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Tips From A Newbie Conference Goer: How To Make The Most Of The Conference Part 3

Over the past two days we have gone over some ideas on how to make the most of the actual conference or event you are looking to attend.  If you missed either of those posts, you can check out the prep-work that goes into making sure you are ready to crush it by clicking here.  If you are wanting some tips and tricks to keep the momentum going and have better conversations and meet more folks, click here.

Now that the prep-work and attending the event are behind us, lets focus on what to do post-event.  (You can watch the video breakdown here)

  This is the time when we can reminisce about the awesome connections we have made and think about the new relationships that will be budding.  To use another gardening analogy, we now need to water the relationship seeds that you have planted through conversations, coffees, lunches and other types of meetings, and see which ones will flourish into great relationships.  To do this, you need to gather all of the business cards and contact information from the people you met and send them follow up emails.  This isn’t to say that you want to be besties with everyone, it’s just that you don’t know where these relationships can lead, and you don’t want to leave a sour taste in anyones mouth.  You especially need to follow up if you said you would.  This is also the time when you can take any of the interesting of fun facts you learned about them and put it in this nicely crafted follow up email.

The second step to the post-event is to make sure and follow up on what you said you were going to follow up on.  If you said you would send them a resume of someone you think would be a great fit for their organization, send the resume.  If you said that you would grab a coffee, set it up.  Whatever task or action you said you would do, do it.  You need to realize that your word and reputation are all you have.  If you sully it by being forgetful, it will almost be impossible to get it back in good standing.

The next thing we need to do is follow up with the 3-5 folks that we initially reached out to.  Even if you were not able to meet them, it is a good idea to get in front of them one last time, especially since you can reference something as relevant as the conference or event you all just attended together.  Just as with the initial email you sent to start a connection, you are not trying to sell them anything.  This isn’t about you, this is about them.  If you make these follow-up emails about you, they feel a little cheated and instead of watering these seeds of relationship, you are plucking them out of the good fertile soil and throwing them in the trash.

Two final ideas.  If you have the ability financially to go above and beyond, these last two creative ways could help take those relationships to the next level.  The first idea only works if you were able to find out something personal about the other person, like a book they are wanting to purchase and read in the next few months, or their favorite restaurant or snack.  Take that information and follow up with them by sending that favorite item, gift card, or experience in the mail.  How can you serve the junk out of those relationships is the question you need to be asking yourself.  This idea may be a little too far to fast, but that will be up for you to judge.  The second idea is if you connected with a handful of people that are close enough to where you live, invite all of them out for a drink, dessert or dinner, your treat, and build those relationships further outside of work.  I know these last ideas are taking it way beyond the initial contact, but they go a long way.  I didn’t end up doing these with the event I recently went to, but I did send a small book to a coworker of one of the carriers we use because it was one that I had and that I believed they would get a lot out of.  

The world is literally your oyster as it relates to this post-event time.  I also know that all of these tips have been about building community.  There are definitely other practical ones, but we can get into those another time.  For now, here is the last thought I want to leave you with, above all, these conferences and events are about planting seeds of relationships.  This is not necessarily the time to ask for the sale or even go deep.  Plant the seed, water it, and see how it grows.

Community

Tips From A Newbie Conference Goer: How To Make The Most Of The Conference Part 2

You know what problem I have realized? A lot of us suck at making the most of the conferences and events that we attend.  I recently went to my first conference this March and I realized after the event that the little prep-work I did wasn’t enough.  As you can see from the title, this is part 2 of what I learned and we are going to focus on the actual event itself.  If you haven’t read part one, what prep-work we should be doing to set us up for success, you can check that out here.

At this point, after we have done the needed prep-work to be prepared to absolutely crush the event, we have to keep the momentum going.  Now is not the time to chicken out and roll up into the fetal position. Be brave and don’t waste all that effort. (You can check out the video breakdown of this post here)

Lets start off with the biggest piece of advice that can make the whole plan crumble.  Don’t follow the plan of only talking to the 3-5 key people so rigidly.  If we do this, we will miss some amazing opportunities to connect with others that could make the conference an absolute success.  I on the other hand did not do this.  I walked in, ran into a guy that I hadn’t seen in years and caught up with him.  After that, I started walking around trying to find the 3 people I had pegged that I really wanted to meet and get to know.  I walked around and added quite a few steps to my Fitbit counter, and made myself look like a roving lunatic.  We need to realize that most of the conferences we attend will be a few hundred to a few thousand people, so picking out three specific people may be near improbable.  This is why we have the key folks we would like to meet, but it isn’t a plan that you need to follow exactly.

