Conference Networking

A few years ago I was given a gift
by the authors of my favorite networking book: Work the Pond

They shared the secrets of conference networking which they referred to as “the olympics of networking” because a conference has all the toughest elements:
– Breakfast networking
– Session and break networking
– Cocktail receptions and sit down lunches / dinners
– After hours event/social networking

As always, best to consult the experts.
Read the book, visit their site and subscribe to weekly tips!

Here are a few of my favorite’s I’ve picked up along my adventures:

1. Pre-network! Before the conference, get the delegate list early.
Send out emails to peers and set up meetings.
Consider who you want to meet, ask same peers to help you meet them.

2. Don’t play by the rules.
If the conference is in your home town,
if the committee hasn’t organized an out of towners dinner
– do it yourself!
No cost, just an open invite to anyone who is in town before or after. Last year I did this just using twitter and 60 people showed up!

3. Business cards are the cheapest thing in the world. Don’t ever go to a conference with less than a box of them in your suitcase. Consider them to be like lottery tickets, every one given away (with context, not spam) is a possible big score

4. Get people working for you. At the conference be sure to visit the exhibitors, they have made the conference possible. After listening to them, share what you do. Often when they chat with delegates they make connections on your behalf. Remember though, be authentic, promote them when possible, seek first to provide value and it will come to you…

5. Take notes on business cards of cconversations to help you follow up and remember people ( don’t write in front of them, in some cultures it’s very rude)

6. Dump the lanyard. I don’t know about you but I have enough problems in my stomach area, I don’t need to draw attention there. Plus they are always flipped over or out of place. Spend the $2 to get a magnetic nametag holder! Most folks have one from work, just slip that one into the conference nametag and toss the lanyard!
Ps. The proper place for a nametag is always as high as possible over your handshake arm.

7. Face time. If you are a night owl, go out, meet people, talk shop ( again, organize a dinner around common challenges ). If you’re a morning person, post that you’re hosting a walking/running group at X time. You are here to make real connections, know your time of strength and work it.

8. Work those breaks! Don’t huddle in the corner on your smartphone. Again, seek first to provide value and others will reciprocate. When you meet someone you know can provide value to others, take 10 cards from them and be sure to share them with others before you leave.

9. Follow up, NOW. Before the conference get 100 blank cards. Return address and stamp them. Fill them out with “great to meet you” “let’s book lunch” “that was a great session” “you should meet with ” comments and post them before you leave the hotel for home.

10. Don’t flush the experience. After the conference, give yourself at least two hours to follow up with emails and calls so you can reap the networking rewards of attending. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. That’s not how you should treat a conference! Follow up, share contacts, book meetings – it’s a momentum builder!

I hope these tips were of value.

Much of what I have learned is because of the Shepa team. They have a high value conference kit brochure that SHOULD be on the list of every conference committee.

Happy networking, Paul

Why weddings?

Ok ok let’s have this talk

This is the time of year
when I explain to friends colleagues and co-workers
about my hobby of helping with weddings

Not a planner, I don’t do all the work
Wedding number 7 dubbed us ( me and my partner in crime )
wedding whisperers” in the tradition of the other great Ceasar

But WHY?

Let’s address the evil reasons first:
*warning, this is going to make me look crazy

1. Jerry Seinfeld once said that public speaking was no.1 on the top fears list. Death was no.3! So people would rather be in the box than giving the eulogy!
When I was too junior to ‘be allowed’ to speak in front of people. This was a chance to do it on a time limit, in a high pressure situation and you are forced to make an emotional connection, as opposed to most public speaking opportunities. So many soft skills like project management, client service, vendor and peer professionalism – all business muscles get flexed and my role is to NOT be personal. I’m there to do business, not have a good time, so everyone else can.

2. I release my evil inner control freak – to do good! There are timelines, spreadsheets and it is all under my command. I have a binder and you don’t. All the beautiful people will do as I say! Ah-haha haa haa aha *ahem. In a business and personal world where I insist on letting go, being flexible and open to dialogue, here is one place where a benevolent dictatorship can actually do some good

3. I can right wrongs. No one is paying me, I can do whatever the hell I want. SO! I WILL tell your rude aunt that today, she can’t terrorize the bride by telling her “you look fat”. Like a linebacker I’m on her like white on rice baby. I can shut down drunk uncle charlie, vet those dumb best man speeches and other “grab the mike” fools who derail so many important days. The focus is on the couple, this day WILL be beautiful, I WILL create some awe and wonder in this world so help me God.

Ok ok, on to the good reasons:

1. It allows the couple and the wedding party/family to actually have a great day. This is a big day, a big investment, a big change. Everyone around you is emotionally compromised. Myself and my partner manage things from 5am to the afterparty and encourage everyone to send ugly things our way. Don’t ask your brother to handle the video camera, this is a big day for him too. Keeping things on time and on track is a lot of pressure, don’t put it on someone who wants to celebrate with you, a semi-pro ensures your guests have a great time but aren’t bored with 3 hours of inside joke speeches ( “member when we…” ). It is an honour to call out great people. The weddings I MC’d this summer were of two humble, kind, generous couples that would never let me praise them in public. The world needs more good people and on this day, they need to know, everyone in that room loves them and yes, they deserve it.

2. I’m not going to lie. I have a LOT of fun and learn so much ( we have learned Sikh, Punjabi, Chinese, Filipino and Seventh Day Adventist traditions – as the Globe and Mail recently said, cross-cultural learning is a business bonus ). I have also gotten so much closer with friends as a result of helping their big day be a perfect day. I have memories ( and war stories ) that will last forever. Most people will only be on the inside of a few weddings. I’m working on number 40.

3. I fall in love all over again every time. Again, I’m not going to lie, I am a ruthless romantic. My wife is a scientist who puts up with me and loves that I get it all out in the mosh-pit of love that is a wedding. Every ceremony I look at her, tears in my eyes and she rolls hers and thinks “here he goes again”. But with babies, dogs and cats, make no mistake it helps me remember why I got into this deal “to the death” ( what a non-english speaking officiant once called a wedding during a ceremony )

After all, I’m a man. What are my options?
Watching sports, drinking beer,
scratching myself while watching sports drinking beer?

I’ll stick with weddings.
The open bar doesn’t hurt …