Most people have a certain number of conferences and trade shows they must attend during the year. Attitudes can range from “have to go” to “want to go.” If you’re an extrovert, chances are you’ll welcome the opportunity to socialize and connect with other people. And if you’re an introvert, you’ll likely struggle to stay focused as you contend with sensory overload. Regardless of personality type, time spent at a conference is a waste if you fail to remain “plugged in” and follow up with contacts when you return home.
It’s not really about the number of business cards you collect or how much you network. Your goal is to develop relationships with potential colleagues and clients.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, social contacts often generate new business opportunities. Once you open up to people and connect, you unleash creative energy and power.
This may happen naturally…or not at all. So, what can you do to pave the way for conference success? Here are some tips for making the most of your experience, maximizing its value through personal contacts.
1.Be identifiable. Make sure your name badge is easily seen by others. You may have to attach it near your collar or face so others aren’t forced to scan your entire body to locate the end of a lanyard. Secure it so it doesn’t twist or dangle backward.
2.Be identifiable, part 2. Bring your own button or name tag, to be worn alongside the event’s name badge. (Nothing wrong with overkill here.) This serves as a conversation starter. Placing an unusual title after your name, such as Chief Idea Person or Chief Implementer, often spurs people to ask questions about your job.
3.Be identifiable, part 3. Hand out biz cards to everyone you meet — right away — and ask for theirs. If you wait, a distraction may preempt contact. Of course, be sure you have plenty of cards on hand.
4.Be bold. Don’t wait! Take the lead and introduce yourself to people at your table, in line or wherever you’re waiting. You never know who you’ll meet!
(A note of caution: We don’t advise doing this in the bathroom line, as people aren’t relaxed when they’re on a mission. Use nonverbal cues to determine how open people are to a “meet- and-greet.”)
5.Be prepared with a gift or handout. If available, bring a CD or booklet that contains information about you — something of value that demonstrates your knowledge. If you’ve written a book, hand out copies to special people with whom you have a connection.
6.Get other people’s biz cards. Ask if you can email them. Ezines are a great way to follow up after a conference, but don’t add anyone to your subscriber list without securing permission.
You can write: “Here’s that report I was telling you about. If you’d like more information, we have an ezine. You can subscribe by clicking here…”
Come back to this blog tomorrow for more tips and the conclusion.