Over the last few months I’ve been working on a new book and in the process asking my network to share their problems networking at conferences. Over and over I received questions that could be boiled down to – How do I get more value out of the experience of going to conferences? It’s a lot of time and money and I’m never sure how to meet people while I’m there. Maybe I shouldn’t bother going?
Maybe you’ve asked yourself a similar question?
Conferences are expensive and time intensive, but I wouldn't recommend avoiding them altogether. What you need is a strategy that will boost your confidence and help you feel your time and money were well spent.
To be strategic, you need to have a plan. To have a plan, you need to do some research. Before doing anything, you need to get very clear on why this event, this specific event is one you should be attending. If you are only attending because you “have to” and don't put any effort into a strategic plan, then it's likely you will not feel the event was valuable enough for the time you spent there.
Who do you hope to meet? What do you hope to learn? What inspiration are you looking for?
Answer these questions by doing some research and aligning this event with your personal and professional goals.
A good place to start would be to figure out who is attending this event – either a specific attendee list or in general who attends. If you know someone who has attended this conference or currently attends, you can ask their advice about whether it would be a good fit.
Even if you can't access the attendee list, you'll know who is on the Host Committee, Organizing Team, Speakers, and Honorees. All of which will help you determine if this is the right event for you and if there are specific people you'd like to connect with.
What I suggest you do next is draft your follow-up email. That's right, BEFORE you leave for the event, draft your follow-up email. This will require you to get clear on who you want to meet (either specifically or in general) and what you'd want to talk to them about. Drafting this email will also help you think through your elevator pitch and personalize it for this particular event.
Most people are not very good at follow up. They amass business cards, but that's not the goal of networking. The goal is to build relationships and that requires connecting after the event.
The other piece of this is keeping track of the business cards you collect so you can prioritize who you follow up with. Simply turning down the corner of the card is helpful. Adding a note about what you discussed, what resource you (or they) had agreed to send, and where/when you met will also be very helpful. This will allow you to easily distinguish these priority business cards when you get home.
If you keep track of the cards you want to prioritize and have a follow-up email drafted already, you will be able to send follow-up messages with ease. You’ll find detailed steps for drafting your follow-up email prior to going to the event in episode 16, titled “Networking for Introverts.” I’ll include the link in the show notes.
Of course, all of this is for naught if you don’t approach people while at the conference. If you lurk on the sides of the room or bury your nose in your phone while waiting for the presenter to start the next break-out session, you are missing out on the opportunities in the room around you.
Conferences hold the promise of in-person connection with like-minded colleagues. This promise will only become true if you make the effort to have a strategy and to actually meet people.
Since you’ve done your research you know this is a great event to meet potential clients, meet leaders in your field, or find people to create a mastermind group with. So now you need to go over and talk to that tight networking circle over there. Yeah, that huddle where everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder and no one is noticing you standing there.
Gulp. That’s not easy to do. Ok, so before trying to tackle one of those hard to break into networking circles (which I call bagels), look for groups of people who are more loosely gathered. Look for groups that have a bit of an opening. I call these groups croissants. When you are in one of these networking circles yourself, make an effort to open up your own body language so others can join in. They may be able to pay your generosity back later on when you approach a group they are in. For more on my croissants vs. bagels networking tip – listen to episode 8.
Yes, it can be a bit daunting to go talk to people you don’t know, but don’t hesitate more than 3 seconds before going over to them. That’s right. 3 seconds is all you get to be nervous, more than that and you’ll talk yourself out of going over at all.
So what do you say when you walk over? You start a conversation very simply by introducing yourself. My preferred opening line is “Hi, my name is Robbie”, I suggest you use your own name.
Follow up with an open-ended question, for instance “What sessions are you most looking forward to attending?” or “What has been most memorable so far?”
I also recommend prepping an answer to the ubiquitous “What do you do?” question (which I urge people to stop asking). Instead of saying your job title and company, try something like “I help do .” or “I inspire to do .” Play around with that and see what works for you. Have a couple of quick stories ready that illustrate the positive impact your work has on the world.
Going into an event with this prep work done will help you be more confident and you will know there are a lot of possibilities in the room. You'll make the most of the opportunity to engage with people in person and will do the follow-up that leads to further connections down the road.
You will stop wasting time networking and start building relationships.
ABOUT ROBBIE: www.robbiesamuels.com/about
Business Growth Strategy Coach
Robbie coaches inspiring entrepreneurial women in their 50s and beyond (and a few awesome men) to grow their impact and income by building an audience before launching new revenue streams.
WHO YOU ARE:
You want to have a greater impact and increased income. The problem is that there are so many options for how to build your business that you can feel stuck, overwhelmed, and like you’re running out of time.
The reason options are overwhelming is that you’re looking at them as a series of disconnected steps when to make the most of your time, you need a strategy that connects only the most important and highest impact ones.
You know that if you try to do everything, you’ll accomplish nothing. This means, to achieve your goal, you have to invest in a strategy to put time on your side.
WAYS ROBBIE OFFERS SUPPORT:
As a relationship-based business growth strategist, Robbie will work with you one-on-one to design a year-long plan that consists of three 12-week sprints, each followed by 4 weeks of reflection/assessment, rejuvenation, learning, and strategic planning. This will allow you to sequence your goals, create momentum, and leverage your limited time.
Have a project that you want feedback on or need assistance with a specific strategy? He offers half-day strategy sessions.
Already selling but feeling stuck around how to increase your revenue? Sign up for a one-day mastermind with fellow entrepreneurs to break through to the next level.
Ready to dig into your network to validate a solution you’ve been working on to see if you can build an audience for it before launching? Sign up for 12 Weeks to Create Your Irresistible Offer program.
Want accountability, support, and guidance as you implement your strategic plan? Learn more about his year-long Wake Up Your Network mastermind program.
These are not right for everyone; they're personalized offerings and are priced accordingly.
WHAT MIGHT YOU WORK ON?
In his coaching work with entrepreneurs, his clients focus on the areas where they'd like to grow, which may include:
- Creating a strong sales conversation framework
- Building your referral network
- Lead generation through a relationships
- Growing your visibility in your industry
- Increasing your ability to attract the right kind of clients
- Identifying and launching a minimally viable offer
- Breaking through whatever bottleneck is holding you back from getting the results you want and deserve
- Becoming a published author and marketing your book successfully
- Improving your virtual presentation skills
LEARN MORE AND SCHEDULE A CHAT: www.robbiesamuels.com/coaching
Robbie is excited to support you in reaching or exceeding your goals.
Interested in booking Robbie to speak? At www.robbiesamuels.com/speaking you’ll find video clips and a description of his talks.
Watch his TEDx talk “Hate networking? Stop bageling and be the croissant!” at www.robbiesamuels.com/TEDx.
- Connect with Robbie on LinkedIn
- @RobbieSamuels on Twitter and Instagram
- New to his website? Start here
- On the Schmooze podcast archive – weekly since July 2016!
SIGN UP for his free weekly #NoMoreBadZoom Virtual Happy Hours – www.NoMoreBadZoom.com
Affiliate Links: Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links above are “affiliate links”. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products and services I use personally and believe will add value to my listeners. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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