Perhaps you are attending a smaller event with your fraternal, like your annual convention or a regional meeting? Or maybe your team is going to an industry event with nationwide attendance like the upcoming American Fraternal Alliance Spring Symposium? In either scenario, you likely paid a fair sum to be there and learn something applicable to your job and business.
Here are three tips to help you get the most out of any meeting without stressing about crowds or a packed agenda.
# 1 Rather than view "networking" as work, view it as making friends, which is more fun. Getting to know someone well takes time. Instead, see networking as making a few friendly acquaintances. You already have much in common with meeting attendees so it's easy to build on that foundation. When standing near someone new, give a smile, perhaps a nod, a simple hello and your name. They will do the same! Your conversation may evolve from there, or it may continue later in the buffet line, the meeting session or at cocktail hour. Either way, you have put yourself and the other person at ease by eliminating an "unknown" (being near someone you don't know).
# 2 Make a point to meet many or most vendors, even if your company does not need their product or service. Learn about other companies either directly in your business or that provide peripheral or supportive products and services to companies like yours. By becoming familiar with who the sponsors or exhibitors are, you will be able to offer suggestions or contribute to a conversation when the topic turns to "My company does..." or "Our next project is..." or "An issue we have is..." Your peers will perceive you as helpful, knowledgeable about your industry, and informed about the particular event.
# 3 Think about the overall educational focus of the event and the topics of individual breakout sessions to identify which sessions and topics will benefit you and your company the most. What topics add to your knowledge base? What topics are timely for your company's projects or plans? Prepare your personal schedule in advance to ensure you maximize your time by learning new, timely, and/or relevant information. Keynote speakers are engaging and entertaining, but their presentations are usually more general in order to appeal to a larger audience. The smaller topic-focused sessions will offer the most substance and deserve the majority of your time and attention. Back to Tip #1, make an effort to separate yourself from co-workers and sit next to someone new or choose a different seat. You are also there to friendwork, after all!
Of all the conference Do's and Don'ts you might be aware of, please DO participate in the meeting activities, games and social events. Event organizers and sponsoring companies work hard to help you enjoy your time. Step outside your comfort zone just a bit, meet a few new smiling faces, and you're sure to have a good time.