"When I get to lead off a conference, I always test with this: Listen carefully to everything these next couple days and when you get back to the day-to-day, really try to reimagine the future,” Jared Weiner, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Future Hunters, told an SIIA audience in November.
"You want to think of the future not as innovation; you want to think of it as imagination. That is my challenge to you. No matter what industry you are in—...accounting, insurance, legal...—as you go back to your day-to-day, really reimagine the future for it, versus just innovating the next of what you're already doing."
Weiner’s message is a good one to keep in mind for the 250-plus members descending on Washington, D.C., Monday for the 41st Annual SIPA Conference. It’s also a good thought for customers attending one of your events. (Please feel free to link to or “borrow” this article.)
Here are 12 tips to get the most out of the events that you—or your customers—attend:
1. Focus your attention on possible outcomes. "Many people think of networking as showing up, randomly interacting, and hoping something good will happen," wrote Jeff Korhan, author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. "You have to be crystal clear about what you want so you can communicate it to others and recognize it when you see or hear it."
2. Put down the phone—occasionally at least. We all have to check in with the office and our email, texts, etc., but this is a unique opportunity to network with and learn from colleagues you don't see often. Take advantage of it. Our tendency these days is, if we're off by ourselves, to take out the phone. Resist and say hi to someone. It's a friendly—and knowledgeable—group.
3. Speak with vendors. They are there to help lead you to success. You do not have to buy something to talk with a vendor (though you certainly can!). They know their subject well and want to know how they can best meet your needs. Here are our SIPA 2017 sponsors: BeaconLive, CWC Software, Data Services Inc, ePublishing, Informz, MultiPub, QCSS, Real Magnet and TV WorldWide.
4. Listen up. "It's easy to get distracted and think about what you're going to say after the person you're talking to finishes their point," writes blogger Nathalie Lussier. "Don't let your mind take over! Instead, focus on what the people you're with are saying, and chime in without pre-rehearsing what you're going to say. I promise it will come out just as smart, but you'll have the added benefit of knowing exactly what people are saying, and giving them your full undivided attention."
5. Articulate what your company has had success with. Everyone is looking for ways to grow their organization. So if you can clearly articulate what you are doing well, others will do the same for you. And that will facilitate a better discussion.
6. Do research about those you may want to connect with. Knowing something work-specific about others always makes for interesting conversation. The best opportunities are often squandered because someone is not ready. Here is the link for the people coming to SIPA 2017.
7. Meet people you don't know. We all love to say hi to old friends—and that's certainly part of what makes a conference great. But you want new connections too. Perhaps it's a younger person who looks a little isolated. These days, we can learn as much from them as they can from us. Or it's someone who may not have a clique or posse to turn to.
8. When you get a business card, write down what made you ask for the card. I can recall times when I empty my pockets after a long day at a conference, see a bunch of business cards, and don't quite remember what I was going to check on or follow up about. Many designers are now leaving business cards blank on one side just for that reason.
9. Increase the probability of favorable outcomes. Korhan scripts his daily schedule for meetings, breakfast, exercise and all. He also likes to show up a bit early each morning when it’s still quiet and conversations can be especially valuable. I do that myself. Simply put: Smart networkers always plan for serendipity at live events.
10. Debrief throughout the event. Take a few minutes each evening to digest what you have learned and the people you have met. Korhan calls it "doing your homework before going home." Take notes—about your interactions as well as from the sessions.
11. Choose two or three ideas that you can act on as soon as you get back. Just like it’s not good to have too many choices, it can be similarly overwhelming to have too many good ideas. Pick a couple actionable ideas from the conference that you can act on the week you return to the office.
12. Enjoy. You’re among peers who want to network and learn as much as you do. Covet the learning and interaction.