So now that you are ok with veering off your mission of only talking to 3-5 very specific people, lets realize one thing, EVERYONE at the conference is going to have some reservations about striking up conversations with strangers.  As outgoing as they may be in their typical environments, conferences are not the norm for folks and that puts them a little on edge.  This is why you have done all the prep-work, because it puts your nerves at ease and allows you to be the confident person to break the ice. Everyone loves confidence and it breaths life into conversations.  Don’t be afraid to talk to others.  Come prepared with a handful of questions that are actually interesting ones.  Get beyond the ones about their job and what they do.  Ask questions around; “Why they are at this conference?” “What would a win look like for them at the end of this event?”  “What speaker are you most looking forward to seeing?” “Have you met anyone interesting?”  These questions, and the million others we could all come up with, are just different enough to give you some ammo to start a conversation that could lead to a great relationship.

Knowing the event and having a plan for the schedule is also a huge help.  I ended up sitting at a random table because my friend had some important calls to finish and I didn’t have the bright idea to save us seats for the lunch portion so we had to split up.  These small details of sitting down early and saving seats are nice, unless you want to challenge yourself and be open to meeting other attendees.  Since we had to split up, I ended up meeting a gentleman who lives about 15 minutes from where I work, knows one of my friends, AND is also a runner like me.  Another piece of advice I learned from Jayson Gaignard is to look for the uncommon commonalities between you and the other individual.  When you find out these uncommon commonalities like you both know the same person or enjoy running, you both can geek out over whatever topic that is and start to build a better foundation for a relationship.  These uncommon commonalities also give you specific and interesting things to follow up on with that new contact. 

Now that you have been willing to break the plan, break the ice with others, and meet new people, there is one last little tip I have for you.  Make sure you have a couple of one liners ready to get you out of the conversations that are going nowhere.  Not that you are going to burn this bridge, but you have no idea who this person really is or where this connection could lead.  You also don’t want to be trapped in an awkward conversation for 30 minutes.  Here are a few suggestions, “I don’t want to keep you from meeting other attendees, here is my card and lets catch up via email after the conference.” “Are you staying for the whole conference? Let’s try and meet up later.” “I’ve enjoyed meeting you, since I have to go meet someone else, here is my card so we can follow up later.”

All of this is a lot, I know, but the more prepared we are going into the conference, the more relaxed we feel and the better chance we have of forming relationships with others.  Remember, we have no idea who that person will become and how that relationships could turn out to be a great asset for us in the future.

What are some of your tips that you apply while you are attending the conference?

Community

Tips From A Newbie Conference Goer: How To Make The Most Of The Conference Part 1

You know what problem I have realized? A lot of us suck at making the most of the conferences and events that we attend.  I recently went to my first conference this March and I realized after the event that the little prep-work I did wasn’t enough.  I had done some research and listened to a great podcast from Jayson Gaignard called “Community Made,” and it was Episode 3 of Season 2: An Event Networking Guide. It had great content and info but I wish I would have done a better job applying it.

With my first conference down, and my first set of mistakes behind me, I plan on sharing this adventure of going to conferences with you in hopes that it can help us all make the most of these investments.  Since putting all of the thoughts down would make for a rather wordy post, I am splitting this up into three parts: prep-work, event, post-event.  Now, lets talk about the prep-work. (You can watch the video breakdown here)

The most time consuming and yet rewarding part of the prep-work is going to be doing some research on who is attending the event that you think would make for a great connection.  Some conferences, like the one I attended, will send out an attendees list while others don’t.  If they don’t send out a list, see if they have a hashtag they are using for that event that could possibly be used to find some folks who are attending.  However you end up discovering who is attending, I would encourage you to take the time and find 5-10 folks that you think would be interesting to meet.  The next step is to do a little LinkedIn search on them to find out a little more about them and their company.  Once you have some general info, I would recommend whittling that list down to the top 3-5 folks you will seek out to meet.  If you were able to find them on LinkedIn, their profile more than likely has a picture and now you know who to look out for.  This next part is crucial and is something I botched with this conference.  Once you have that list of 3-5, send out a message or a connect via LinkedIn, or if you have an email, reach out via email.  Just give a brief non creepy / no pressure message saying that you will be attending the conference and would love to see if you can’t meet up for five minutes.  Seriously, don’t make this wordy, and don’t make this a big commitment.  Make sure in the message you give them an out.  Once you have done your research and your messages are sent, it’s time to think about the next prep step… pre-planning for the morning of the conference.

