Maximize Your Conference (Part 9 of 10)
Be A Connector
By Thom Singer
When you attend an industry conference it is easy to forget that you and the other attendees are all on equal footing. Often people feel they are on the outside of some super-secret "industry clique" and mistakenly believe that everyone else already knows each other. You are never an outsider at an event, as the society and culture of most multi-day conferences are open to everyone who takes initiative.
(There are exceptions to this. I once belonged to a national association where a "power clique" ran the convention and other parts of the organization. This association was prosperous, but their repeat attendance numbers were always lower than expected because it was well known to members that the "insiders" who controlled the strings were self-serving jerks. If your industry association is dominated by some fools, there are ways to reclaim the reigns).
The reality is that most people who go to a convention do not know many other people in the room. Some know nobody. Thus, if someone is not naturally comfortable interacting with strangers, they will often withdraw from meeting and mingling.
One of the main reasons people attend a conference is for the "networking opportunities", When they do not network, they are setting themselves up to fail in their objectives.
Taking action and becoming a connector will allow you to have a stronger experience at the event. When you meet new people, ask them questions about who they would like to know at the conference. If you have a keen ear, you will quickly start to interact with people who be introduced. When you make a successful connection, you will be a superstar in the eyes of both people.
Knowing "who should meet whom" is not enough. You must take the next step and introduce them to each other. This is hard for many people. They want to do it, but they over-think the process and rationalize why they should not make the connection. Remember that people want to meet others and that some are just not good at taking the first step. Helping them reach their goal should be empowering!
A bigger mistake than doing nothing is blindly introducing people for no reason. They read the advice of being a connector and drag strangers around to meet others without having put any strategic thought into why they are making introductions. A real connector never wastes time or resources.
Being a connector is not throwing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. You have to establish an understanding of the people you meet and know what they want and need. Once you do this, the rest becomes easy.
Another way to be a connector is to be the person who organizes an off-schedule get-together. This could be a pre-planned dinner or party... or just a few cool people grabbing lunch or dinner together when the program has nothing planned.
This can even be done during a scheduled meal, too. You can tell a group of people whom you met that you will get to the dining room early and save a table. Be sure to get their cell phone numbers so that you can text them your location in the room so they can find you easily. People are awkward about where to sit, how to talk to stranger, etc.... Or they sit with co-workers, which wastes their conference experience. By pulling together a table you make it easy for everyone else to meet new people. You will be remembered for this effort and it will help you establish your own connections.
Always be a connector (at the conference and everywhere you go), as those who serve others in this manner never seem to be lacking in opportunities!
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Networking Catalyst". He regularly speaks at industry conventions and trade shows where he inspires the audience (and vendors) to maximize their participation at the event. One of the top reasons people attend business conferences is for the "Networking Opportunities", and yet once there they fail to create connections that will have any meaningful impact on their career. Thom sets the tone for the culture of the conference which becomes the foundation for a more meaningful set of interactions.