I was going to go visit with some of them while they are in Texas, but I am speaking three times this week in Austin (once is a webinar, but need a stable internet connections, so traveling is not always the best idea). I am not complaining... as speaking is what I do, but it is fun to get to go to events like this when they are close to home!
One of my favorite people asked me for some networking advice, as she wants to maximize her time at the event, and knows that while education is the purpose, it is the people you meet at a conference who can make or break the ROI.
My advice was simple:
1. Even if you are an introvert, instigate conversations. Introverts are really better networkers once the conversation gets going. They ask more questions, listen better, and seek the ways to connect the dots for others. I encouraged her to get past the butterflies and meet two new people at every break, meal and happy hour. Also, each time she walks into a keynote or breakout room, I urged her to talk to the people next to her before the event begins (as opposed to burying her face in her phone).
2. Remember that "Hallway Conversations" are when the best learning takes place. Just hearing a smart person share information does not mean the message sinks into your brain. Talking about what you learned with others, and adding your own thoughts (and hearing the other attendees interpretations) are key to making learning stick. The sessions all have "learning objectives", but your chats with others are just as important and should have learning goals attached as well.
3. Do not sit with co-workers or other close friends. I know that conferences are a great time to chat with those you love, but you will get more out of the event if you tell them to go sit at different tables for lunches and dinners. When you split up you each will meet different people. Later you can introduce each other to the coolest people you encountered, and double your networking.
4. Follow up. Meeting someone once does not make them part of your network. A few words in the hallway at the PCMA event is not a long-term and mutually beneficial relationship. As you meet new people be sure to look for a purpose to follow up with them at a later time.
I wish I could be in San Antonio this week, as I had a great time at the PCMA Convening Leaders event in San Diego (in January). Oh well.... next time!
Have A Great Day.
Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections. http://www.conferencecatalyst.com