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If I had to guess, at some point this year you will be attending some sort of conference, seminar, or event to potentially further your career. With so many other things going on in your life, you might not have time to really sit down and strategize how you can make the most of these networking opportunities. The way you see it, a few days in Las Vegas (how convenient) will more than likely be the same old boring workshops or guest speakers only to return to a stuffy office that next week. What do you say we change that...
First and foremost, you must do your RESEARCH.
Before any event or business conference you might be attending, make sure to do a little homework leading up to the event. Once you have RSVP'd or have reserved your spot, let the research begin. Here is your homework. Do NOT procrastinate!
1.) Who will be attending?
2.) Where is it? (Any clients to visit while I'm in the neighborhood)
3.) Print and save the schedule of the event, distribute to office before you leave (Nice to know where you will be at all times)
4.) Social Media? (What will be the hashtag for the event, etc.)
5.) Research the Guest Speakers (If they are speaking, they are obviously doing something right, what is it?)
Do not blend in, you must STAND OUT.
Uh oh. The moment we all fear. Introduction time. The part where you actually have to stand up and introduce yourself and what it is you do via your mouth and not text. Scary isn't it. In all seriousness, this can be a little intimidating but it can also be a huge way to make a name for yourself. You probably won't have all eyes on you the rest of the time you are there, so why not make the most of it.
You have to be different. The cliche, "Hello, my name is nobody really cares what I'm saying right now," is not going to cut it. Here are some tips for an intro or elevator pitch certain to have a lasting impression -
MAGIC - Who doesn't like magic. A simple little card trick or illusion is a great way to break the ice in a business setting. Now, I'm not saying you need to roll out a bunny in a hat by any means, but be creative. I promise, whether clever or cheesy as can be, the audience will be talking about your intro compared to doing nothing at all.
GIVE A PRIZE - Don't you love free stuff. I do. So think ahead a little bit. Bring a piece of candy, a t-shirt, something you can reward an audience member for guessing a trivia question or something of relevance to the event/expo.
PLAY SOME MUSIC - Ahh the power of the smartphone. So clutch. Right before you are about to stand up, play that popular track you have been destroying vocally in your car for weeks now. Set the scene a little bit and it can really have an impact.
USE A PROP - Use your imagination on this one. Whether the perfect outfit or some party poppers, it doesn't matter. You're the guy dressed as a fool making noise, I want to talk to you.
You must have a PLAN OF ATTACK.
As I mentioned above, getting a sense of the overall schedule can only benefit everyone. You are going to have to pick and choose what speakers and workshops you would like to attend. Trying to decide what on the schedule is a priority and what is not can be hard if you wait until the day of. Look at the schedule as a whole, not just daily. Most speakers speak more than once, so try and distribute your time evenly each day.
Do not just go to the workshops or hear the guest speakers, but go with a plan. How can I benefit from this? What questions may I have? It goes back to being able to stand out amongst everyone else. If you are firing off solid questions left and right while the rest of the audience is asleep, that can only improve your image and visibility in the event.
Anyone speaking or hosting a workshop has had people get up and walk out during their presentation. It's not personal. If you are listening to a speaker and find this isn't quite what you thought it was going to be that is ok. Time management is huge at these kinds of things and the speakers know this. Quietly round up your things and find a speaker that is beneficial - do not start happy hour early.
Be a SOCIAL BUTTERFLY.
I know I will really have to pull your arm on this one, but it must be said. You must attend the social events, networking parties, and cocktail hours. I know, I know. But these can actually be more beneficial than the actual event itself at times. Not to mention talking business tends to be a little less uptight thanks to a few guys named Jack, Jim, and Johnnie. Don't hesitate to hang around a little later than everyone else either. Do not rush a conversation because you feel you were on a time constraint.
For those of you that have a presence on Social Media listen up! This is prime-time to connect and build your Social Media presence. Any major event or expo will have a specific hashtag for the event and possibly an actual account/profile to follow with news, pictures, and images of the event. Like I said earlier, do your research. This is a great way to grab the attention of some of the Guest Speakers and top-dogs at the event.
After all, this is what you are here for isn't it? To network and grow as a business professional. So be social. Talk to people in the elevator, in the hallway, even in the restroom (when appropriate). Go out of your comfort zone and realize the person next to you could be your ticket to a better 2016, you just don't know it yet.
Time for THANK YOU CARDS.
Just kidding. But seriously, you need to reach out to any contacts you were fortunate enough to make at the event. Whether a simple email, friendly message on LinkedIn, or a follow-up phone call later that month, reaching out to those people shows a lot.
Give them some room to breathe a little first. Everyone will have a full plate that next week following an event, so keep this in mind. Don't get all bent out of shape if you do not get a response or greeting right away, give it time. Lastly, think of the event as a whole and what you could have done differently next year or at your next event. What worked for you? What did not work for you? Learn from each event and you are sure to have a successful trip each and every time.