Conferences are a great aggregation of industry insiders all in one place for a short time focused on producing valuable relationships for their company. Unfortunately, if the conference is out of country, it gets expensive to cover costs of flights and attendance so producing a return on your investment is not always guaranteed. Here are some tips on making the effort more successful and hopefully ROI positive.
1. Pre-schedule two meetings/day you’re there
Pre-scheduling meetings helps you work around a schedule, leave yourself time to fit in unexpected meetings, but don’t go in with “nothing planned”. If you have a list of people you’d like to meet up with in person, send them a link to your schedule so they can book time to meet up. I’ve used YouCanBoook.Me for this in the past and it’s been my saviour. (Just make sure you change the timezone on your calendar to your destination timezone.)
2. Meetings don’t happen at the conference, they happen at nearby Hotels.
Spend time browsing the showroom floor, but don’t only hang out there all week. In reality, the people you actually want to meet up with are likely hanging out in the closest Westin (or whatever hotel the conference has partnered with as the main conference hotel). If you spend any time there you’ll notice a culmination of people all just standing around looking for people at the top of every hour. This is a great place to spark random conversations with people.
3. Make friends with the Ad guys
In every industry, the Ad tech companies are always really good at business development. They have tons of contacts and know where all the after hours parties are. Get to know who they are and make friends with them, you’ll end up meeting a ton of great connections by tagging along.
4. Wear something (or have something) unique that people will gravitate to as a conversation piece
Small talk is awkward, there is no greater ice breaker than something like a cool hat, or a funny shirt. One of the best sales guys I know showed me the first selfie stick I’d ever seen at a conference. He busted it out at an event and was just going around taking selfies with everyone, he was the life of the party.
5. Don’t talk business while drinking
People connect with people, not what they do for a living. If they’re industry insiders they’ve heard the same jargon before and it’s boring to them. The best advice I’ve ever received from a sales guy was this:
Sales is like dating, give them a little bit of dirt on you and wait for them to reciprocate with a “me too”, if you’re lucky and get to do this all night while drinking you now have a friend. When you get into the office the next Monday email your friend and talk business.