Promoting your business, expanding your network, and looking for new ways to generate business are things that are always on the mind of savvy small business owners. After all, your business is your baby, and you will do what it takes to make it a success.
One opportunity that often gets overlooked or under utilized are conferences.
Why Go to Industry Conferences?
Conferences connect people, provide you countless networking opportunities, and give you a platform to promote yourself and your business.
“Today, probably even more than ever before, networks are a key form of social capital for achieving goals in both your professional and personal lives,” says Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School.
“The fact that technology has made it easier to interact with people across great distances and time zones actually makes face-to-face interaction even more valuable,” adds Dorie Clark, author of Stand Out Networking.
The key is to know how to get the most out of the conferences you attend.
How to Get the Most Out of Conferences
If you go to conferences and sit on the sidelines, then you are wasting a great opportunity.
• Network before the conference: Doing some legwork upfront can benefit you significantly once the conference rolls around. Leading up to the conference, find out who will be attending and try to connect. “Think about the people you would really like to get to know and then carve out time to accomplish that goal,” says Gino. Reach out to them on social media, introduce yourself and make it known that you will be attending the conference.
• Have a game plan: Read through the conference schedule well in advance, list the booths you want to see, events you want to take part in, and people you want to meet. Do some research on the location so you know where to go, and make yourself a cheat sheet of things you want to accomplish during the conference.
• Arrive prepared: Make sure you have everything you will need for the conference. Keep your phone and laptop with you at all times, pack plenty of business cards, bring promotional materials to hand out to potential business partners and customers.
• Take initiative: People aren’t always going to come to you, even if you have a booth or are taking part in event activities. Create your own networking opportunities by reaching out to others and being an active participant in the conference.
• Go to the workshops: While the speaking engagements from industry experts are insightful, the workshop provides you with an opportunity to get your hands dirty and work with a variety of people in your industry.
• FOLLOW UP: Perhaps the most important factor in getting the most value out of a conference is following up with the people you met and potential opportunities you have identified. Once you are home and settled, set aside some time to follow up – send follow up emails, connect on LinkedIn, and start working on the next steps.
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