Conferences Made Easy

I go to a lot of conferences and have grown very comfortable with the process over time, whether I am working a booth or attending sessions. I consider them the best way to meet people and the source of my pseudo-MBA. Here are three tips to help you make valuable contacts and get the most out of your time.

1. Its quality not quantity. Focus on having conversations that people will remember when you follow up with them next week. A large stack of business cards does little good if you've made no impression.

2. Take the initiative. Nothing is more uncomfortable to watch then someone who is over eager to launch into their company's sales pitch around the coffee or lunch table. Ask someone what they do and almost every time they will return the favor and feel good about it. This also gives you the chance to adjust your elevator pitch to their needs to start a real dialogue. No one makes a sale at a conference, but lots of people lose them.

Also remember that everyone at an event knows they are supposed to be meeting people. If you are the one introducing yourself when you sit down, it reduces their stress and can make them more likely to engage you in conversation (see prior paragraph.)

3. Learn Something. I am constantly amazed at people who work a booth at a conference and don't go to sessions to see what everyone is talking about. Not only does it give you context for whatever it is you are selling, its an easy conversation starter. Oh, and learning what leading companies do or about emerging technologies can make you smarter!

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