AWP is coming up February 8th-11th and hopefully a lot of you are going to be in attendance. Definitely stop by the Spalding booth to say hi, if you are! If you aren’t, you’ll most likely find yourself at another conference, meeting, book launch, anything, where it’s important for you to meet people and make connections. I’ve put together some tips to make the most of your conference and take your career to the next level.
- Seek out targets ahead of time- You can often find out who’s going to be at a conference either because they’re important people listed on the conference website, or through social media,. It’s important to have a plan for these people. Find people you really must talk to and create little dialogues or at least topics that you want to hit. This will keep you from getting flustered when you stumble upon an important person to talk to and can’t think of the right way to steer the conversation.
- Use Social Media to connect ahead of time-Once you find the people you want to talk to, take it a step further and reach out to them on social media. This could be a good way to get your name out to them ahead of time or just learn a little more about them to feel more comfortable while chatting at the conference.
- Talk even to those you did not seek out ahead– Sometimes the best connections you can make are the accidents, the ones that just kind of happen. Be prepared for these. Don’t ignore people just becasuse you don’t know them. This person could be very valuable to you in the future, and it’s important to use this time for more than just “important” people.
- Keep your hands free. –Keep in mind that it’s difficult to hold a drink, a plate of food, your business cards, all while trying to shake someone’s hands. You don’t want to look clumsy or make a mess of yourself. Limit the things in your hands and try to look professional.
- Get to events early.- This will help you feel confident while the crowd grows. Watching who is coming in, who is mingling around, instead of showing up late, and jumping into a huge crowd feeling a little overwhelmed.
- Make every second count. Conferences are fast-paced and most people you will talk to will want to talk to many other people, and so will you. You want to make sure that you’re getting your information out as quickly as possible while still establishing a relationship. Make a connection quickly, make them remember you, and then offer your business card. Be sincere and real. People will remember that.
- Ditch the elevator pitch- Well, not entirely. It’s still great to have this short, to the point pitch ready to go, but you need more than that. You need to have a dialogue, a personal conversation to get noticed. Tailor your pitch to the person and place. That pitch won’t work for everything and will often come across as just that- a pitch- when it should feel personal to who you’re talking to.
- Give your full attention- When someone is speaking with you make sure they have your full attention. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re waiting to speak with someone else but in that moment, the person you’re speaking to is the most important of the day. If you seem on edge or uninterested, this could rub the person the wrong way and ruin a potentially valuable relationship,
- Along with giving your full attention, watch your body language and attitude.-You want to have comfortable and confident posture, and an approachable smile. If the person you want to talk to is busy, don’t interrupt, wait for them to finish and introduce yourself at that point. When you shake hands, do so firmly but without crushing bones.
- Ask meaningful, but new questions.– If you’re following up with a speaker after a lecture, make sure you have questions to ask about their presentation. But, make sure they weren’t answered already, or one that might be asked a million times. Asking a new question will show the presenter that you were listening and engaged and you might even get them to think more deeply about the topic they know so much about, setting you apart from those asking the same things over and over.
- Get a wing man.– Having a partner might be an easier way for you to get introduced to people or to start conversations. You can both benefit off of the connections the other makes and cover a lot more ground. This can also be helpful if you find it difficult to connect with people at first. The wing man can get you started a little more comfortably and set you off on your own.
- Use memory joggers to remember conversations or people- It’s so difficult to remember everyone or every conversation at a conference. While in the midst of a conversation, make some mental notes on how to better remember what’s going on.
- Take notes– Maybe you’re really bad at remembering people, or there was something very important that happened. After an encounter, take notes about the person or your conversation so you can remember what you need to do next, or you can remember to follow up with them.
- Think “What can I do for them?”- Sometimes it’s not about you. Sometimes the best connections are made when you say “what can I do for you,” instead of “what can you do for me?” If we were to all think this way we might get futher ahead in our careers and more easily make connections with people. Help those around you and they’re more likely to help you back.
- Always follow up– After the conference make sure you’re following up with your contacts. If you leave the connection dormant until a few months later when you might need their help or have an opportunity for them, it might be too late, they might not remember you, or they have moved on. Send a “nice to meet you” email once you get home. Maybe you talked about something specific and you want to share some links that they might like. Give the other person as much as you’d like to get in return from these connections.
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Mackenzie Jervis is a Summer 2016 Graduate. She lives in Texas with her husband, two cats, and puppy. She has way too many books, more cameras than she knows how to properly use, and a never ending need to keep moving. She write about her life and adventures at home and around the world at A Wandering Scribbler.