Conferences. Am I the only one who has a love hate-relationship with them? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to them. Networking with people, attending presentations - there's value for sure. However, then I have to network with people and attend presentations! See the struggle?
Over time, I have realized I need to set myself up for success and prepare in advance for attending conferences and trade shows, rather than have the passive attitude of “whatever comes along”. Here are my tips in making any conference or trade show successful and beneficial to attend.
This Isn't The Michael Scott Booze Cruise
Remember, you are at a professional event with your colleagues and peers. There is never really an “off time” at conferences, especially if your intent is to learn, network and grow. While there is nothing wrong with having fun and relaxing, be mindful of how much you are drinking. Nobody wants to see you limbo.
Prior to the event, you will receive information from the event coordinators. Carefully take time to plan your days. What sessions would you like to attend? Who do you want to meet and network with? Five minutes before it starts is not the time to decide. Taking this time allows you to reach out to speakers if it is a small enough venue. Most often, their contact information will be included on the event website, along with their bio. Personally, I have done this and it has opened doors for me in creating valuable relationships over time, that I never would have had if I didn't take the initiative.
There are over 590 million professionals on LinkedIn. 61 million LinkedIn users are senior level influencers and 40 million are in decision-making positions. Additionally, LinkedIn now has over 26 million companies and 15 million active job listings.
Polish your LinkedIn profile. Don't have one? Create one.
Be sure all of your information is up-to-date and you are presenting your best self.
Linkedin also released a relatively unused feature called “Find Nearby”. On your mobile device, click the ‘My Network’ option in the bottom menu, then at the top you will see ‘Find nearby (OFF)’. Once you press the icon, it will turn itself on (you will need Bluetooth turned on) then it will ‘find’ people in your network who are ‘nearby’. As long as you are on that page and the other people are on that page you will see each other.
Alexa, Call Daddy
Make sure the contact information in your phone is up-to-date so you can share it. I learned this the hard way. I have my phone connected to our Amazon Alexa. My four-year-old daughter can say, “Alexa, call Daddy” and it connects to my phone. In order for that to happen I had to re-name my name in my phone to “Daddy”. Needless to say, one day I shared my contact information via my phone. All the information was correct. That is, everything but my first name. I guess “Daddy” is only cute to a four-year-old, not a fifty-year-old self storage architect.
Don’t Be Lame
Attendee: “So what do you do?” Me: ”I’m in storage”
Like everyone else at this conference!
Attendee: “So where are you from?”
This question is asked and it's clearly written on the bottom of my name tag.
These are examples of incredibly lame icebreakers.
Being at a conference and approaching someone is hard enough because you are putting yourself out there.
Try: “What's been your favorite session?" “Meet anyone interesting?” “What’s been your biggest take away?” “Is this your first time here?”
If you want to be remembered, ask questions and do things that set you apart from others.
If you have read anything business-related in the past 10 years, you have heard this term. Since it is so important, why haven’t you perfected yours?
If I ask someone what they do for a company, I don’t want to hear, “Oh, I manage two stores.”
Wow, you and every other person I have talked with. That melts into the background and is forgettable.
Try, “I'm Rick. I facilitate the daily operations of two storage sites. Typically, this includes marketing, sales, staff training, community involvement, and the occasional weed pulling.”
This statement is short, to the point, and interjects a little humor to make it memorable.
With these 6 tips in hand, you will be able to master any conference you attend. With them, try to remember the most important - always be authentic in who you are.