Conference Networking -Making the most of your investment

Netherlands Embassy PR workshop

5 TIPS FOR CONFERENCE NETWORKING

There are two sides to any conference, the sharing of knowledge in the sessions and the people you meet. 

Many conferences make the pitch for delegates based on who’s coming, the organisations represented and the opportunities this represents. 

But to make the most of the ‘soft’ side of these events, you need to do the following.

  1. Have a Game Plan

No point in going if you don’t know why you’re going. Your organisation may be the sponsor, or you’ve been sent along as a professional development opportunity, but you need a few reasons or goals to leverage the contacts you’ll be making.

You may wish to make some contacts in some new sectors you don’t have reach into, or gain market intelligence, or raise the profile of what your organisation does.  

The event may also be an opportunity to meet with stakeholders and have the off-line conversations that aren’t possible in a formal setting or engagement.

  1. Talk to as many new people as possible

Make the most of the free time, the breaks and seating opportunities. Aim to meet as many people as possible, and yes, that means introducing yourself to complete strangers.  

You’ve invested the time and money, make the most of it and don’t stick to some buddies and work colleagues, be proactive.  

The same applies when you’re there as a group- split up and maximise the number of people collectively you get to talk with. So at the conference dinner, aim to sit at different tables, or mingle in different parts of the room.

You may also have a list of delegates on arrival, or beforehand, and so do your homework and work out who to find and talk to, perhaps allocating several target people to each of your team.

You’re all in the same boat, in a room full of strangers, maybe far from home, and so you’ve got that in common, plus you’ve the program, speakers, content to talk about to start a conversation with.

Remember to get their business card / contact details along the way.

  1. Prepare your Narrative

Come ready with some talking points about what message you want to get out there. 

These can be relevant examples of your work and clients (so if you’re talking to someone from government you use a public sector example), something new your company is bringing to market, basically information you want the people you are talking to recall down the track. 

This should support and reinforce your networking goals for being there. If you’re in sales or business development, remember this first connection is just the starting point, don’t expect to close right there and then.

  1. Connect Afterwards

There is no point in doing the above if you don’t stay in touch.  Within a few days of getting back to the office write a personalised email to all the people that you met. 

Invite to connect with them via LinkedIn too so they can be ‘sticky’ contacts and an audience for your future updates.Depending on your objectives and their situation, some contacts will need further cultivating over time and so book some dates to stay in touch with them in your calendar.

  1. Debrief 

It’s vital that when you get back to your office that you not only share the information you learnt to your colleagues, or if you fly solo perhaps as a blog article, but also the intelligence you gained from the people you met.

The information may not mean much to you, but could be helpful to others and it builds up the corporate knowledge and may help identify opportunities and follow-up actions for the team.  

It’s also a good idea to write down information about the people you met in your contacts database while its fresh (at the airport waiting lounge perhaps) to help you remember them and inform your follow-up steps before you get stuck into the day to day work on your return.

AIM Leadership Conference 2017

AIM logoAs you may be aware already, for the past year or so I have the privilege of leading a passionate committee in the Canberra region to help inform and promote the local program of events and member engagement that is aimed at cultivating excellence in leadership.

But I’ve also been involved with several of AIM’s national program, and was one of the National Networking Week’s National Ambassadors in 2016 where I could draw on my deep understanding on how to leverage that crucial skill and activity as part of the week long program, including being interviewed for Business Insider and the Huffington Post.

So I was thrilled to be invited to be one of seven expert guest speakers at the upcoming national conference, Leadership Matters: 7 Skills of Very Successful Leaders.

This major conference will be held in Melbourne on the 24th March and I’ll be showing how to integrate professional networking into a contemporary leadership setting.

To learn more about the program, and how to register your place, please follow the link.

I hope to see you there!

Phillip

AIM Conference logo

Professional Networking and LinkedIn Master Classes

Master Class
My Master Classes are personalised + practical insightful.

I’ll offer, on demand,  sessions on all aspects of networking soon and I’m taking expressions of interest to participate.

