You are a small business owner, consultant, or network marketer, and one of the earliest pieces of advice you receive regards the importance of attending conferences and events. You’re told “leaders read” and almost in the same breath, you hear “leaders are made at conferences…leaders attend events.”
When the average person in this situation is cash-strapped having just launched their business, they correctly assume that every dollar invested has to produce a return-on-investment (ROI). Attendance at events and conferences is an investment: Registration fees, travel, meals and lodging, and purchasing conference/event materials.
Well, I borrow enough – or dip into limited savings – to attend a “must” event. Alright, I’m there. The biggest question on my mind is, how do I maximize the return on my investment of time and really scarce resources? Beforehand, you might want to ask yourself some basic questions: To begin, are you a “people person?” Are you comfortable being among hundreds, even thousands, of strangers engaging in small talk with no particular purpose other than trying to build connections with people you don’t know and, perhaps, may never see again?
Or, are you someone who is a product of the impersonal world of social media communication? If you are the shy and digital whiz who is more comfortable in the solitude of your preferred communication’s device and the Internet, and are occasionally socially awkward, you should decide in advance what outcomes you seek before registering for any important event.
The event you have selected to attend is a “must.’ Now, you need a game plan. Who do you want to meet there? Events have sponsors. Which of them could be important to connect with? You understand your business, therefore, what kind of feedback should you seek in conversation that could help you grow your business?
You’re basically shy, as I was, so how do you introduce yourself in a way that sustains a conversation beyond name, where I’m from and what I do?
Have a plan: What you will say; questions you are prepared to respond to and questions to which you seek responses. You need both. I also advise that you practice responding to and raising questions before you leave home. A mock conversation could boost your confidence during those one-on-one conversations.
I also learned there is limited value in just collecting business cards. Yes, I followed that advice as well: Collect lots of business cards. During the followup, consider yourself fortunate if you get a one-to-two-percent response rate – not enough to justify the expense of participating in the event. At least I didn’t think so. A better approach is to focus on making connections. People like talking to other people, especially if there is genuine interest. On a personal note, I would rather come away from an event with three or four solid connections than dozens of business cards.
While attending the event, take advantage of every opportunity to enhance and to strengthen your new connections. Meet for breakfast, other meals; a drink in the bar; working out in the gym or a few laps in the pool. Back in your room later in the evening, use social media to follow up on an issue or a question that arose earlier in the day. The next day, inject new information into follow-on conversations thus adding value to your new connection. This demonstrates interest.
Alright, you’re at home feeling generally positive about the events of the past weekend. Now, what do you do? Follow up, follow up, follow up. Follow up within two days. Personally, I prefer following up within 24 hours, but that’s me. The greater the time lapse between your last face-to-face contact and your follow up, the quicker you fade from someone’s memory. We used to hear “strike while the iron is hot!” Other event participants may be following up with the same connection so the quicker you do, the greater the likelihood you will generate an early response. There is no guarantee of this but your intent is to increase the odds that you would be among those receiving one of the earlier responses.
Don’t be anxious if you don’t receive a response within a week – for example. Important people are in demand. If you have not received a response within a week, follow up the second, third, even the fourth, week. Be persistent, but not annoying. Change up when you follow up: telephone, Email, and social media.
The former Bob Schmidt, a 34-year million-dollar-earner in network marketing, said, “it’s not until the 7th to the 12th contact that he would achieve success with a value contact.” Again, be persistent, but not annoying.