The opening big group session for Podfest 2017 in Orlando last week was called Strategic Alliance.
The objective of the session was to help the more than 300 conference participants meet others attending the conference — and, hopefully, make at least a few strategic connections
For almost two hours, we alternated between hearing short talks from speakers and working in four different small groups (5-10 members). In the small groups, we had 90 seconds to introduce ourselves and speak to an assigned topic related to podcasting.
At the end of the Strategic Alliance, I’d talked with more than 30 people and had a handful of business cards.
Most of the professional conferences/conventions I’ve attended haven’t had such an approach to networking. Networking at conferences always considered to be an important part of conferences but, beyond a social or two, is left to the participants to navigate.
Introduce yourself in a concise and strategic way
At a professional conference, you have the opportunity to meet people even if you aren’t in a Strategic Alliance session. Before or after a workshop session, at a conference social, in the hotel lobby, in the fitness center, or at the exhibit hall – All of those are times when you might start a conversation with others.
You want to be ready to briefly introduce yourself. For example: Your name, work affiliation, reason for attending the conference. The key is to be concise, not too self-disclosing, and upbeat.
You should be able to make that introduction in about 20 seconds.
Then based on what you’ve said and what the other person says, you’ll know whether you’ll be continuing the conversation and how the conversation will progress – to your job search or to the weather in the conference city. So go from a short to a longer discussion of yourself.
Practice your introduction because deciding how best to introduce yourself concisely can be challenging. And you may be introducing yourself multiple times during the conference. Stay upbeat about the introduction rather than coming across as “I’ve already introduced myself 10 times today.”
Wear your nametag in a location so it can be easily read
Sometimes we feel like nametags are more of an attendance emblem rather than as a way of helping promote ourselves. I’ve seen people attach their name badges to a briefcase or purse or to a shirt-tail or bottom of a jacket.
You want to wear your nametag so others can see it. At the Podfest conference, the name badges were on lanyards. For me, the name badge fell almost at my stomach. So I tied a knot in the lanyard to raise the name.
Some nametags must be pinned on or are peel-and-stick. That can present a problem for anyone wearing a spaghetti-strap blouse.
Share your business cards
You definitely need to invest in business cards to have with you at conferences. Business cards provide the people you meet with a physical reminder of you and let you share your contact information and, perhaps, a little about your brand/personality. I’ll write an upcoming post about creating business cards.
Review the program for opportunities to do strategic networking
By studying the program, you’ll find speakers you want to meet. You’ll also see sessions on topics that would put you in a room filled with other people who are interested in a topic you’re interested in.
Social activities can be a good way to network. Be sure to wear your nametag and have your business cards with you.
Recruit a mentor or colleague to help you make connections
If you are trying to meet someone who you think will be in high demand, you may want to determine if one of your mentors or colleagues knows that person and can help you make the connection. That can be particularly helpful if you are on the job market.
Use social media to help you make conference connections
By studying the conference schedule before the conference, you can start following on social media people you’d like to meet. You can “like” or retweet, and they may be aware of you before you actually meet them.