How to meet journalists at conferences

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s not only due to the changing autumn leaves. Much less romantic, I particularly enjoy this time of the year as it offers a chance for our team to regroup after the madness of the conference season summer months.

With so many new events popping up, it can be hard to choose which conferences to attend. While it would be great to go to every event, this would be extremely expensive, time consuming and — from my personal experience — exhausting. As such, most CEOs assess events based on the ROI they can receive from attending.

ROI can come from meeting potential partners or customers. It can come from wisdom learned from speakers and workshops, or from finding out about new tech or tools to help your business. Or it could come from increased visibility through networking and speaking to journalists in attendance.  

However, any seasoned conference attendee will tell you that effective networking requires preparation and practice. The same goes for meeting journalists. Based on my experiences on both sides of the table, here are some tips for how best to meet journalists at conferences:

Attend events hosted by media publications

One of the best way to meet reporters in person is to attend events that are hosted by media companies. The reason is, a company’s journalists and team members are often asked to attend these events. Many years ago I remember attending The Next Web’s conference in Amsterdam, which I highly recommend, and being able to meet many members of their editorial staff.

Media publications in many cases host larger, flagship conferences, however they also at times host smaller events, and these are often free to attend. As an example, the technology publication VentureBeat earlier hosted events throughout the country.

Be a speaker at the event

Catching the attention of journalists can be tough. When pitching via email or social media, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd, as inboxes quickly fill up with hundreds of press releases from other keen startups too. The same can happen in the run up to conferences and events. Well respected journalists from leading publications will be bombarded with messages on Twitter, LinkedIn and email asking, “Are you going to be attending this conference, can we meet up?

As such, the best way to be noticed by journalists is to actually get involved with the events, either as a speaker, by joining a panel or by running a workshop. The fact that you have been offered the stage shows the media that you are an expert in your field and that you have interesting insights to share. 

Another benefit of being a speaker or contributor to an event is that is gives you more free access to private areas that are not available to normal attendees.

Many conferences have special zones where speakers can prepare, or just relax and catch up with some work, and forward thinking conferences like SAAS NORTH offer media rooms where journalists can conduct interviews and get work done. As such, the chances of rubbing shoulders with a journalist who would be interested in covering your story increases dramatically when you are able to spend time in these VIP zones.