It’s early in the morning, and you’re on your way to a local conference – or it’s late at night, and you’re flying to a conference across the country. Knowing you would be out of the office at least one day, you stayed late several days in the last week to get work done. In fact, you’re still thinking about a project at work and wondering how you’ll meet the deadline while being out of the office.
The last thing on your mind is networking.
Ideally, you’d have thought through a strategic networking plan before going to the conference. Still, even without one, you can take advantage of all the small networking moments throughout the day. One example is the opportunity to meet fellow attendees at breakout sessions.
Does this scene sound familiar? You don’t know many people at the conference, and you don’t enjoy mingling during the breaks, so you go directly to the breakout session room 5-10 minutes before it begins. You choose a chair as far apart as possible from everyone else in the room, taking the aisle seat in the last row if it’s still available. Then quickly get on your phone to check work emails, scroll through Facebook, or play Bejeweled. A few people are sitting near you as the room fills up – perhaps even one seat over. The space is less than half filled and almost entirely silent. You and almost everyone else are focused on their phones.
Even if you are not the most gregarious person, you can take advantage of these small networking moments.
After all, the people around you chose the same session as you, so you likely have something in common with them. You will have a much better opportunity for a great connection meeting attendees in this room compared to someone you might meet randomly in line at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby.
Here are my seven tips for taking advantage of these small networking moments at conferences:
Don’t Sit Right Away.
Put your belongings on a chair, and while standing, turn to the person sitting closest to you and say “Good morning” or “Hi, my name is…”. Ask if they’ve met the person sitting closest to them – who will likely look up from their phone at that moment and join the conversation.
Ask Relevant Questions
“What drew you to this session?” is an excellent generic question, but you can get more specific. Think about why you selected this session and turn that into a question: “I’d like to learn the latest techniques for [topic]. What has been your experience with [blank]?”
Look for Outliers
Move around the room while you are waiting for the session to begin and start a conversation with folks sitting off by themselves. Gentle humor about how we’re all so quick to get on our phones (evidenced by five people sitting adjacent to each other in silence on their phones) is a good ice-breaker if followed by a question or two to get the conversation started.
Meet the Presenter
The presenter has finished finagling their PowerPoint and is waiting expectantly at the front of the room. This is an excellent opportunity o chat with them before speaking. Say something about what you're looking forward to about their presentation. Plan to send a follow-up note that says it was great meeting them and thank them for their presentation.
Say One Thing
If you tend to be shy about speaking in large crowds, focus your energy on saying one impactful statement or question. “A few minutes ago, we were talking about [topic], and I wanted to add that in my experience, [blank] happens if you [blank]. I’d love to hear from others in the room how we might approach this differently in the future.” Then, even if the conversation doesn’t continue around your question – linger after the session and make eye contact with attendees as they leave the room. Someone may stop to chat with you about your point, and you can then walk together out of the room.
Work the Line
At the end of the session, a few people will form a line to speak to the presenter. Out of all the people you might want to meet “randomly” at the conference, these people have also selected a session you are interested in and enjoyed it enough to stay after to meet the presenter. This is an excellent opportunity for you to meet someone with shared interests. Standoff to the side of the end of the line and ask an open-ended question about the presentation, “Those were great examples. Have you found a similar outcome when you tried it at your organization?” Someone outgoing will respond, and a moment later, you’ll be in a conversation with a few of the people waiting quietly in line.
Leave in Pairs
After this session, there is a reasonable transition time between sessions, a more extended networking break, or lunch. Rather than enter that space by yourself, try to walk out of the room with someone you’ve just been chatting with or met at the beginning of the session. Then you won’t have to navigate the coffee break on your own, and you might be introduced to your new friend’s colleagues or invited to join them for lunch.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to take advantage of these small networking moments at conferences even if you didn’t have a strategic networking plan before you arrived.
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.
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