If you’re like me, you attend 15-20 conferences a year. That’s a lot of money and time invested, even if the conference pass is comped because you’re speaking. So here’s how to make sure you’re growing your knowledge, your network, and your business while there:
Carry PLENTY of business cards: Bring at least 100 with you.—pre-packed in your luggage. Your objective is not to randomly hand them out, but give them out to people who ask for your card. I like to keep my cards in my left pocket and other people’s cards in my right pocket—that way I don’t get them mixed up.
Keep a pen always with you: The pen you’ll have to write down notes on the backs of business cards. When you get back to the hotel at night, you’re not going to remember what you talked about with each person, so write down a few words about them on the backs of each business card WHILE you’re still talking to them. If anything, that will show the other person respect—that you care what they have to say. That will help you write your follow-up email later that night.
Keep a mini-notebook with you: The tiny 3 inch size ones that fit in your pocket do just fine. You’re not going to remember all those awesome tips that you learned. I am amazed at how many attendees aren’t taking notes during sessions. You’re paying money, so pay attention! Well, all the more advantage for us folks who are paying attention and writing things down.
Don’t just hang out with friends: Not saying to be anti-social—just make sure that you’re spending time meeting new people. Perhaps you can ask friends to introduce you to other people in their network. How many times have you seen 6 people from the same company hang out together—doing everything together? Perhaps they’re too shy to reach out. Sit at different tables, attend different sessions—then get back together at night to compare notes.
Have a clear mission: Can you state in 10 seconds or less what you’re good at and also what you are looking for? No, then you’re an amoeba floating aimlessly in the pond—or a jellyfish, for folks who didn’t remember anything from high school biology. If you’re clear about what you have skills in, then people will seek you out for that skill. Likewise, when you can clearly tell them what you want, they can introduce you to other people who have that skill or can hook you up. Don’t just say you’re an affiliate or some vague term. Worse, don’t say that you do it all. For BlitzLocal, I tell folks that we do Facebook advertising and Local advertising, since both overlap nicely. Being clear on what we’re about makes it easier to stand out.
Make a FEW strong connections: Don’t be the networking idiot that desperately passes their cards around to as many people as possible—only to find them go in the garbage when nobody is looking. At each conference, try to make one or two strong connections with folks who you see as valuable long-term business partners. It’s okay to meet a lot of people, but if you can focus on a couple key folks—maybe even just ONE good connection, that will make your time worth it. That’s also a sign of respect.
Carry some schwag: Do you have some stickers, pens, T-shirts, or other things you can share? I like to carry around a bunch of stuff in my backpack and pull it out for folks who I think are important enough to deserve it. For $100 you can get 100 pens or 500 stickers. Careful not to be overly self-promotional.
1) Follow up that same day: That’s the most important tip, yet so few people actually do it. You’re tired at the end of the day, you’ve got emails to respond to, you’ve got to get up early the next morning, yadda, yadda, yadda—the excuses go on and on. Don’t pretend that you’ll get around to it tomorrow. You’ll be even busier the next day, since a whole bunch of new things and follow-up items will now be in your list. Do it that night while things are still fresh in your head.
This post was guest blog by Dennis Yu.