Dan and I just finished a whirlwind of a long weekend in Vegas for New Media Expo. We got to meet many of our past interviewees and a bunch of new friends. These conferences are organized not just for the sessions where you learn valuable information, but, in our case, more importantly, for meeting others.
It can be nerve-racking to take the online relationship to the offline world and you’ll actually find a couple interest notes:
- Some people who are good on podcasts and videos ARE NOT good conversationalists: You’ll be surprised how many introverts that will attend and one’s personality online doesn’t always translate into face-to-face conversations. We’ll show you how to deal with this.
- Some people you’ll realize that they’re actually Jerks: One fellow I had seen in videos and always had great tips online turned out, once I took initiative and introduced myself, that he had a HUGE ego and enjoyed talking about himself. Jerk. Disappointing, I know.
If you’ll be going to a conference in the coming year, this will be your guide to network as efficiently as possible. Here are our 5 Networking tips.
The Big Names Aren’t Always the Biggest:
There are many “buzz names” at each conference, those people that usually have packed sessions, people Tweeting that their only wish is to meet these people.
Here’s the thing, those people are usually more popular due to marketing themselves and their brand, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most successful. You’ll find multiple business owners, those who have sold their startups, have been featured on major news outlets and more that you’ll never have heard of. Maybe they chose the path of being “unknown” but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable connections.
One lady I talked with mentioned how she had been in a session and was trying to talk with another person there to introduce herself and the other person blew her off. Later on, a couple “famous” people came up to talk with her and the latter person immediately turned red.
KEY: Be polite with everyone, never blow off anyone you never know who that person may be.
Hang Out at the Bar and the Meetups:
This was my first conference, Dan has been to a couple in Real Estate, but from my experience, the most valuable nuggets aren’t found in the sessions but in meeting others offline.
The most fun you will have is sitting down with new connections and learning about each other, giving advice, receiving advice and becoming inspired. At times, you can feel as if you’re alone in your struggles in whatever niche you get into, but being in a place where others have those same struggles, you build a bond.
Spend time just hanging out at the bar. Spot those who may have the same conference badge as you and strike up a conversation.
How to Start a Conversation with a Stranger
1.) Make eye contact and smile.
2.) Ask “How’s the conference going for you?” or, if something big had just happened, ask about that.
3.) Ask “What are you hoping to learn by coming here?” Most people don’t get to talk offline about their online goals so give others the chance.
4.) Ask another non-Yes or No Question.
My go-to line at NMX where there was a pretty bad Wifi was, “Is your Wifi acting up?” Obviously at the bar I wouldn’t ask that, but at pre-session networking time it worked EVERYTIME. Find that one question that everyone at the conference can relate to.
There will be Meetups at many conferences, this is your chance to spend quality time with strangers. You all know who organized it so instantly you have a common ground discussion point. If you know just a few people going to the conference, START YOUR OWN MEETUP. Most likely, the word will get out and people will invite other people. We organized a meetup with Jared Easley and Cynthia Sanchez that we expected maybe 20-30 people, and over 100 signed up! Word will spread.
Use Friends as a Relaxing Tool Not as a Crutch
It’s farrrrrrrr toooo easy to head to meetups with friends and find yourself talking with them during the meetup. It’s not a bad thing to deepen relationships with friends, but they should not act as a crutch. There will be moments where you will feel awkward because no one is talking with you and you want to fallback to chatting it up with your co-workers or friends.
Don’t do this.
There are SO many people that are just waiting for someone to go up and talk with them, go be that person. Introduce yourself and see where it goes.
For breakfast, it’s a comfort-zone mechanism to go sit with people you already know. Meals are supposed to be relaxing. Actually, meals are the best time to sit with new people and talk with them!
Every breakfast I made it a point to put myself at a table where I knew no one. It’s much more fun anyway!
Hang out with your friends to rejuvenate yourself. My wife came to the conference with me and whenever my brain needed a “non-networking” moment, she was always there.
You’ll have time to hang out with friends AFTER the conference, don’t waste the time now!
Work on Your Elevator Pitch
This was something that hit me in the middle of the conference (more towards the end i.e. it was toooo late). You’ll be asked a zillion times about the project or business you’re working on. You need to catch people’s interest fast or else
their eyes glaze over in about 5 seconds, or they get distracted and start looking around.
Dan and I are talking about our pitch and how we can grab someone’s attention in moments with the Entrepreneur Showdown.
Any Suggestions? Put them in the Comments!
An elevator pitch is essentially a 15-30 second summary of what you do. Most pitches will suck but you want to find a way for others to remember you.
Crafting an Elevator Pitch
1.) Right away in the first 3 seconds, “What you do and how you’re different.”
2.) Problem you’re tackling
3.) What you do to solve that problem?
Practice this before you go. Again, I made the mistake of overlooking this step and we probably lost many potential listeners.
Learn the Art of Questions
This is a tricky one as the first step in the Art of Questions is…..
Anyone can ask, “Where are you from? What do you do?” All that small talk crap. Small talk is critical, but this goes much deeper.
Listening first and asking questions based off of what was said builds a sense of trust with the other person. Especially when you ask questions based on the other person’s interests and work, it’s much easier to build a relationship. Relationships require digging deeper than the surface shows. There are stories to be uncovered that many are aching to share.
Show your vulnerability, tell someone you just met what you’re struggling with. You have problems that maybe others don’t understand as they aren’t in your niche. People love to give advice as they fill that need to be “needed”. Give that chance.
The best conversations you will have is when you ask many questions but the other person doesn’t feel they are being grilled. It’s easy to tell when someone is just asking questions to fill the silence that is why LISTENING is a key component.
Bonus Tip: Ask about their kids. Parents love to talk about their kids. Get their kids names and when you see the person again, ask how the kids are using their names. They’ll never forget you again.
Is a Conference all about Networking? Or is there something more important that should be going on? Leave a Comment and let us know!
Photo credits: http://dadvsspawn.com/2011/04/10/dont-talk-to-strangers/
Author: Joe Cassandra
Find your adventure enthusiast! Love toying with new ideas. Build your network = Building your lifestyle. Podcaster.