Conferences are great opportunities to meet new people and start building relationships that can impact your future success. But to get the most out of your investment, you need to take a strategic approach. Here’s how:
Why are you attending the conference? Whom do you want to meet? What do you want to get out of it? The clearer you can articulate your objectives ahead of time, the easier it will be to achieve them at the conference.
Make a List
Make a list of the people you want to connect with at the conference. Some conferences will provide lists of attendees you can buy. Others may have their own social networking sites set up where you can connect with other attendees and schedule meetings.
The conference sponsor will also typically have a comment section on the conference website you can browse and try to see who’s attending. If not, then simply know what type of person you’re looking to connect (what position they have with which company, for example) and what you want to get out of the relationship.
Most of the action happens off the floor – at the opening reception, cocktail hours, and breakfasts, lunches and dinners. So attend every social event you can with a focus on building relationships, not making as many connections as possible.
Write It Down
Be sure to get business cards and after you meet someone of interest, jot down notes about your conversation on the back of it. What did you discuss – i.e. personal interests, business struggles, areas of greatest need?
You’ve made all these new connections – now it’s time to follow up. Within a week of the event, email everyone you met with a quick note that it was nice meeting them or send out invitations to connect on LinkedIn. For those you want to do business with, pick up the phone and schedule a meeting.