I just returned home from a few days away at a conference. As always, getting back in the groove is difficult when returning from being away whether for pleasure or business. That is not what I am going to write about though. Rather, I am going to address the leaving for a trip instead.
When I first started my business, every conference that I attended dropped me into an environment of all new people because business was a brand new field for me. Getting on a plane or in a car to attend a conference near or far with several hundred people that I never met before has made me a bit of a warrior in the area.
In fact, now when I choose a conference, I look for ones that will allow me to meet new people and partake of different information. What can I say? I am a renegade.
As I was leaving last week, a colleague asked me if I was ready to head off to a destination that I never went to before with people that I did not know. My response was ‘Absolutely.’ Don’t get me wrong, I felt some jitters, but mostly I was excited.
You see, going to meet new people at an unknown conference or environment is not only daring and bold, but also savvy. The business world is a big, wide open space, and with all the virtual opportunities, it is easy to get lost in a sea of avatars. I love networking online and chatting on Twitter as much as the next person, but those transactions must translate into REAL LIFE for them to really push forward.
It is so easy to hide behind our laptops and tablets with a false sense that we are connecting with lots of people, and often, online connections are amazing. However, in order to make greater partnerships, referral networks, and lasting relationships, some of these connections must become IRL (In Real Life). Although, we spread our avatars all over the internet, it really is crucial to put an actual face with a name.
Although it is imperative to keep current relationships fresh and ongoing, it is also imperative to make new ones. My goal for this year was to choose one brand-spanking new conference to attend in comparison to last year when they were all new. I had to reserve some time and money to attend one or two that I loved from last year in order to both pay it forward and stay in touch IRL with contacts.
Last week was the NEW one. The conference where I knew nobody and had no idea what to expect. What started out as a nerve wracking experience proved to be both fruitful and fun.
Of course, I had my survival tips ready.
(Attending a New) Conference Survival Tactics:
- Smile. Look happy. Whether you are nervous, scared or feel like you are going to be sick, put a happy face on because it makes you way more approachable.
- Forget Avatars. You see that picture by my name here? Guarantee you that in person, I look nothing like it. Don’t memorize avatars and think you will recognize anyone.
- Don’t Prequalify. Leave judgement at home. The most unassuming person may be your best contact or the one person that you are just dying meet, may prove to be a dud. In other words, meet and greet as many people as you can! Move around the room, change seats or tables, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible.
- Be ready to conduct business. Really. Bring extra business cards, notepads, pens, laptop/tablets/chargers, and even any legal documents as in non-disclosures if they apply.
- Takes notes. After meeting someone, make a few notes on their card or in a notebook so you are prepared for a little conversation when following up.
Yes, you must follow up with the contacts that you meet and make an effort to move the relationship forward.
I would love to hear about your adventures of heading to conferences…
To read more about the simple, yet practical advice I heard on work life balance, read here.