If you’ve been in the online marketing industry for more than a year or two, you’ll already have figured out that there’s no better use of your time than attending a professional conference, expo or workshop. It’s not about the content of the sessions themselves, and it’s not even about the expo hall but about everything in between. The parties. The informal meetings at the bar. The opening reception. Even the “speed dating” or other conference-sponsored events can prove invaluable.
IF you know how to work the halls.
I just got back from two major conferences — New Media Expo and the Consumer Electronics Show — and ended up on stage, speaking at both of them. That’s a secret way to significantly increase the value of attending a conference, but we’ll get back to that momentarily.
I met hundreds of people, hundreds of potential clients who could hire me to produce custom how-to videos, bring me on board as a social media consultant or just offer to send me something cool to evaluate and review on my AskDaveTaylor site.
Many of the people I met were surprisingly unprepared to be networking at a professional event, however. They lacked business cards, they had no succinct description of their business or service, or they were so busy poking around on their smartphones, tablets or laptops that they didn’t even look up or engage.
Based on years of attending these sort of events, here’s my list of ways that you can maximize your networking when you’re meeting other attendees:
1. Bring Professional Business Cards — It’s surprising how many people have no cards or, actually worse than not having cards, correct things on their card before they hand them to you. This is easy: If your phone number changes, if you have a new URL on Facebook, if you added a new degree or certification, reprint your cards and recycle the old ones. With 150 cards for $10 through sites like Vistaprint, there’s no excuse.
2. Have your elevator pitch ready — If you only have a few seconds to explain what you do and your business to someone else, make sure that it’s an accurate, succinct and interesting description. I explain that I offer “custom how-to videos for corporate clients to feature on their own site. Clients like Intel and Kingston Technology”, and by the time I’m done, we’re chatting about video and their needs in that market.
3. Don’t skip the parties and networking events / Make new friends fast — You’re at a trade show. It’s not the time to catch up on movies in your hotel room or meet with your old high school sweetheart. Ask people what their plans are in the evening and invite yourself along to group dinners, head to the parties, and don’t forget that breakfasts and post event drinks are both excellent times to meet people too.
4. Pay attention to other attendees — We’re all excited about our smartphones, tablets and computers, but it’s alarmingly frequent now to find someone you’d like to meet heads down, texting, checking Facebook or answering email. You’re at a conference. Be present. Everything else can easily wait.
Another recommendation I’ll offer is to talk with conference organizers a few months prior to the event, inquiring whether you might join a panel or otherwise speak during the event. Because being in the front of the room is a magnet for other people to connect with you. And a panel is a lot less anxiety-provoking than standing up solo in front of hundreds to impart your wisdom.
And next time we’re both at a professional event, find me. We’ll talk.
Guest posts on Marketing Pilgrim are the views solely of the author and may or may not reflect those of us here at Marketing Pilgrim.
About the Author
Dave Taylor has been involved with Internet-related businesses for many years and is widely known for his AskDaveTaylor.com site. You can find him active and involved on every major social network too. Here’s how to find Dave and work the online halls.