LinkedIn can help planners find clients, service providers, subject experts and partners; search for jobs, projects and contracts; and network in the industry. By Adam Pletsch, November/December 2008
LinkedIn members are professionals from around the world, from about 150 different industries. According to Krista Canfield, the site’s PR manager, a member joins just about every second, and membership is growing at a rate of about one-million each month.
HOW TO JOIN
Joining LinkedIn is simple. You create your own profile, summarizing your professional accomplishments, and your profile helps you find and be found by former colleagues, clients and partners. You can add more connections at any time. Your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, are able to see and contact you through LinkedIn.
LinkedIn can help in several ways. For example, you can use it to: Give people an easy way of finding you (and, by extension, your business) and hiring you; find potential clients, service providers, subject experts and partners who come recommended; search for good jobs, projects or contracts; post and distribute job listings actively, or scope out high-quality passive candidates; get introduced to other professionals through the people you know.
A simple way to improve your profile is to get one of your connections to add a recommendation. This helps you spread the word that others trust and value your work. It also raises your profile. You can add recommendations for others, too.
But if you’re an event planner, you might appreciate the following (free) features as well.
LINKEDIN ADVANCED SEARCH
How to find it: When you sign in to your account, click on the hyperlink “People,” under the LinkedIn logo at the top of the page. What it provides: LinkedIn Advanced Search lets professionals search for people on LinkedIn by first and/or last name, keywords, title, company, school, industry and group. So it could help event planners locate people who will make their jobs easier. Canfield says planners might find hotel managers (to provide discount rates), heads of marketing for athletic teams, logistics personnel at different venues, florists, caterers and the like. “You can also narrow your search by [postal] code, which makes LinkedIn Advanced Search function essentially like a yellow pages for people/professionals,” she adds.
How to find it: When you sign in to your account, click on the hyperlink “Answers,” under the LinkedIn logo at the top of the page. What it provides: LinkedIn Answers lets users ask a business or professionally related question. “So if you’re an event planner and you’re wondering what venues in Toronto are great for hosting a group of 500 people, you could actually post a public question, asking just that, to all 29-million of LinkedIn’s members,” says Canfield. Or make it a private question and just send it to two (or 20) of your own connections, she suggests.
You can also browse the “Conferences and Event Planning” section on Answers, to see what questions other people are asking about your industry. Sample questions recently posted in the section include: “What is the best way to find, connect, and then set up meetings with people at a trade show before the show starts?” “Any experts/speakers on renewable energy interested in speaking at a congress in March 2009?”
When you ask a question, it stays there, live, in that section, for a week, and that’s how long other users have to respond to it. You will likely receive a range of answers of varying quality. Then, if you’re the one who asked the question, you can rank the responses (best answer, good answer, etc.). The importance of the ranking system is that those who respond can actually earn recognition for their expertise, and this helps to pump up their individual profiles.
Besides asking questions specific to your industry, people also ask basic questions like, “Should I buy a Mac or a PC?” “What airline has the best policy for redeeming miles?” Archived answers to past questions can be found by clicking the “Advanced Answers Search” tab.
Something else an event planner might want to do is create a LinkedIn Group for an event. Click on User Groups in the white navigation rectangle, then click, “Create a Group” and fill in the required details.
Members of a LinkedIn Group can talk directly with one another before and after an event. And you can start discussions in the group (such as, “Where would you like to have next year’s event?” and “Which speakers did you like the best?”) You can also see updates that members have made to their profiles, questions they’ve asked, or even click the “Members” tab in your group and get a roster listing of the group members. Searching that roster by keyword can let you know which attendees speak French, or are CEOs, if that information is valuable to you.
This is only a short list of LinkedIn’s free features and does not even touch on its paid features.
Meanwhile, the network continues to evolve. In fact, Canfield says LinkedIn will be unveiling a new events application by the end of this year. (Event planners who would like to add an event before the platform launches can do so here: www.events.linkedin.com).
– Adam Pletsch is a Toronto-based freelance writer.