In January the Professional Convention Managers Association (PCMA) will be hosting their annual "Convening Leaders" conference in my home city of Austin, Texas. I am excited that so many clients, freinds, and others in the convention industry will be here in the Capital of Texas.
Thousands of event professionals will convene for a week of high level learning, fun, and networking.
Regardless of industry, a top reason people attend conventions is the "Networking Opportunities" -- but once they arrive on-site many fail at the process of making legitimate, meaningful and long-lasting connections.
Below is an excerpt from my "Conference Catalyst" content on how to maximize an event.
Having a plan, making networking a priority, and being focused on how to help others are just a few of the steps that will allow anyone to get the most value from attending these types of events. Follow up is the key to creating mutually beneficial and ongoing conversations. - And it is important to remember that successful networking connections never happens by accident.
Ten Tips For Networking At A Multi-Day Conference
2. Bring plenty of business cards. In today’s digital world some argue against the importance of business cards. But having a card is not for you, it is for the other person. Some people forget names quickly and asking for a card helps them recall your details. Telling someone “Google Me” is making them work to keep in touch. Additionally we don’t all use the same technologies, so using a special app assumes we all adopt the same tools. Not carrying business cards can be selfish, and selfish is so last year!
3. Do not focus on meeting the celebrities. While meeting famous authors, speakers, and other industry gurus is fun, you are one of hundreds who will come up to them and shove a card in their hands. Instead, place your focus on meeting other people who are like you that are in attendance at the event. It is peers with whom you are most likely to bond with and create real long lasting mutually beneficial friendships.
4. Talk to the people sitting next to you. When you walk into a general session or breakout, take the time before the presentation begins to say hello to the people seated around you. I call this the "power of hello". Once you have said something as simple as "hello", the conversation will begin to flow nataurally. Small conversatinos will also lead to longer talks later in the week if you see them again.
5. Ask questions of people you meet. Never lead with your "elevator pitch". People are more interested in themselves than they are in you, so ask them questions to help them get to talking. A great question is "why did you decide to attend this event?"
6. Put your technology away. Do not run to your iPhone or tablet at every break. When you are working on electronics you send the message that you are unapproachable and busy. Utilize the time on coffee breaks to converse with other humans who are present at the event. Look around and smile rather than texting.
7. Do not automatically send a LinkedIn or Facebook request. Too often people immediately send social networking link requests to people they just met. However, different people have different policies about whom they link online. If they believe in only connecting with those whom they have established relationships, you make it awkward if you send them a link too early (which they then ignore). Best is to ask people if they would welcome such a link at this time. Be respectful of the fact that they might use social networking differently than you do. Immediately following them on Twitter or Instagram is okay, as Twitter does not require a mutual connection acceptance.
8. Read their stuff. Many people are active bloggers, tweeters, podcasters, authors, etc... If people create the content, seek out their work and read it. A great way to get to know people by reading their stuff. Telling someone you follow their blog or podcast will instantly make them join the conversation, as they will be honored.
9. Introduce people to eachother. When you meet cool people, be the conduit that connects them with others who might be beneficial to them. This includes those at the conference, as well as other people you might know back home. If you ask the right types of questions, you will easily spot connections that can help others. Don't ever worry about "what's in it for me", but instead just be the person who connects. You will find over time that others will help you too if they know you naturally a giver.
10. Follow up. If you meet interesting people and you never follow up, it makes no difference. Own the follow up after the conference and send positive emails (or better yet, a handwritten note) telling them how much you enjoyed talking with them, and plan for future discussions.
11. Do more than others expect from you. Bring more to a new relationship than the other person expects and they will always remember you as someone who is a giver. Invite them along to lunch or dinner with your group of friends or get them into a cool party. Those who help others always get more down the line.
If you are going to the PCMA Conference.... or any industry convention.... make your networking efforts count!
**If you are attending Convening Leaders, be sure to come to the Morning Orientation at 7:00 AM on Monday and Tuesday. Thom Singer will be hosting these daily kick-offs, and we will do more by 8:00 AM than most people will do all day!!
Have A Great Day