The Outcomes Conference 2017: 10 Tips for Conference Networking
We are only one day out from The Outcomes Conference 2017 and based on past conference surveys, we know networking is an important part of the conference experience. I am hard pressed to think of an event or conference where it isn’t! Connection and community matters and annual events like this one strengthen relationships and expands networks. So in the spirit of doing all things with excellence, here are my ten tips for effective networking at a conference event.
1. Use the Conference App.
Most conferences have Apps these days. They are a great way to plan your time, schedule meetings and connect with other attendees. Many conference Apps have a social engagement component as well. If there is a strong promotional push and a virtual sense of community, you don’t want to miss it. For the Outcomes Conference 2017, CLA took the conference App live almost a month before event. It was available to attendees in a desktop version as well as on mobile and tablet devices. Based on the activity prior to the event, there is no question people will be connecting in meaningful ways over this three-day conference. Make sure you maximize the Apps that are available to you at any event you attend (And be sure to use the App after the conference for as long as it is live. It will keep your connections rolling.)
2. Identify five people you want to meet.
This may seem like a lot for some and not so much for others. The idea is to set a stretch goal beyond whatever number feels comfortable. With the right planning and goal you will be sure to experience intentional and meaningful networking. You may set one goal for those that you seek out and another one for those delightfully random meetings that happen. Make it fun; be sure to set a goal that STRETCHES beyond your comfort zone.
3. Set up at least one meeting with someone new.
A meeting scheduled in advance of the event will give you an opportunity to go deeper with someone new. It signals that you truly want to develop a relationship and learn more about the person. The key to a meeting like this is to be other focused. Yes, that is right, focus on the person you reached out to for the meeting. Hold back and save your pitch for a later date. Use this networking opportunity to be present and learn as much as you can about the person you are eager to know better.
4. Know how you want to introduce yourself.
You are obviously going to meet a lot of people. Don’t wait to be asked a lot of questions. It is awkward when someone feels like they have to work hard to find out information about you. Smile, offer your name, tell them where you serve, and what you do. Then give them some totally unexpected factoid about yourself. Most won’t expect it and that is what will help you be memorable.
5. Bring business cards and wear your name badge.
Okay, I know these two are basics. It is true that sometimes lanyards don’t make the greatest fashion statement, but they sure help people out when they are talking to you at a big event. If your badge requires you to write you own name on it, make it BIG and CLEAR. Use the name you want people to call you. Keep it in view. When you are mixing with hundreds of people, positioning your name badge so it is easy to see and keeping your business cards ready falls right into the act of networking kindness bucket.
6. Show up early to sessions and meet people.
This one takes great time management to pull it off. If you are weak in this area, then use the clock on your smart phone to keep you on track. Showing up early is worth the return. When you take the time to meet people attending the same session as you, then you know they share some common ground. They may serve in a similar role or be facing a common struggle. Go early, there will be far more than a worm waiting for you. I promise.
7. Get to know the exhibitors.
Make it a point to connect with all of them. Yes you read that right – ALL OF THEM. You may not have a need for what an exhibitor is offering, but you never know when you will. Exhibitors are some of the most connected people on the planet. They attend conferences all throughout the year and if they don’t have what you need, more than likely they can offer a great recommendation. These are also the people who are experts in products and services that could be extremely beneficial to you and your ministry. Glean what you can from their expertise and learn how what they can do might work for you.
8. Join the social media conversation.
It’s hard to go to a conference these days where attendees aren’t buzzing about what they seeing, hearing and doing it. Be sure you know what the hashtag is for the event so you can follow along. From a networking standpoint you will discover people in the social stream you may want to meet. You will instantly find people who are funny, deep thinkers, or passionate about topics you care about most. Don’t be shy about joining in social conversation. If it is hard for you to be present and on your phone being social, then don’t. Go to your sessions. Take good notes. Then after the session share the big idea that stood out for you. At CLA, we make it easy for people to share by giving them the faculty or presenters social address. Remember what you share at a conference – allows those not there to be inspired, too.
9. Sit up front and meet keynote speakers.
This is something you probably heard growing up, right? Well there is truth in about what happens when you take a front row seat. Not only do you get the full impact of what a thought leader has to say, you position yourself well if they linger around the stage after they speak. It is energizing to network with thought leaders and it encourages them when you affirm and appreciate what they had to say. You have to be sensitive to not monopolize the person, as others may be waiting their turn. But you never know how that one connection could open the door to something more meaningful to you later.
10. Be generous.
You will naturally learn new things when attending a conference. But part of what makes a conference worthy of your time is by what you bring to the experience. Seek opportunities to add value to others. It may come by sharing a new idea, offering a suggestion that has helped you, directing someone to a great resource or sharing from your deep well of experience. Come with a heart to give and you will receive far more than you ever imagined. Iron sharpens iron and when it does, momentum builds.