Relationships Matter – 8 foolproof steps to network at a conference

By Morag Barrett on April 29, 2014

Posted by Morag Barrett | April 29, 2014Relationships Matter – 8 foolproof steps to network at a conferenceNext week SkyeTeam is at the ASTD International Conference in Washington DC.  We are both speaking at the event and exhibiting.  Events like ASTD 2014 offer a wonderful opportunity for networking, meeting new people, reconnecting with past contacts. You’ve heard the phrase “six degrees of separation” I have come to appreciate that in today’s world, it is more like “six degrees of connection”.Here is a personal story to illustrate how closely we are connected. I was sitting at Anchorage airport having facilitated leadership programs at the North Slope, Alaska. It was my first trip to Alaska, and I knew no one in Anchorage, let alone anyone sitting at the airport at four o’clock in the morning. The royal wedding was being broadcast on the screens in the terminal, and the lady next to me started to chat. Apparently I have an accent (If you attend my author chat you will hear it), and she wanted to talk about my life in England. It was early, and I wanted to see the dress before boarding, so we talked. Eventually the conversation turned to current things. I shared that I lived in Colorado. She knew someone in Colorado… it turned out that her friend was someone I know well. We immediately went from strangers with nothing in common to acquaintances with someone in common.This is just one of hundreds of chance encounters I have experienced in my travels around the world—encounters that only serve to reinforce that we are just one conversation away from reaching our dreams, or at least taking a step closer to them. That if we take the time to talk to those around us we can cultivate relationships that result in a positive and lasting impact for both of us.Which brings me back to ASTD 2014. I have had the opportunity to speak at events around the world, and with more than 9,000 people registered the 2014 ASTD International event will be, by far, one of the largest.  However one thing I can almost certainly guarantee is that of those 9,000 people most will hunt in packs.  What do I mean by this? Most will stay with their friends and colleagues, eat together, sit together, chat together. Very few will have the courage to break out and to meet new people, make new connections.If the idea of trying to meet 9,000 strangers scares the living daylights out of you (and it makes me nervous!) don’t panic.  I am not suggesting you try to meet everyone, but do set yourself the goal of meeting say five new people every day.  I don’t mean simply collecting business cards, instead take the time to stop and talk, get to know them and what they hope to gain from ASTD 2014.  Spend 10 minutes in a real conversation.Whether you find it easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger or someone who has a hard time meeting and talking to new people, networking and cultivating winning relationships is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead.With that in mind, here are eight tips to help prepare you to be different, to break from the safety of the herd, and to forge new relationships that may open up new possibilities for you, and ensure your time is a success.Build Your Network1. Start before you arrive.  There are only a few weeks to go until the event.  Review the agenda and speaker bios, check your social media connections to see who is attending and who you might like to meet. Then contact them via email, LinkedIn or twitter.  Work out how you can potentially add value and help them, not just how they might be of use to you. 2. Practice your “hello”. I hate the term “elevator pitch” it sounds contrived, however the intent is positive, you need to think about how to say “hello” and introduce who you are and a little context as to why you are at the event.  30-seconds or less, make it genuine and remember the intent is to open up a conversation not simply toot your own horn! Oh and DON’T forget to bring plenty of business cards (tuck them into the back of your conference name tag).  It always amazes me how many people leave these at home. 3. Get out of your comfort zone. Sit with someone new for lunch, hang out near the coffee station, talk to the person who sits next to you! You may be surprised at just how connected you may be when you take the time to ask a few questions. Remember relationships are not just for today… maybe this new contact could be your boss, colleague or new client next month, next year. 4. Ask Questions. A powerful way to get introduced to people is to ask questions during the Q&A sessions. Stand up, introduce your name, role and company, and ask your question. Afterwards you can reintroduce yourself to the people in that session, I promise some will remember you and proactively come and find you.Maintain Your Network5. Connect. I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with my contacts.  Send a personal invitation (not the standard wording) to the people you would like to remain in contact with. You can do this during the conference or when you get home. 6. Follow up. If you promised to send information make sure you remember to do so (I write reminders on people’s business cards). 7. Stay in touch. There is a new tool on LinkedIn that allows you to set reminders to get in touch with people (open a profile, click on ‘relationships’ and then reminders). Look for opportunities to send a quick congratulations message, or an article and “thinking of you”.  Ask for help and input from your network, you may just receive a suggestion you hadn’t considered! 8. Share your network. In my book, Cultivate, The Power of Winning Relationships I talk about the concepts of Generosity and Abundance, one of the four elements of an Ally.  The most successful people are the ones who share their network and expertise; they give more than they take.  Make introductions, share your wisdom and build a reputation for being the go-to person.Don’t simply attend conferences and large events, participate, get involved, speak to those around you and cultivate a strong and powerful network that helps ensure your success, and theirs.Related ArticlesTags »Cultivating Winning RelationshipsWorking with difficult people Share4
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