You want to remove as much negative stress as possible for the day(s) of the conference and a big way to do that is to figure out how you want that first day go.  You want to make sure that you pick out your clothes a day in advance, maybe even get a nice up-doo if thats your thing, and even put your business cards in an area where you won’t forget to take them.  Side story, I forgot mine and had to turn around and get them.  Having your clothes laid out the day before takes that stress of what to wear off of your mind and it gives you a chance to visually see how much of a #boss you are going to look like.  Remember, when you look good, you feel good. 

Now that we have our outfit picked out, and your cards in a memorable spot, there are two last pieces of advice for the morning.  Get a mini workout in.  I know, I know, you don’t work out… like ever.  I am not suggesting that you go run a half marathon or pump some iron for an hour, what I am asking you to try is to go on a brief ten minute walk, maybe do a push up or crunch, and eat a healthy breakfast.  What this does is get endorphins flowing through your body and it gives you eustress, the good kind of stress, and gets you ready for what will most likely be a day full of a little bit of anxiety and stress because you are in a room of hundreds of strangers.  

Now, the very last bit of advice is this, leave in plenty of time to get to the conference early.  You don’t want to throw away all the positive affects of your prep-work because you decided to give yourself 20 minutes for a 19 minute drive.  Please, do yourself a favor and leave early.

I did some of these steps well and others I completely bombed, but what I know now is that if I put all of these together, it will set me up for an even better ROI for attending future conferences. 

What prep steps do you take to crush the conferences you attend?

Helpful Hints

Tips From A Newbie Conference Goer: How To Make The Most Of The Conference Overview

You know what problem I have realized? A lot of us suck at making the most of the conferences and events that we attend.  I recently went to my first conference this March and I realized after the event that the little prep-work I did wasn’t enough.  I had done some research and listened to a great podcast from Jayson Gaignard called “Community Made.” Episode 3 of Season 2: An Event Networking Guide had great content and info but I didn’t do a good enough of a job applying it.

Since I didn’t make the most of the conference, and I am sure many of us have found ourselves wondering if the money and time we spent going was worth it, I figured I would help us all.  Over the next few posts, I will put down some of the ideas and concepts that I have learned and experienced firsthand.  In the meantime, here is a general overview of what will be coming down the pipeline, and here is a video that lays it all out.

Prep-Work:

  • Find an attendees list, or hashtag to research, and pick 5-10 people you would like to meet.
    • Do research on the attendees and narrow the list to 3-5
    • Reach out to these individuals pre-conference and introduce yourself and create a no pressure invite to connect.
  • Plan out the morning of your conference
  • Do a mini work out
  • Leave with plenty of time to get there

Event:

  • Don’t follow your game plan so rigidly you walk around the conference looking like an idiot
  • Be prepared with questions to ask your list of folks or any of the other attendees.
  • Remember, everyone is a little nervous and no one is used to mingling in crowds this size
  • Be ready and willing to break the ice with folks
  • Have a handful of conversation enders in your back pocket.

Post Event:

  • Send brief email to everyone you grabbed a card from
  • Follow up on what you said you would follow up on
  • Follow up with those you ended up not meeting at the conference

Above all, this is about planting seeds of relationships.  This is not necessarily the time to ask for the sale or even go deep.  Plant the seed, water it, and see how it grows.

 

Helpful Hints

How To Not Scare Away Potential Customers: Stop Proposing, And Start Dating

 I am literally blown away by how many calls I get and within the first five minutes… nay, the first five seconds, they are already asking for the commitment.

When you force the buying decision too early into the relationship there is a tension that is created because their isn’t enough trust on the buyers part to fully buy into what you are selling.  Selling takes time.  Its almost always something that takes more than one call. Regardless of what your selling though, before the potential customer can buy, they need to know you as much as they know about the product.

Please, for the love of all things good and holy, make sure that you build the relationship first before you even dream of asking for the close.  I know this may go against what some folks have been taught, but the better and deeper the relationship, the easier it is for the other person to say yes to your ask. The easier the yes, the more closes. The more closes, the more MONEY… capisce.