The not-so-secret trick to getting the most of any networking event
I just finished up a Google hangout (for those who don’t know: it’s the space-age version of a party chat line with video added to the audio) discussing the pending Sage Summit 2012 annual conference.
Ably led by Greg Tirico, the common message that I heard coming from the group was: be prepared. Know what you are looking to get out of the conference before you go and that will maximize the value that you receive.
It’s easy to see why being prepared is so important.
The Sage Events team has assembled a lot of activities, content filled sessions, networking opportunities and squeezed in some (a small bit) of free time so you can do some informal networking and knowledge sharing. If you don’t go in with a plan, you might find yourself like a kid in the candy store – not knowing which way to turn.
Taking that advice to heart, I have created my own Action Plan! to coordinate my activities. I have highlighted must-attend meetings and sessions in a certain color and my internal team meetings in another color and used a different color for nice, but not essential activities. This way, if I run into someone that wants to share ideas or swap stories, I can immediately see my schedule and make sure I’m not creating a conflict for myself or another pre-arranged appointment.
I am also including cell phone numbers on the Action Plan! for everyone that I’m meeting with to ensure we can text or call to connect. In previous years, I have been running late or waiting for the other party who was running late and had no way to reach out to them.
Which brings up another tip that falls under the “be prepared” bucket: load up your phone with common contacts. So many times in the past, I receive a text message saying “hey you want to meet up?” – or something similar – from an unrecognized number. This year I have done my best to pre-load all the cell numbers of common contacts so I’m not left scratching my head wondering who I’m meeting up with.
And, countering my earlier advice, my final tip that I will offer is be prepared to go off-plan. No, you don’t want to miss any of your must-do things but if, in your travels through the conference, you encounter somone interesting with a lot of great experiences, don’t be in such a rush to move along.
I personally find that it’s the chance, informal encounters that act as the glue for the entire conference and help firm up the overall value.
If you have any tips that you would like to share, please add them in the comments – people would love to see them!