Get More Out of Conferences and Networking Events -By Chris Brogan
Expert: Chris Brogan, Network2.tv
#9 of 30
About the Expert
Chris Brogan of Network2.tv, is a Community Developer for the professional conference called Video on the Net, as well as co-founder of PodCamp, a free unconference about new media. He blogs at [chrisbrogan.com]. Chitika is excited to have Chris sharing how to get more out of conferences and networking events.
You’ve shuffled into the convention center, and found your way over to where you pick up your badge. It’s finally here. You’re at the big conference. There’s a big fat guide of topics and speakers, and lots to do. Looking around, there are thousands more just like you. Some are better dressed. Others look like they’re in the wrong place entirely. And which of these are people you should connect with? Who here is a client? Who’s a future partner? Where are your new friends that you’ll keep in touch with in coming years? There’s a strategy for this, and there are tools.
Your Personal Brand When you’re at a conference or a social gathering, you may or may not be representing a corporation or larger organization, but you’re also there as YOU. People seeing you are building an icon for their relationship with your larger organization that focuses on you at that moment. If you’re Sonya from Microsoft, they’re thinking of you as a big company in Redmond. But even if you’re Mohammad from Mohammad Rahman Consulting, you are at once a person and a brand unto yourself.
Before You Attend
- If you blog, blog about the event. Look for a link to the event in Upcoming.org, and add yourself to the attendance.
- Post a current picture of yourself on your blog, so that people can identify you at the event.
- If you find others who are attending via social media sites or by using a service like Technorati or Google Blogsearch, drop them a comment on their blog mentioning that you’re attending as well. It might make for a good early ice-breaker to know others coming to the event.
During the Event During the conference or networking event, there are a few things to consider. If there are lots of people present, it’s important to remember that everyone has a similar mission: meet lots of new people, find friends/clients/partners, discover new information that’s important to their organization. This means you can’t monopolize people’s time.
- Introduce yourself clearly by name when meeting new people. You decide whether to add your company name to that introduction. “Hi, I’m Chris Brogan from Network2.tv” might come off as too much to swallow, or it might come off as the next conversation to happen.
- Bring business cards to foster future conversations. You don’t always have to lead with that card exchange, but try to end your brief interaction with a card exchange. It will make the whole process more memorable.
- A secret trick about business cards: it’s better to get theirs than give yours. Because then YOU control dropping them a line. It puts the power to respond back in your hands.
- If you don’t remember the person’s name by the end of the conversation, it’s okay to ask it again. And then repeat YOUR name. Leave them with that name in their heads.
- Remember that brevity rules. People love those who can speak succinctly.
- People love to talk about themselves, and the magic trick is, they somehow walk away from this experience thinking YOU are a great person.
After the Event Once you get home, do your best to find the most pertinent business cards you collected during the experience and drop a quick, personal email. Remind them in that brief contact about something you both discussed, to connect your email address with the experience. And then, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try some of the following additional bits.
- If you blog, blog about the event, and drop names. Tell people about the event, but also about the people you met that you found engaging. Sorry, but it’s still true that we love to see our names in print.
- If you’re a videoblogger, or use a photo service like Flickr, edit and upload your media quickly.
- Use tags to ensure that people attending the event find your post, and tag the names of the people you mentioned in the post as well. Make it easy to be found.
- Now, go find other people’s blog posts about the event, and leave comments. If you’ve met them at this event, make sure to drop a comment on their blog and remind them of your your meeting.
- Build the most important of the business cards into whatever you use as a contact database, and if you can, in the notes/comments section, mention that you met the person at X event. That’ll help when months from now, you get an email from them, or you see an event coming up that might appeal to people you met at X event. Make sense?
- Look for these new friends on sites like LinkedIN, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter, and wherever else is an appropriate social network for the group you’ve found.
Make Your Mantra For Events: “Connect with People” There are lots of moving parts to conferences, and sometimes at networking or social events, things move quickly such that you find yourself at the end of the night without having had much opportunity to have conversations or meet the people who matter to you. Turn conferences and networking events into your opportunity to expand your circle of friends, build your personal brand, and connect with people who might be good to know in the coming months and years. Instead of simply accepting the content, make an opportunity to build your connections to people through the experience you share. It will certainly change the way you approach conferences and social events, and it might change your lot in life going forward.
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