How to network at a Conference

How to network at an event or conference?  How to get noticed at a Conference?  How to get the maximum benefit from attending a Conference? 

If you ask all the marketing gurus “How to make the most of a Conference?” the answer is usually  “Network!” If you are like me, I interpreted this to mean print call cards, develop slick brochures and hand them out to as many people as possible at the Conference. After the Conference diligently connect on Linked In or Facebook with all that I met.   These relationships fizzled and popped leaving me with a number of dormant contacts.

In February 2013, I believe that I broke the networking code.  I am unsure if it complies with Guru Wisdom, but I measure the success by new friendships that I created, new business opportunities, book sales for Change or Die – and that feeling in my heart that says “Yes! I achieved personal success at the IAF Jamaica Conference”.    Yes, I gave out call cards but the experience went way beyond that.  

As with all things I share the learning with you so that you can reap tangible benefits from your next Conference Outing.  If you have any comments please drop me a line.

  1. Give, give, give – I put this first since very often we think about “what can I get”.  Old wisdoms shares that “it is in giving that we receive”. When the Conference organizers need help, give help.  Offer your services before and after, focusing on “How can I add value to the Conference?”  This may lead to opportunities beyond your wildest dreams.  At the IAF Jamaica Conference I was asked to fill in for a panelist on the plenary discussion who had to cancel.  I jumped right in, unprepared and willing.  What an opportunity to give and I in turn received.  
  2. Become a focal point of the Conference – Present a paper, be part of a discussion, do something that makes you visible.  Each network has hubs from which all other lines emanate.  What can you do to be a focal point? To have you name of the lips of a few people? I presented a three hour workshop at IAF Jamaica on Change or Die – Grueling yes! It was a great opportunity to really connect with attendees.  At the IAF June Conference in Orlando, I do not have the opportunity to make a presentation; instead I am going to assist any presenter who may need my help.   I figure that it’s better to be close to a focal point than far from one. Perhaps something will rub off.
  3. Attend more than one conference – When I went to the IAF Conference in Denver, I realized that the presenters and attendees knew each other while I knew no one.  Even though I presented a 3 hour workshop to a large audience, I was just not part of the circle.  Now I understand why.  Who wants to spend time getting to know a one hit wonder?  Other attendees also want to maximize Conference opportunities so why will they spend time with you if they will probably not see you again.  After attending the IAF Jamaica Conference I have gotten some traction in my relationships.  I can’t wait to build on these relationships at the Orlando Conference in June 2013.
  4. Match the spirit of the Conference.  Each Conference has its own vibe.  IAF Jamaica was a huggy affair, lots of joy and warm feelings.  Any attendee who came to this Conference to do a hard sell would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  Feel the vibe of the Conference before you launch a networking attack.  Your motive needs to match the spirit of the Conference.  Be yourself as well, don’t pretend to be a touchy feely because other people are doing it.  It is possible to match the spirit without betraying yourself.
  5. Serve in between Conferences– What are you doing between conferences to keep the relationships, connections and opportunities alive? What about the local chapter of the Conference?  Are you a member? Can you start one?  Gill Chambers, Ulla Wycloff and Sandra Cooper, the organizers of IAF Jamaica Conference started the IAF Jamaica Chapter and are now the focal point for facilitation in Jamaica. Everyone who participated in the Conference knows their names, and everyone at IAF International is aware of their presence.   Now that I am back from Jamaica, I have been inspired to work with Barbara King to get our IAF Trinidad Chapter off the ground.  

After my successful Conference I am left to redefine the word network.  I am doing this by looking at the words “net” and “work” and generating two questions. How do I “net” or  hold the relationships that I made at the Conference? What “work” do I have to do  to keep those relationships alive?  I have not figured out that bit yet.  I am trying a few things.  When they work I will share.


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