How to get the most out of Business Conventions and Conferences
No matter what industry you are in, there is more than likely a convention or conference that happens multiple times every year. Some may be 100’s of miles from your location or only a 30 minute drive. But the fact of the matter is: If you go to these and get only a little out of them…why waste your time? People are there to: learn, network and possibly get some inspiration. To further your education and standing in the industry there are a few things you might want to make sure you do while you’re at these conferences or conventions.
First off, why is networking at these actually important? Ask yourself this question: “if I do nothing while I’m here…are things going to actually happen for me?”. It’s not really rocket science here, if you don’t do anything…nothing is going to happen. Sadly, Good work doesn’t speak for itself today. Personal relationships or some sort of personal and memorable connection is one of the best ways to be remembered. Doing this can exponentially increase your chances to further your career or possibly even change it. After you make a connection, you also have to keep in the front of their mind so make sure to follow up regularly with the person you connected with. We must put a warning label on this though. Networking at conferences and conventions is a must. But you MUST connect with the right people. If you start talking up someone that is loosely or not even related to your industry…we will ask again, what’s the point?
So you have successfully connected with a person and they are in a related industry, now what’s next? This is actually should be a crucial part of your networking strategy. The people who are looking for someone to fill a spot at a company almost always ask the “Where do you see yourself in ## years?”. Having a solid plan for the future is something they want to hear, and they also want it to be realistic. Don’t go all out and say something like “I want to own the company in 5 years”. Although ambitious, its fool-hardy. Other than having future plans for your job, have future plans for your connections. How is it your going to stay in their mind? What will you do if they offer you a job? How can they possibly help you? All these are very important questions to think about before going into a convention/conference.
Another thing to think about when your there is to take your time making rounds in the hall. There are more than likely tons of businesses and representatives there and they all have something to offer you. They may or may not be trying to sell you something but there are also tons of opportunities to network. Seeking out the correct business that will best fit your needs, is going to take some time. But keep in mind your not only there to network, it’s about learning too.
The last thing that you want to remember about conventions/conferences is that they are reciprocal. Don’t be “that” person that is just seeking to further themselves. Remember what it is that you do and how you can provide value to the people there. Just make sure to keep your follow-up’s timely and professional. You will probably be leaving with a stack of business cards so make sure to go through each one to have the highest chance of connecting. One last tip: It’s smart to jot down notes or impressions you got on the person on the back of the business card.