Not long ago I had the opportunity to go to my first Internet marketing conference in May at the Search & Social Spring Summit; and to my second one in July to BlueGlass LA. They were great experiences and I was really excited for both. I was going to finally get to meet a lot of the people I had met online and get to hear some awesome speakers. But like some first time conference goers, I was a little nervous about it. So I asked a few industry friends who had been to a few shows for some advice about what to do and avoid doing at my first conferences.
Make the Most Out of the Networking Opportunities
Usually the conferences last two to three days, which isn’t a lot of time to meet everyone there. So it’s good to make the most of the time you get. When you get to the conference make a point to go meet those you’ve connect with online. Meet up with, them hang out and make the most of it. At the same time you need to use the opportunities presented to meet others at the conference. For me at least this is kind of difficult.
When I meet up with people I’ve gotten to know online, I like to sit and get to know them better. But I’ve had to learn to pull myself away and go meet the other conference goers. Networking sessions are good to be social and meet others in the industry so make the most of it.
At BlueGlass LA I had someone walk up and ask me if I was okay, I at least knew the person, I said everything was great but their response reminded me of this advice, “You just had this look on your face like something was wrong.” Smiling and being aware of what facial expressions you’re using is pretty important. I mean how approachable is someone who’s got a complete blank stare of their face or a scowl? This isn’t to say if you get some bad news or something happens at a conference to keep a plastered smile on your face. If something should go awry go back to your room for a bit and resolve whatever it is, then come back and enjoy the conference.
Listen to Others but Don’t Stay Quiet
One of the reasons we network is to tell others about ourselves, but we cannot forget to listen to what others have to say. Some of the best resources/connections I’ve made have come from listening to others during the break out sessions. While it’s great to listen and learn more about others, don’t forget to talk about yourself. It may seem like shameless self-promotion, but let’s be honest, the other part of networking is telling others about you. Prepare your “elevator speech” to open the door to keep the conversation going.
Don’t Compete with Competitors
This is my own advice based on seeing others interact. Networking is not a time to get into an “I’m better than you” contest. Don’t bring up competing for each others clients, what your cost is, or why you’re better. It isn’t the time for it. If you run into a competitor, be cordial and don’t avoid them. I’d even make a point to go shake their hand.
In closing, I want to say the main thing to remember is, just be yourself. It’s one thing to listen to advice and act on it, it’s another to be overly analytical of your behavior. I’m sure there is more advice that could have been added to what’s been mentioned above. So, in your own experience what has worked best for you?