I was recently having lunch with a friend who is making a VERY nice living as a consultant. In a time when people are cutting costs, he’s got a jam-packed schedule charging $300-$500 per hour.
When I asked him about how he stayed so busy, he responded with one word: conferences.
Conferences? Interesting! I’d been to a few before, but they haven’t really led to new money-making opportunities. What was I doing wrong?
Over the next hour, my friend proceeded to explain his fail-proof method for generating leads at conferences. Since then, I’ve been doing better, landing a couple of pretty good business partnerships at my most recent event. Here goes…
Don’t Hang Out With Your Friends
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done. We are naturally gravitated towards our friends; the people we know and trust.
But that’s not why we came to the conference. We go to conferences to meet new people. You have 2-3 days to accomplish this, so focus on it while you can. There will be plenty of time for your friends afterwards.
Quality Over Quantity
Most conferences will have many thousands of people. It is unrealistic to meet them all.
Instead, try to identify a group of people with whom you’d like to connect. These might be influencers, business partners, or prospective clients. The important thing is to go in with a strategy.
When you engage someone in conversation, make sure that they remember you. If possible, see if you can arrange to continue the conversation over coffee or dinner. This gives you a better chance at standing out.
It’s much better to build personal relationships with a few people who can help you than to have meaningless conversations with hundreds of attendees.
Go To The Parties
Most of the sessions at conferences aren’t that valuable. You’ll hear a lot of general information and maybe get to meet the speaker, but that’s about it.
The real value of these events is in the social parties. This is where most leads are generated. Go to as many as you can, and focus your energies on these events.
Get Introductions From Influencers
People are much more likely take interest in you if you are introduced by someone they know and trust.
This was a technique that I used at BlogWorld last year. I knew almost no one at the conference, but randomly bumped into a couple of influential people on the first night. After grabbing a round of drinks, they happily introduced me to many more valuable contacts.
This has helped me open doors that would have otherwise remained closed for a long time.
Demonstrate Value From the First Minute
I talked about demonstrating value in a previous post, but one mistake I made was not emphasizing the importance of doing it right from the beginning.
People are busy, and their time is precious. The last thing they want is to waste time on someone who cannot add any value to them.
That is why it is important to have a crisp, effective elevator pitch. You are much more likely to stand out if you can demonstrate value right off the bat.
Don’t be modest here! Make sure people know why you and/or your company is totally awesome…and most importantly, how your awesomeness will be useful to them.
Hand Out Business Cards
For some reason, people think it’s ok to run out of business cards at conferences…or not even bring them at all.
To me, this makes no sense. Why would you waste time talking to someone if you don’t even have a way for them to connect with you later? Moreover, it comes across like you are unprepared.
An additional tip: It’s a good idea to make your business card stand out a little bit. Some people put their pictures on there, while others get them made out of plastic instead of cardstock. This a good way to make sure that your card doesn’t get lost in a huge stack.
You might do everything right at the conference, but it means nothing if you don’t follow up on it afterwards. Send out e-mails promptly and make sure to suggest follow up action points.
Again, it’s important to demonstrate value in your e-mails. Offer people access to new connections, or introductions to new business. This dramatically increases the probability of getting an enthusiastic response.
What techniques do you use to network effectively?