This is the second blog post in the Event Attendance series.
I recently attended the WritersUA conference where I got to talk shop with people in my industry from across the US and from Australia. I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet a wide range of people from my industry.
In this series of blog posts, I’m going to share with you ideas for getting the most from a conference, industry event, or local meetup. You can use and modify this information to cover everything from single evening events to multiple day industry conferences.
Maximize Your Time At An Event
While attending the event, keep in mind your goal to connect with new people in your industry. Here are a few things I did to maximize my industry connections while at the conference.
Social Media Follow Up
- Make a list of the people you met through social media before the event that includes their access (Twitter username, email address, etc.) Check off each person as you meet them. Continue to connect with them through social media at the event until you meet in real life.
- Update your status on each social media site to mention that you are attending the conference. Include an invitation for others to connect with you.
- When possible, set up a time and place to meet up with people you met online. Suggest meeting during a break, or for a specific meal in advance.
Talk To People
- Some people are naturally gregarious and are comfortable meeting strangers, while others are more reserved. Whatever your natural style, make the effort to reach out to people around you. Introduce yourself to the people seated next to you, or waiting for the elevator, or passing in the hall.
- Come up with a sentence or two that describes you, your company, and the kind of work you do. This variation on the elevator pitch will help you to connect with people, and will keep you from drawing a blank when someone asks you “What do you do?”
- Be open to meeting new people. The look on your face and your body language clearly let people know if you want to be approached or if you want to be left alone.
- Join ongoing conversations. If there are people in the lobby or outside a meeting room engaged in conversations, listen to what they are saying. If it is interesting, or if you know something about it, don’t be shy about joining in, asking a question, or offering an opinion.
- Does someone seem familiar? Don’t be afraid to ask them if you have met before. There are so many new people at these events, no one expects you to remember everyone.
- When approaching someone, look them in the eye, say hello, and offer your hand (unless they are overwhelmed with things they are carrying). Those little courtesies go a long way to break the ice. Use your elevator pitch to introduce yourself, and ask a question about them.
- Reach an awkward pause in the conversation? Jump to your business questions or solutions factsheets (explained in part 1). Or ask them what session they have enjoyed the most so far.
- Keep your business cards handy so you can pull them out with one hand while talking. Ideally, that location might be a jacket pocket, or inside an event badge, or in your cell phone case. Make it easy to give them out.
- Have a separate place where you put cards you receive. The last thing you want is to hand someone a card you collected instead of your own card!
- Keep a pen handy. While the conversation is still fresh, make a note on the back about the person’s appearance, the topics you discussed, and any other detail that will help you remember the person and the interaction.
- The reason to exchange cards is to make it easy to stay in touch. There is no prize for the person who collects (or hands out) the most business cards. It’s far better to exchange a few with people where you really connect than to walk through the event spamming people with your card.
- Having trouble getting on the conference wifi? Don’t be afraid to ask someone around you, or ask at the conference registration desk for assistance.
- Looking for an electrical outlet? Ask someone you see carrying electronics if they have found any outlets.
- If your employer paid for your trip, make sure to attend the sessions with the most practical information related to your job and your business challenges. Fit in sessions of personal interest when you can.
- Ask questions at the end of the session.
- Take good notes. The things in your brain will suffer memory rot during the next session, or by the next morning. If it’s important, write it down.
- If you liked the speaker, as for a business card. That person might be a valuable resource for you or your company down the road.
- Don’t be afraid to leave a session if it isn’t meeting your information needs. Leave the room as quickly and quietly as possible to avoid distracting the people around you and the speaker.
- Ask other people which speakers have a reputation for putting on great sessions. When possible, add those sessions to your schedule.
- These days, many people choose to live blog or tweet through sessions. This can be a great way to record the speaker’s gems and share them with the non-attending world.
- Most events have a hashtag to identify the event online, such as #WritersUA or #IgnitePhx. Find out the hashtag for your event and include it in your online reporting.
- Make sure you have the appropriate equipment and connection for reporting your sessions. For example, an iPhone might be great for tweets, but the keyboard would slow down live blogging.
- Find the sweet spot between the speaker’s presentation style, your equipment/setup, and your listening bandwidth. While you might want to live blog, if that causes you miss much of the content, switch to tweets, or stop reporting. The purpose of attending is to gain new information, so don’t let anything stand in your way, even your own actions.
- Some speakers are starting to adjust their content for people who blog and tweet their sessions. Most speakers are not organizing their presentation to facilitate your reporting process. Only report what you can do while actively listening to the content.
What do you think? Is there something I’ve forgotten to include? Share you suggestions and activities with the community through a comment.
Up next time: How to follow up on your connections.