanding the number of people you can access,” Tabor-Kleiman explains. So if someone posts a question or comment about attending the Conference and you want to meet her after reading her profile, you could send her a message, and once a conversation gets going, suggest meeting at the Conference. Or you could post a query yourself, calling out for other Conference attendees who are in your field. “Starting relationship-building before the Conference will set you up for success,” Tabor-Kleiman adds. “Because once there, you can be more targeted about how you spend your time.”
3. Post-Conference, connect with the people you met
You have a thick deck of business cards with people’s emails, so why connect on LinkedIn? For one thing, you’ll be able to see who else they know once they accept your request, and they can easily grant any requests you make for introductions via the website. For another, your picture will be in your profile, assuming you added it as suggested above, which will help the contact remember who you are. That said, Tabor-Kleiman also recommends using the space for three or four sentences in the connection request to prompt their memory, writing that you, say, enjoyed sitting next to the person in the leadership workshop and would love to continue the conversation.
Finally, try to connect within 48 hours of the Conference. “Strike when the iron is hot and excitement from the Conference is still fresh,” Tabor-Kleiman says. “You’re more likely to get the response, `I’m happy to connect!’”
Susan Tabor-Kleiman will lead the discussion at the small business roundtable, “Creating and Communicating a Compelling Message,” at the 2014 Pennsylvania Conference for Women.