There are two versions to choose from:

  • Professional Networking: this practical and personalised session covers everything from your personal brand, networking opportunities, developing a game plan, how to identify prospects and relate to people and how to cultivate and maintain your professional relationships.
  • LinkedIn Essentials: so you’ve got a profile, now what? Get the low down on all the key features, how to leverage the platform and integrate it into your professional life in a practical and time effective way.

Both sessions run for about 2 hours,  and I’m available to travel interstate so please get in touch if you want to explore that opportunity.

I can also be booked to offer these sessions in-house for your organisation.

Please email me at: phillip@twodegreesgroup.com.au for more information.

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Conference Game Plan – 6 Aspects

conferenceAttending an conference can be a significant investment in time, energy and money, plus there is an opportunity cost of what you’ll need to catch up on back at the office when you return.

So why go?

Well, as a delegate, if you’ve chosen the event well, you’ll not only learn something but meet a range of useful contacts you normally wouldn’t.

In reality, its the people you meet there that is the good stuff at a conference, the topics are often just an excuse to gather.

But that’s just the starting point, without a considered plan to leverage your investment, you’re really missing out.

Remember that the delegates are keen to others too whilst they’re there and you’ve a bunch to talk about such as the speakers, ideas raised, what brought them there at alia.

1. Right People, Right Place

Presuming you know why your attending the event, there are some things you need to consider:

  •     The rank or level of the delegates likely to be attending
  •     The program design and the likely opportunity to network informally
  •     Who is representing your organisation,, they need to be able to relate to the delegates
  •     The organisations likely to be present so you can prepare accordingly.

2. Skipping Class

Don’t feel obliged to attend every session. If there is a space such as a delegate coffee or recharging lounge then hangout there and strike up a conversation.

If there is an exhibition area, they are often neglected during sessions, so its the best time to say hello and get acquainted with them, they may be a good contact to make.

Make sure you attend all the social events, and if you’ve colleagues, split up and seat on different tables to meet as many people as possible.

3. Come Prepared 

If you know who’s coming, or likely to attend, and why you’re going (i.e. your objectives are defined) then you can then do some of the following:

  • Prepare your talking points, and narratives about yourself, organisation, expertise that will be relevant to the people you’re likely to meet
  • Plan your wardrobe and stock up on your business cards
  • Do some research on the delegates and speakers you know is attending
  • If attending with colleagues, split up across sessions, key contacts, tables and activities so you maximise the number of people you’ll meet
  • If there are key stakeholders attending, then consider the opportunity to meet with them one on one, and decide beforehand on any outcomes you want to gain from the engagement.

4. Broadcasting via Social Media

It’s more common now for conferences to have their own social media presence, such as a facebook page or twitter account + hashtag,  so make sure you tune into that and contribute to the conversation before, during and after the event.

A few tweets during the event can be a good way to show your own followers that you’re out and about and share some of the key take homes with them.

Like, follow or subscriber to the speakers, participating organisations and exhibitors whilst your there to take the engagement to another level and raise your own profile in the process.

Post event you can share some insights with your own audience through a blog, LinkedIn update or slideshare pack, its a great way to stay top of mind and add value at the same time.

5. Debrief the Team

Whilst you may want to catch up with the day to day when you get back, take the time to debrief with your colleagues who you met, what your learnt, what opportunities there are to follow-up and plan some next steps.

Don’t leave your insights, learning and experiences in your head!

There will be homework to do post event, and you may need to allocate roles in the team to follow-up key people, apply the knowledge you’ve gained and make the most of the opportunities.

6. LinkedIn and Following-up

As I said at the start, the event is just the starting point, so now you’ve got all those business cards, what now?

This is where LinkedIn is your friend, reach out to them within a week of the event with a personalised note and ask to be connected with them- EVERYONE YOU MET.

It will provide a simple way to stay in touch with them and vice versa.

For possible high value contacts or stakeholders then an additional email or follow-up will be required in a systematic way.

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