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March 8, 2016

Networking at a Conference… 8 Ways to be Awesome!

meet at confThere are a bunch of conferences in our industry – TMRE, ESOMAR, Quirk’s, CASRO, MRA and more… not to mention all of the industry-specific ones. And even when you’re attending for just the education (not exhibiting… not sponsoring), networking at a conference can still be a remarkable marketing & sales opportunity for you and your firm.

As you get ready to attend your next event, consider these ideas to maximize your time there…

  1. Take LOTS of business cards… running out of them is not an option!
  2. Create and practice your basic 4-step elevator pitch (winging it is not allowed!):
    • Who you are and who you work for
    • What your firm does
    • Your target audience and the challenges you address (the second part is critical)
    • What makes your firm unique; this is difficult – which is why most people skip it – but it’s the most memorable aspect of the pitch
  3. Set a goal for networking. For example, How many new contacts can you make during a 3-day conference? Then go make it happen.
  4. At a couple of weeks out, do you know of any key clients or prospects who will be there? If so, reach out to them now to get on their calendar while at the conference. Maybe even during the social activities.
  5. Consider wearing a logo’d garment… you never know who might see it and start a conversation.
  6. Dedicate time to walking through the exhibit hall and talking to exhibitors. The latest tools and technologies come from these companies – and might open the gateway to developing new services at your firm.
  7. Take networking notes. After meeting with someone and swapping business cards, most people stick the card in their pocket and move on; some might scribble a note on the back; I suggest talking a little 3”x5” notepad with you and writing down more detailed comments after each conversation – the kind of firm, what you talked about, any challenges they mentioned, any ‘personal connection’ (e.g. you went to the same college), next steps, etc. After meeting with 20, 30, 40 or more people over 2 or 3 days, there’s no way you’ll remember any of the conversations (and certainly any of the details) – unless you take notes.
  8. [And what most people DON’T do:] Follow-up… follow-up… follow-up. As soon as you get back to the office, make sure all of the business card data is entered into your CRM system. Then, go back to your 3”x5” notepad and begin prioritizing and planning out your follow-up… some contacts might just get a “nice meeting you” note, some might get a copy of your latest white paper and some might be getting a phone call. Also, where appropriate, invite the people you met with to connect on LinkedIn.

So, when it’s time to be networking at a conference (or several of them) this year… think about how you might turn those educational events into powerful marketing opportunities for you and your firm.

Good luck.

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