When it's time to go to your next business conference, convention, meeting, or event, don't just roll your eyes and suck it up. Whether you get to go to Honolulu or Harrisburg for the occasion, you'll be surprised at how much you can get done during the event. Sure - you'll attend some workshops and listen to a keynote speech or two, but there's a lot more to get done besides absorbing some bullet points.
Here are three things I do at each conference I attend in order to meet as many people as possible, whether I'm speaking or not:
Connect with Someone New in Each Session
If you're nervous about introducing yourself to people and meeting folks for the first time, take heart: they're probably uneasy too. Instead of listening to your fear, carry on with confidence, extend your hand, and share your name and where you're from. Sit at a table full of people you don't know. Trade business cards. Just walk up to someone and meet them. If a conference lasts two days, has four breakouts a day (plus meals and breaks), you can easily walk away with upwards of 50+ new connections. Be bold.
Maximize the Unstructured Time
All conferences have breaks, cocktail hours, dinners, and nights on the town. Instead of checking email or making phone calls to the office during these times, grab a coffee, cookie, or cocktail and continue to network. Ask people questions about what they do. Listen to stories. Some of the best conference memories aren't general sessions or workshops; they're the time you went out with the group from Birmingham and ended up eating the best sushi ever.
Meet a Speaker
Don't just listen to someone spout info from the stage; meet them in person. I personally know that most speakers enjoy speaking with attendees and we're always eager to trade business cards, share some quick ideas, and even follow up with more info after the event. No matter how intimidated you feel or how long a post-workshop line may be, if you really want to meet someone, go for it. You may never have a chance to speak with this person face-to-face again, so use your time wisely. The cookies will still be there after you chat.
What ideas do you have for maximizing your time at business events or conferences?
Do you hit the trade show floor? Buy drinks for new friends? Take detailed notes? Share your ideas in the comments.