April 11, 2012
Five Ways to Make (Not Spend!) Money at Conferences By Gabi Logan
I recently returned from a blogging conference with a carte blanche to not only blog freely for one of the food world's top retailers, but also tour their office and test kitchen at my leisure. Two other editors wanted to hire me to launch a new national tourism bureau blog, and create web copy for a top salon haircare brand.
While I wish I could say that I ingratiated myself with these editors through my writing credentials or talent, honestly, I didn't even have to. I was the only freelance writer at this blogging conference, and editors were throwing themselves at me for a change.
Any competent writer who puts himself or herself in the right place at the right time can achieve these essentially effortless results. Here are five ways you, too, can start making money at conferences instead of just spending it:
Attend the Right Conferences
Expensive conferences on high-level communication and social media strategies target communication directors, CMOs, and marketing managers of high-paying, well-established brands, not writers. Attendees get fired up to improve their companies' communications, and you can easily position yourself to be the writer to help them. Look into executive summits, association meetings, and specialized conference planning groups like GSMI to find these events. Then get in front of these contacts for free by offering yourself to the conference organizers as a staff plant to help things proceed smoothly and keep attendees involved--you just have to ask intelligent questions during Q & A periods and stimulate discussion during meals.
Live Blog and/or Tweet for the Conference Organizers
Conferences today, particularly events focused on social media, happen as much online as they do in person. Attendees tweet, blog, post videos, and respond to each other on their computers while "listening" to sessions, and though conference organizers know that they should take part in the online chatter, they have dozens of other emergencies pulling their attention. Several months before the conference, pitch the organizers to let you run their social media during the event. If you have a background with simultaneous transcription, videography, or writing tweets that get retweeted dozens of times during events, mention those pluses in your proposal.
Pen the Official Conference Notes
Conferences geared toward directors and executives typically offer conference notes after the event so attendees don't have to take notes during sessions. But few conference organizers have the time or the coverage to sit through every session and compile notes live, so they end up spending hours wading through tapes after the event. Pitch the organizers your services before the event, highlighting the hours you'll save them and the fact that attendees can get notes promptly at the end of each conference day.
Compile a Report on the Event for Companies
Even if you compile the official conference notes for the organizers, you can offer a more extensive, laid-out version as an information product to companies that didn't attend the event. At the conference, take notes on the type of companies attendees come from. In my case, it was a mix of companies looking to start or in the early stages of setting up a blog or social media campaign. I packaged extensive notes the sessions into a PDF report, laid-out with pull-out boxes and bullet points outlining strategies and lessons. When I see companies looking for bloggers for a new corporate blog, instead of offering my services like any other applicant, I pitch them the report, landing both sales and blogging clients.
Land a Speaking Gig
Effective communication strategies, as any commercial writer knows, are crucial to businesses in every industry. Applying your specific areas of marketing expertise, whether high-response copywriting, twitter contest campaigns, or high open rate e-newsletter headlines, to unexpected industries is a prime way to land speaking gigs; the typically attendees are so entrenched in their own industry they aren't typically up on marketing innovations in other areas. Depending on the conference (and how many you've done) you'll either get free attendance, comped hotels and airfare, a speaker fee, or a combination of the above. But speaking is as much about exposure as the immediate return; expect attendees to connect with you after the speech to engage your services.
Gabi Logan is a freelance blogger and travel writer. She writes travel advice and destination features for websites including USA Today, EcoTraveller, Transitions Abroad and Travelllll.com. Read more about her at http://www.gabilogan.com.
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