Social media networking sites like LinkedIn are great resources to expand your network and open yourself to new people, ideas and opportunities. Still, nothing trumps the person-to-person meeting. Conventions are great for expanding your network, but some pre-planning work can make your convention more successful.
Before the convention.
Before I attend a convention, I review the show schedule and select the presentations in which I am most interested or in which I want to connect with presenters or like individuals. Once I schedule my presentations and happy hours (important events!), I review all of the presenters. I look up each presenter on LinkedIn and elsewhere (Google them!) and review their company affiliation, alma mater, and other activities. Kind of like mini-stalking. I make calendared notes to remind me at the correct time what presentation I want to attend and which presenters I would like to meet. Sometimes I do this months in advance.
Working the convention.
Conventions are to see and be seen. I love wearing an eye catching color or stand out dress. Be visible. Be welcoming. And by all means, be ACTIVE! My three convention rules are:
1. Wear your nametag!
Sounds childish, eh? But wearing your name tag can improve your networking success. Often, people don’t hear or forget (gasp, I know!) your name after introductions. By wearing your name tag, with your full name and company, you are giving a potential connection another chance to remember your name. Often, I make brief notes about whom I have met and conversed with at meetings. Later, I look them up on LinkedIn and send them a personalized invitation.
2. Work the hallways!
Sure conventions are full of eye opening seminars and presentations, but remember to work the hallways. I have met more good connections in the hallways during bathroom breaks or otherwise than I have during some of the presentations.
3. Be open!
Convention schedules include ample open time for networking. Don’t run away to your room during these breaks. Use this valuable time! Learn to work the room. Trust me, everyone is nervous walking up and making small talk. Just do it! Ask open ended questions such as, “what do you want to gain from this event?” If you are in a small group, make sure the group orientation leaves an opening for newcomers to join your group. Do not overstay your time. Politely say ‘thank you’ and explain you are going to move along to allow them to meet others. Then move along.
Following some of these easy tips will bring you more success at those company conventions! Now go connect!