Bill: What we are talking about is how to be a social butterfly. How to maximize the value from conferences? I find myself going to more and more of these and they can be a lot of fun, but you want to try to make sure that you’re maximizing the value from them. You don’t want to just be wasting time and money going around and not getting anything out of it. These are some tips that I just thought of a lot of on my own, but then I also did some research to try to think about the very best ways that I can maximize this in. Gail’s going to certainly contributed with any tidbits that she has picked up over her time.
I’ve come to learn some of the best ways to maximize a conference. You want to try to make a game, plan ahead of time. Make sure you go through and write down some goals. Think about why are you actually attending, what do you want to accomplish there? What do you want to learn? What are you after? Is there anyone in particular that you want to meet? Think about it ahead of time and try to write it down. Similarly, look over the agenda ahead of time. Are there any key presentations that you want to hear? Are there any that you don’t mind skipping if you meet someone and have a chance to talk with them? Gail, any thoughts on that so far?
Gail: Absolutely right because a lot of the conferences that we attend have multiple events that you want to attend and you can’t be in two places at once. If you partner with somebody, I found it’s beneficial to have them go to one and then you go to the other one and try to duplicate efforts there. You’re absolutely right to try to get that agenda ahead of time to plan out to get the maximum bang for your buck.
Bill: Then keeping along with that theme is try to research the people you want to meet. Especially if they are complete strangers. Let’s face it, sometimes it happens to everybody. The best of us, you tend to get a little nervous sometimes. If you do a little bit of homework, you can increase your chances of having a productive and memorable conversation, even just a few tidbits of information. What you want to try to do there you don’t have to try to be a stalker or anything, but just look at people ahead of time and maybe try to Google them. Look at their Facebook page or their LinkedIn page or their other social media sites. Look at their websites. What kind of things are important to them? Do they have any hobbies? What type of things are they working on? Do you and he or she, do you have any mutual friends? The more you can find out about someone ahead of time.
For example, if someone wanted to check me out, they’d see I do cycling. They’d see I do mud races, Spartan races. They’d see I exercise a lot. They’d see I’m a physical therapist. They’d see I’m a writer for Think Realty magazine. They’ll see that I’ve had some speaking engagements. They’ll see that I’m a note investor. The more you can find out about someone ahead of time and they can say, “I’ve got an uncle who rides his bike,” or “I see that you raise a lot of money for cancer research. My mother had cancer and thank you very much for writing. I appreciate everything that you do.” Those are just a couple of examples there.
Gail: What I try to do sometimes is a reach out to them via email, exchange phone numbers prior to the conference. Try to set something up. “I’d like to meet you for lunch.” Something briefly between sessions so that you can interact with them and figure out what you want to accomplish with your networking also, that’s very important. If you go to a conference with a couple thousand people, you want to probably target maybe ten more of you can do it specific to what you’re trying to achieve and what they’re trying to achieve too.
Bill: You’ll want to try to reach out in advance and you don’t have to wait for the event to start connecting. Send someone a text or a social media message ahead of time. I did this myself for example at our last WCN Mastermind. I was hoping to meet a fellow member, Cody Cox in person. We had talked several times in the past prior to that via text and I just said, “We’re both going to be there, I’d like to meet you in person and I’d like to have the chance to meet up with you.” The very first day, we went out to lunch together. I had one goal already met by one in the afternoon the very first day. It sets you up for success. Another thought along those lines then is consider posting to your social media accounts. If you will be attending an event and you’re interested in meeting like-minded folks, even use the event hashtag if the event has its own app or if it has a Facebook group, consider posting an introduction there. Get your name out there and let people know that, “This is who I am, I’m going to this. I’m interested in meeting like-minded people. ”