Face-to-face networking during conferences is key to creating new business relationships and growing existing ones.
Here are some key strategies for optimizing your time before, during, and after Affiliate Summit or any other conference you attend.
Define Your Goals
You can’t get ROI if you don’t identify the targeted “R”. So, determine what you hope to achieve from the conference in order to gauge how effective the trip is for you.
Stay in the Conference Hotel
Conferences will have a special rate at the hotel where the conference is taking place. Book early, because the blocks of rooms typically sell out.
In addition to the convenience of being physically close to the conference, you are also able to engage in the informal networking all over the hotel before and after conference hours.
Target List of Attendees
Review the list of attending companies for the conference and seek out people in the conference social network to pre-network in advance.
This will enable you to break the ice and set up meetings.
Also, search Google images for people and create a discreet compilation of headshots of your targets to help identifying folks you wish to meet.
Map Out Exhibitors
Check out the conference Web site for a map and list of exhibitors.
Print out the map and mark it up with the companies you want to visit and make notes with questions you have for each company.
Create a customized business card that will stick out. I would suggest designing a new business card for each conference you attend.
Include a reference to the conference to help people remember where they met you.
Make it bigger or different in some other way… maybe a theme. Just do something other than the typical card that gets lost in a stack of similar cards.
Prepare for Networking Opportunities
There are a number of formal and informal networking events at a conference.
Any time there is a chance to meet people, whether it is a coffee break, structured networking session, or just milling around the hotel lobby, take advantage of these times to make business.
Become part of the conversation with industry leaders. In advance of a conference, there are a number of ways you can engage notable figures in the industry.
Call in to podcasts, post comments to blogs, send feedback to newsletters, respond in forum threads, and add them on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
This way you will have a rapport with these folks when you meet face to face at the conference.
Perfect Your Elevator Speech
Be prepared to deliver you elevator pitch (or elevator speech), which is a brief overview of an idea for a product, service, or project.
It’s called an elevator pitch, because it shouldn’t last any longer than an elevator ride – maybe thirty seconds or 100-150 words.