As I prepare for my professional association’s annual conference, I thought I would repost a popular post from several years back. I hope it helps you get the most from your conference.
Become a “Conference Commando”
I don’t want you to make the same mistake I just made. While attending my professional association’s annual conference, I neglected to do my homework before and during the conference. Although several years ago I had learned the 15 “Conference Commando” tips from networking expert Keith Ferrazzi, in Keith’s words, I was a “conference commoner”.
Instead of squeezing the most out of an opportunity that only presents itself once a year, I simply attended. What a missed opportunity; for my company, by professional association, and my personal brand.
Whether making additional contacts to use at work, refreshing acquaintances or making new ones at the national level of our association. Or possibly using the conference to let strategic attendees know about my work as a leadership coach, speaker, or trainer.
By simply attending and not planning as if it were an operation from my previous career in the military, I gave away opportunities on several levels that I will now have to wait a whole year for. Hopefully I learned a hard lesson that will help me be more intentional with my next opportunity. I would like to share the following condensed version of Keith’s 15 “Conference Commando” tips for your use. Then you will not perform as a “Conference Commoner” as I did.
15 Tips: Conference Commando
A conference is a huge opportunity to build relationships with extraordinary people, people who might have significant impact on your professional or personal success. To make sure that you maximize the return on your (and your organization’s) investment of time and money to attend, you can’t afford to be a conference commoner. You have to be a “Conference Commando”.
#1 Remember the 7 P’s. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to meet?
#2 Know your targets. Get the list of conference attendees, then go through the list and note those you want to meet.
#3 Gather intelligence. If you want to get to know someone, the first thing you should do is figure out how you can help them. Google them.
#4 Strike early. Don’t wait for the conference to start your networking. A week or two beforehand, pick up the phone and call at least the top three people you want to be sure to meet.
#5 Never attend a conference. Well, never just attend a conference. You can acquire a 30 second commercial for yours just by asking a thoughtful question during Q&A.
#6 Slight the speakers. Don’t waste time standing in line to meet a speaker after his or her song and dance. There will be so many other brilliant people at the conference; go meet them!
#7 Get a wingman. Wouldn’t it be great to show up to the conference with somebody who’s actually on your side, who’s got your back, who’s working with you?
#8 Draft off a big kahuna. Get to know some of the most well-known folks at the conference or the conference organizers themselves and hang with them.
#9 Be an info-hub. Get really familiar with the conference program. Then pick the brains of conference staff and anyone else willing to share the ins and outs of what’s happening in and around the big meeting.
#10 Work hard on break. You can get out there and do what you really came to the conference to do—meet people!
#11 Hijack a dinner. Arrange a dinner at a special place out on the town you’re visiting with people who care about a particular topic that matters to you, or modify a conference meal that’s already paid for by inviting specific people to join your table as you meet them during the day.
#12 Let your guard down. You’ll have to push yourself to be human and open up enough to get your acquaintance to start sharing. Then listen, listen, listen with warmth and sincerity.
#13 Master the Deep Bump. Once you’ve successfully taken your conversation with a new acquaintance down deep, past the shallow small talk, secure an invitation to reconnect later. Then bump! Move on and meet more people.
#14 Take names (and notes). Before you conclude the Deep Bump, and move on after making a new acquaintance, be sure to get a business card. Furthermore, flip over the card and jot down a few words to remind yourself of what you two discussed, any relevant personal details you wish to remember.
#15 Follow up or fail. Don’t wait until you return home from the conference to ping people whose cards you collect.
Condensed from a post by Keith Ferrazzi, Posted December 11th, 2008
Also consider Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time