With the USPTA World Conference upon us I thought I would write some tips on networking at the convention. One of the main reasons we go to conferences is to meet other people and to connect with other pros.
I’ve had the opportunity to attend a lot of conferences and conventions so here are some easy tips to help you get the most out of the networking opportunities at this weeks World Conference.
Before the Conference
You need to have a plan before you arrive. You need to know in advance who you want to meet, which speakers you want to hear, and what vendors you want to visit.
You need to post, blog or tweet about the fact that you’re going to the conference. Blog about the sessions you’re planning to attend and why you want to attend that session. Find out the Twitter tag for the conference if they have one. Spend some time before the conference looking up the speakers and some of the other participants’ websites and blogs if they have one. In today’s digital society it’s pretty easy to find out the information.
Set up some appointments before the conference with some other attendees who you know are going to be there. If you know that there will be people attending who you know that you would like to see, call them or send an email a few days before to schedule a time to meet.
During the conference
Guide the conversations with the other attendees. Ask questions that take advantage of your shared interests, like:
What did you think about that last session?
What other sessions are you looking forward to attending?
Are you planning on going to the national conference?
What other conferences are you planning on attending?
The “where do you work” question is going to come up at some point. When you are asked follow it up by asking them where they work and how long they have been at their club or facility.
When you have the opportunity to, introduce others to the people in your own circle. When you meet people that are influential, be the one who connects them with others who might be valuable to them. This includes not only those at this particular conference, as well as other people you might know at home.
Take the time to talk to the other people sitting next to you. When you walk into a seminar, take your time and say hello to the people seated around you before the presentation begins. Once you have said something as simple as “hello” and made a connection, it will be a lot easier to speak with them later in the day if you run into them again during another session.
I know it’s hard sometimes but try to sit next to someone you haven’t met before. If you are at a conference for multiple days try to sit next to a new person for each session. Don’t sit with the people that you know and reach out to new people.
Try to ask questions at the end of the session. Engage the speaker with quality questions that will help you with your career. Don’t just ask a question to talk. If asking your question in front of everyone else seems too hard try to find the speaker after the session and talk to them then. Speak slowly and introduce yourself to him or her in a brief way and ask an intelligent question.
During Break Times
Turn off your phone and put your technology away. I know that everyone is busy but try not run to your IPhone, BlackBerry, Ipad, or laptop at every break.
If you were smart before the conference you put an out of office message on your phone and emails at the office. At the conference make the most of the opportunity to expand your network.
Get a wingman at the conference. By having a wingman or networking buddy, conferences are much easier to navigate. Your wingman can step in and introduce themselves in order to produce a name from someone you don’t want to admit that you have forgotten. By helping out each other you’ll cover more of the conference and have more interesting conversations.
Food and Cocktails
When it comes time for the social networking time food and cocktails make it easier for you to make conversation.
Remember it’s hard to talk with your mouth full and with a drink in your hand, so be careful. As most of you know me I like to have a cocktail in my hand at just about all times when I am at a conference dinner party. Make sure to take it easy and use common sense.
Make sure to carry business cards, a notebook, and a pen or pencil. Make it easy for people to remember you and pass out business cards to people that you want to connect with. In today’s digital world put the new friend in your contacts right away.
After the conference
Make sure you follow up after the conference with people through e-mail and or phone calls. I know its hard to do but book out time after the conference to go over everything that you did and who you connected with.
If you have a website write and blog about what you did and what you learned from the conference. People who were at the conference want to be in more than one session at a time, and your notes can become important to other people who attended the same conference.
Conferences can be very expensive with the cost of airfare, hotels, and conference fees so make sure you make the most of it while you are at the conference.