As soon as I walked through the large double doors into the room, I did an about face and quickly retreated. Previous conferences didn’t prepare me for this mega-conference.
The showroom floor felt like a three-ring circus. My senses flooded from the loud noise in the cavernous exhibit hall, the crowds of people strolling up the aisles and the endless rows of booths.
Since I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert, I decided to plan and prepare. So, I retreated to a quiet bench in the lobby. Meeting everyone in the room and walking away with hundreds of business cards didn’t interest me.
I have three parts to my networking plan.
- What do I want to achieve?
- Who do I want to meet?
- What is my after-conference plan?
How can you deploy these parts at the next conference you attend?
Set Your Intention
Dr. Ivan Misner, affectionately known as the father of networking, states strategic networking can potentially increase your business by 47 percent.
Once you've decided to spend the time and money to travel to a conference like Scaling New Heights (SNH), you need to think about the outcome you want. What would make this a better-than-expected event?
Since I like to plan, I set my agenda prior to the conference. Review the SNH schedule to determine which breakouts you want to attend. If possible, register for those sessions prior to the event.
Now consider the people at the conference. Consider reaching out to some people before you even get there. Schedule lunch or after-hour drinks with some people you already know and some people you’d like to meet.
Scaling New Heights attracts a certain type of professional. A chance conversation with the right person opens the door to new opportunities. Remember to apply the golden rule for networking - give before you can expect to get.
Mix and Match
Networks, by nature, are cluster like. We hang out with people like ourselves.
Challenge yourself to break the mold. Intentionally meet people who are different than you. You can do this by sitting with people you don’t know.
Networking diversity is an advanced move. It strengthens your network. That’s because you gain connections which lie outside of your current sphere.
Tap into these three primary networking groups.
- Networking Up. Connect with people at the conference who are more successful than you.
- Cross networking. Your peers fall into this category. Realize some peers are in a complimentary profession.
- Networking Down. Don’t dismiss this group. You’re the networking up connection in these groups. The value lies in building relationships since you don’t know who they know.
The thought of meeting everyone in the room is exhausting.
I’ve experienced many times when a chance encounter led to a long-lasting relationships. This includes sitting at a lunch table with a group of strangers. Or, a pair-share exercise during a breakout session. Trusting that I will meet the exact right people removes the pressure to force a connection.
A Winning Follow-up Plan
You made a great connection at SNH. The easy-going conversation felt as if you knew this person forever. As the conversation winds down, you both vow to stay connected after the conference. Once home, you get immersed in your busy day to day routine.
This person’s business card sits on top of the pile on your desk. Periodically, you glance at it and think about reaching out. But, you don’t want to interrupt. Each passing day makes it harder and harder. Eventually, the intention fades away.
The follow-up is where most networking fails. Is that your experience, too?
Here’s my winning follow-up plan.
- Wrap up. As your conversation winds down say, I’d enjoy talking further with you after the conference.
- Get out your phones and open your calendars.
- Next conversation. Schedule your next conversation.
- Send a google invite to the other person. Include the meeting link or phone number.
- An extra touch. Later that day write a brief email confirming your next meeting and virtual meeting link. Include a brief sentence or two mentioning something memorable you shared during your first conversation to jog the other person’s memory. Then schedule the email to deliver about two business days after the conference.
Building relationships, especially if you’re networking up, is a long-term strategy. Your circle of influence expands with one introduction at a time. A new conference connection introduces you to someone else, who then introduces you to another person. With consistency and time, meaningful connections develop.
Networking for Introverts
1. Expect to meet people who are just like you at Scaling New Height’s conference. In fact, the number of introverts will probably outnumber the extroverts who attend the event.
2. Yes, spending time in rooms filled with people can eventually wear you down. Don’t exhaust yourself.
3. Find your flow to get the most out of the conference. Through trial and error, I learned these lessons.
- Conversation starters. Starting the conversation with a complete stranger can feel awkward. Find two or three questions you can ask to get the conversation going.
- Skip the pitch. Don’t ask for business before there’s a relationship, especially when networking up. You doom any future potential by doing this too soon. If the other person has some interest, she will eventually ask you.
- Take a break. You know yourself better than anyone. If you find yourself going into sensory overload, then step back. Give yourself a break. Limit your time at after-hours network events. If cocktail parties seem dreadful, then skip it altogether.
You will lift some people up. Others will lift you up. It’s about opening doors of opportunity for one another. Sometimes the opportunity appears in unexpected ways.
Networking didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve invested time and effort to fine-tune my networking strategy. Whether in-person or virtual, follow the golden rule. Relationship first; business second.
So, what will be part of your networking plan for Scaling New Heights?