Community is richest when we’re doing life together, right? While face-to-face coffee meet upsare valuable, something truly ignites when we connect during an intensive live event such as a conference, workshop, or retreat.
Spring and summer are chock-full of events — I’ve already been to one business retreat, b is for bonnie founder Bonnie Bahktiari’s Illume Retreat in Austin, and the National Stationery Show in NYC, and I’m facilitating at a couple of events this summer.
Being equipped to hold authentic, purposeful conversations that propel your work forward is essential.
Here are three tips to help make the most of your next networking opportunity!
1. Do your research.
Pre-event, go through the list of speakers and attendees. A quick Google sweep can be helpful to point out talking points—maybe you share a hometown or alma mater with a speaker or member of your breakout group. With those conversation starters in hand, make some goals for your business: do you need to find a photographer to trade business with for new headshots or looking to hire a strong writer for web copy? Maybe you’re dreaming of partnering with a like-minded entrepreneur to launch an online course, or need tips to start your own. Shoot, maybe you just want a job in their industry.
Secondly, write goals down. I have a tendency to get caught up in conversations and many times I leave an event realizing I forgot to connect with someone. Writing down goals before an event helps me be intentional about connecting with people who will propel my small business forward.
2. Decide if you’re going for breadth or depth.
Both options have their perks. One’s not better than the other, it just depends on the goals you’ve determined in preparation for the event.
- Looking for breadth? It helps to set a numerical, measurable mark to hit: “I’ll give out and receive eight business cards” or “I’ll need to meet 15 people today to have met 45 by the end of the conference.”
- Looking for depth: Your pre-event research will help you know who you may have more of a natural connection with, and you can look out for those people. Ready for the kicker? Invest in the time where authentic conversation REALLY happens: coffee breaks between sessions, lunch dates, and at overnight conferences, late-night lobby conversation (p.s. I can be a grandma come 10 p.m., but chug some coffee or take a power-nap for 10 minutes during the day to make the most of late nights!)
Either way, be intentional about concluding the conversation with a question that positions you to continue the relationship. Something as simple as “How can I support you?” is a great way to quickly assess how you can contribute to one another’s business ventures. As JFK said, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and you’ll be showing that you hold that ideal as a core value.
3. Define your action steps.
Evernote, legal pads, binders, and iPhone Notes. Even my lists need lists, so being at an event can be overwhelming for a task-oriented mind! If you can separate tasks from learnings while note taking, you’ll leave the event with clear, manageable action steps. I learned this tip from Reina Pomeroy: grab a spiral-bound set of notecards at your next grocery store run for your upcoming conference or workshop. As you take notes your “normal” way—whether it’s typing Google docs or writing long-hand—you can whip out your spiral bound notecards and jot down specific call-to-actions to tackle after the event.
4. Follow through.
Finally, back in your office or wheels-up-earbuds-in on a jet plane, get draftin’ those follow-up emails to new contacts. Stay away from “I’d love to keep in touch” communication, and opt for specifics instead. Identify the skill set you can leverage to support someone and vice versa. Maybe it’s recommending a relevant blog post or podcast or perhaps it’s suggesting a new service or free content upgrade you’ve offered in the past.
And don’t be afraid to ask these connections for their wisdom or services. Stay in touch every few months by sending helpful posts, articles, and podcasts, and you’ll be top of mind for him or her, too.
Introvert or extrovert, events are both extremely helpful and overwhelming for us all!
What are your go-to tips when you’re attending workshops and conferences?