You’re an entrepreneur and you’re heading to a conference full of potential partnerships, reporters and investors from your industry. You’ve got an agenda to stick to and the right people to meet — especially since you’ve shelled out a small fortune to be here. Time (our most precious resource as entrepreneurs) is money, so don’t waste yours lingering by the punch bowl.
Take a deep breath, and use these tips to help you maximize your next conference experience.
1. Do your homework. Use technology to research attendees beforehand and reach out — setting up a time to meet in person can solidify the initial connection you’ve created and gives you time to prepare discussion topics.
2. Stand out. Dress appropriately for the event, but add something to help you stand out. Be an individual, and most importantly yourself! Wear your company t-shirt! It will serve you better than your nametag.
3. Practice conversation starters. No matter the type of event you attend, you will always be asked these two questions: “where are you from?” and “what do you do?” Practice and perfect your elevator speech! Providing interesting answers to these questions will increase the chance your company pitch will be heard.
4. Use social media wisely. Follow the conference Twitter hashtag, tweet at speakers, and share interesting tidbits you’ve picked up. Then send out LinkedIn requests to all your new connections so you don’t lose touch! But remember, don’t spam.
5. Find the “super connectors.” When finishing up a conversation with a new connection, ask who else they know in the room — eventually you’ll be led to the most well-connected individuals with the most far-reaching, impactful networks. As entrepreneurs, we need these door openers.
6. Don’t Sell. Chat. Be a human and not a selling cyborg. Find common ground and be comfortable in your own skin. If you’re launching into your pitch and see the other person’s eyes glaze over, hit the brakes, and bring the conversation to a more personable, engaging topic.
7. Don’t attend the sessions (at least most of them). Most conferences have great content, but, if that’s what you’re looking for,search for it online or buy a book. You are there to meet people so stay outside and maximize your networking.
8. Don’t hang with your friends. Make new ones! – It’s natural to want to stick with your pals in a new situation, but you will end up shielding each other from valuable opportunities and beneficial connections. Get out there and make your own path!
9. Don’t be shy. Be social! Reach out and present yourself. Make sure to attend the conference social events – breakfast, lunch, coffee break, and cocktail hours. This is where it all happens.
10. Know how to END a conversation. When realizing you’re talking to the wrong person, don’t be afraid to make a smooth exit. As mentioned, time is your most valuable commodity – spend it well!