Members are descending here in Washington, D.C., for the 43rd SIPA Annual Conference. It seems that events for SIPA publishers these days can come in many shapes and sizes—from Chartwell's Customer Experience Conference to Jefferson Communications' summer camp fairs to Magna Publications' conference on student leadership to Spidell's tax seminars.
So while I might preface this column by saying you need a gameplan at the live events you attend, this year I have a second purpose. You may want to borrow these bullets—or link to it (this article will be posted shortly on the SIIA Blog)—so that you can advise your own audience how to take full advantage of the events you put on.
Here are 9 tips to get the most out of the events you attend:
1. Write it down. Yes, in longhand. 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.
2. 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."
3. 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 day, "a great time to make invaluable connections. Simply put: Smart networkers always plan for serendipity at live events."
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," wrote 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 in your head. 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. People will notice!"
5. Debrief throughout the event. This is important. You will definitely experience information overload so take a few minutes each night to digest what you have learned and the people you have met. Call it "doing your homework before going home." Take notes—about your interactions as well as from the sessions.
6. Articulate what your company has had success with. My favorite question in interviews these days is, Tell me something you've done recently that's been successful. 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.
7. Do research about those you may want to connect with. Knowing something specific about others always makes for interesting conversation. The best opportunities are often squandered because someone is not ready. What would you know to do if Oprah called, asks Korhan? That's the idea. Here is the link for the people coming to SIPA 2019.
8. Be determined to meet people you don't know. Anyone can 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.
9. Smile and talk to people in any lines that you're in. Standing in line for breakfast or lunch (if it's a buffet) is also a great time to make a connection. That just happened to me Friday. You're out of the office among your very cool and smart peers. Enjoy yourself.