Conferences are like the playoffs for executives. The potential to have more face-to-face first impressions in one afternoon than all month is invigorating.
Bring your A-game, your cleanest attire, and prepare to perform.
A great conference can consolidate weeks of prospecting and selling into a single afternoon…if you do it correctly.
These eight strategies will provide tips so you can maximize your presence at all of you upcoming conferences:
1. Game Plan Ways to Engage the Key Players
This sounds like table stakes for any attendee, but it’s not that simple.
At every conference, there are at least 3-4 people you must meet.
Focus your attention on getting 30 seconds to a few minutes with these influencers. The goal is for you to build enough trust, that they reach into their pocket for a business card and invite you to communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Insider tip: Have pre-scripted questions to ask key influencers and decision-makers. The questions should be specific, engaging, and highly targeted to their business initiatives.
2. Embrace the Discomfort and Get Social Quick
Conferences have an uncanny knack for taking attendees out of their comfort zone. It is a radical shift in the everyday ebb-and-flow of business. Identify your discomfort with the environment quickly, and realize that many attendees feel it, and embrace it.
[box]Remember…Success begins at the end of your comfort zone.[/box]
3. Approach People in the Right Way
If you see a person who is not talking to someone, take the opportunity to introduce yourself. More often than not, they will appreciate the outreach. If one of your targets is currently engaged in conversation, politely position yourself in close proximity to the attendees.
Insider Tip: Listen for a lull in the conversation and politely introduce yourself to the individual you’re seeking.
4. Ask the First Question
After you’ve approached the individual, it’s important to learn as much information from them early on, to help frame the conversation. This will also provide maximum value to the conversation in the short amount of time that you have.
Insider Tip: One of our favorite questions is simple…
What brings you to the conference?
And it will tell you many things. Gauge their response and coordinate your communication efforts accordingly.
5. Know What The Ultimate Goals Are
For most conferences, specific outcomes include two attainable goals: leave with the targeted attendees’ business cards and something about the individuals or companies that will allow the follow-up email to stand out from the crowd.
Insider Tip: Attendees will meet hundreds of people at a conference, make sure that your first impression and follow-up is the one that they remember.
6. Differentiate Yourself
Let’s say you’re attending an 8-hour conference, five of those hours are dedicated to talks and presentations where building relationships, leads, business connections are halted.
That leaves only three hours of networking, getting in front of influencers and sharing information. In these three hours, you will meet strangers, and look to build enough trust with them that they are willing to share their contact information.
And that’s just the beginning!
Insider tip: Most people are having similar conversations with other people. Try to shift the conversation, briefly, to something that will stand out and make your conversation memorable.
7. Know When To Take A Bow
You’ve got the business card and made a memorable connection. Now it’s time to move on. You can always schedule coffee or calls with the individual — after the conference — but now is not the time to spend additional time building a relationship.
Tactfully step away from the conversation.
Insider Tip: One tactic that has been successful is to ask: “Are you going to be here for the rest of the day?” It’s a good question to let the person know you are about to move on and it helps frame the follow-up. If they say “yes,” then there is a good chance you’ll see them later in the day. If they say “no, I’m about to leave,” then it prompts the next action to follow-up: “Okay great, I’ll send you an email or I’ll give you a call…”
8. Get Online
Remember the example we used in #6?
Our 8-hour conference has five hours of presentations and speaking engagements with three hours of networking opportunities.
During those five hours, get online and reach out via Twitter using the conference hashtag. Find other people who are tweeting at the event and follow them, tweet at them, and build relationships online while listening to the presentations and speakers.
This is a great example of ways to build relationships online that transition off-line and facilitate more deal flow.
With these 8 tips under your belt, you are well on your way to building better relationships at every conference on your radar.