Having just attended the ASQ World Conference on Quality, I came away with a ton of cards and left feeling a bit dizzy with everyone that I met. Hence this networking tip about conferences. ASQ has many conferences throughout the year, so be sure you do your networking homework before the next conference and maximize your networking activities.
This tip comes from Thomas Smale, Co-founder of FE International, in his submission to Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246441
MAY 20, 2015
Attending digital marketing conferences is a great way to stay up to date and learn new ways to improve your business. However, I find the networking opportunities to be of the greatest value. Last year I had the pleasure of speaking at MicroConf Europe and UnGagged and I made the effort to network, despite being an introvert.
I recently returned to the UnGagged London conference as a speaker this year and networking was at the top of my priorities list. Here is the blueprint that I follow to effectively network at conferences.
1. Create a list of prospects before the event. You should have a list of people you want to connect with before even arriving at the conference location. This allows you to do a little preliminary research to prepare for potential encounters -- things such as identifying mutual connections or interests can help break the ice and lead to a smooth introduction.
Every conference website will have a list of speakers and some will even feature journalists and members of the media that are scheduled to attend. Another way to locate attendees is to search Twitter for conference related hashtags. Having your networking targets identified in advance establishes a goal -- you will network with more people this way rather than just wondering around aimlessly without a plan.
2. Stay at the event venue hotel. You might be able to save a few dollars if you book a hotel down the street or across town, but you will miss out on so much valuable networking time. You aren’t going to make any introductions or engage in small talk during the actual presentations -- that happens before and after.
Leave your room early in the morning and get ready to network. Stick around after the sessions to continue your networking crusade. If you are traveling back and forth from the conference venue and another hotel you miss some of the most valuable networking opportunities.
3. Attend all planned social events. Some of the best connections are made at the hotel bar and during planned networking events -- people are more laid back in a relaxed social setting. Mix in a few cocktails and guards are down, the vibe is welcoming and everyone is willing to mingle.
I can’t stress how much of a gold mine the hotel bar can be. You should make sure to hang out there in the evenings and during downtime -- even if you aren’t a drinker. I have been introduced to many high profile connections and started several business relationships at hotel bars during conferences.
4. Practice selling yourself in under 30 seconds. When you are introduced to someone you want to be able to tell them about who you are and what you do -- but most people don’t have time, nor do they want to stand there and listen to you talk for several minutes.
Master a 30-second self-pitch. They key is to make it interesting without it sounding like an overly promotional sales pitch.
What do you do? Where are you from? What are two interesting and memorable facts about you? Use this information and create your introduction -- make sure the individual that you introduce yourself to is going to have a clear picture of you. They won't forget you because your introduction was both clever and memorable.
5. Be armed with business cards at all times. You should have business cards on you at all times -- keep some in your pocket and in your laptop bag. You should even keep some in your carry-on bag when you travel to conferences -- airport lounges, rental car counters and baggage carousels all present networking opportunities prior to a big conference.
You don’t want to be the person that is just handing out business cards to anyone that will take one. I will initiate the business card exchange after an introduction if I want to connect with the person again after the conference. If not, I don’t offer my card.
I don’t network to collect business cards -- I do it to make connections that are going to lead to a potential mutually beneficial business relationship.
6. Make eye contact, shake hands and be confident. Remember one thing -- you aren’t the only person that is going to be out networking. There are going to be some people that are on the radar of every attendee. First impressions are everything. Make sure you make eye contact with your target, smile, be pleasant, shake hands and emit confidence.
If you are shy, at least pretend you are having a good time and enjoying yourself.
7. Be a listener, not a bragger or boaster. When starting a conversation with someone or joining in a group discussion make sure you don’t become the bragger or boaster. If you attend conferences regularly you know who I am referring to, as it never fails -- there is always one person that wants to constantly tell everyone how great he or she is, and how their company is “crushing it.”
Show a genuine interest in everyone you are introduced to and listen to what they have to say. All rewarding business relationships are born when there is a genuine connection made -- not a BS session followed by a business card exchange.
8. Follow up with everyone you met. As soon as you get home from the conference, reach out to all of the connections you made while networking. Send out an email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them and schedule a time to speak in more detail right away.
You are more likely to get them to commit to a phone call or meeting right after the conference than you would be if you reached out to them months or even weeks after. Get them to commit while your introduction is still a fairly recent memory.
Summer is here and many people will begin traveling and spending time with family. Here are a few tips to keep your networking pipeline moving over the summer months. This networking tip comes from Jennifer Robinson's article - 3 Networking Tips for Your Summer Weekends.
During a summer weekend, many of us look forward to family activities, going to a beach, eating good food, or maybe just catching up on Mad Men. (Don't spoil the finale for me!)
But while you are enjoying your leisure time, you can also be networking. Here are three tips to incorporate networking into your summer weekends!
1. Invite a new connection out. Schedule a coffee or brunch. Invite someone to a gathering at your home. Invite someone to volunteer with you. Invite someone to check out a happening in your city/town. Even just invite someone to take a walk with you. Choose someone you have been meaning to get to know better. Also, long weekends are a great way to get to know someone on a more personal level in a non-traditional environment. This is usually where people are their most authentic selves anyway! They are out of "work mode" and are more relaxed.
2. Use downtime to connect. Take an early-morning hour over the weekend to reach out and connect with new people online, or use the time to reach out and see how established contacts are doing, write an unsolicited recommendation or testimonial for someone, or make a few virtual introductions with people in your network you think would benefit from knowing each other. You can also make a list of people you have a goal of meeting as inspiration to grow your network or your business.
3. Make the most of your family barbecue. Sure, Aunt Ida knows you are looking for a job, but have you really relayed to her the type of people or connections that might be helpful to you? If you have your own business already, bring your cards, brochures, or maybe even sample products to the barbecue to give out to family and friends. Who better to help spread the word for you? If you are so inclined, ask attendees to bring a new friend with them to the event. More than likely, some family members will show up with uninvited guests anyway. The more the merrier, right? Use these opportunities to get to know people and share what you are looking for. You never know who they know! But don't break out in a sales pitch at a barbecue. Ever. People are there to have fun, relax and enjoy.
Jennifer Lynn Robinson, Esq., is a litigator turned entrepreneur following a life-changing near-death accident. She conducts speaking engagements and workshops for companies, conferences, nonprofits and groups on issues surrounding networking and relationship building. She also works one-on-one with people to help them be more comfortable and strategic with their networking efforts. Jennifer lives just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her husband and three rescue dogs.