Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5 Tips for Better Networking at the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo

Many of my friends in the Association Industry will be in Atlanta this week for the ASAE Annual Meeting & Expo.  As a member of ASAE I had hoped to attend the event this year, but my speaking schedule did not permit this to happen.  

If you are going to be at the ASAE conference, here are my top 5 tips for maximizing your networking experience at the event:

1.  Say good-bye to your co-worker once you arrive.  A major mistake made at large conferences is that people cling to those they already know.  They sit with their friends at every meal, and attend all the sessions together.  Better to split up and then come together on occasion to share details of individual experiences. 

This does not mean no contact with your buddies... but do not fall into the trap of being together all the time or you will miss the opportunity to meet new people.

2.  Put your SmartPhone and tablets away during meal, breaks and happy hours.  Most large conferences these days are overrun by the "Phone Zombies".  People who spend every break trying to connect outside the even fail to have any meaningful conversations with those present.  If you must check in with your office, walk outside.  To take your phone out in the networking areas sends a message to those close by that you find your electronics more fascinating than they are (and that is rude).

This does not mean you cannot have your phone out during the speakers presentations.  Take out your phone and tweet or post to Facebook any information you find interesting.  Those of us not at the conference will enjoy sharing in your learning experience. 

ALSO... if the speaker is boring... go ahead and check email or surf the internet.  If the speaker is not engaging enough to keep your attention, they do not deserve your attention!

3.  Be the person to initiate conversations.  People attend these events to meet others, but most are waiting for someone to talk to them.  Some are a bit shy at big events (both introverts and extroverts can clam up in big crowds), and when you say "hello" you can melt their shyness away and kick-start their whole meeting experience.  Once you have a short conversation with someone you will be surprised how often you will cross paths with them again and again at the event.

4.  Bring lots of business cards.  Do not assume anyone will remember your name.  While there are lots of people who want to push us all to use technology in place of a business card, it is often the easiest for everyone to trade the traditional paper cards.  It does not require anyone to have the same apps, and since most people are visual, your will card has a unique look were the new links all look the same. 

Telling someone to look you up on Google or LinkedIn puts the burden on them.  Make it easy for people to connect with you.

5.  Have fun.  When you are having fun people will be drawn to be around you.  This event will have a great mix of learning and social activities... so do not miss out on the festive side of the conference.  Too often people can get so caught up in the business and education that they forget to make the most from talking with other people.  Some of the best learning comes from the impromptu "hallway conversations" you have with other attendees and vendors... and sharing with people is always fun!!!

While there is a lot of "new" ways to connect.... the good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations that take place at meetings is still paramount to business success.  So get out there and talk to each other while in Atlanta.

I wish I was there with you - See you next year in Nashville.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

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. 

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