Traveling for conferences can be a large investment in time and money. You can’t control the quality of the content. But you can influence your overall conference experience by making the most out of the people you meet.
Networking is one of the most valuable aspects of any conference. For many people, the biggest reason they attend conferences each year is to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. It’s these person-to-person interactions that they remember the best.
Of course, a lot goes on at any given conference. You try to pack in as many positive experiences as possible in a short two to four day weekend. While you might remember having a great dinner, or meeting a fun group of people in the lobby, you might not always remember exactly who those people were. It stands to reason that they may also have the same challenge remembering you.
So how can you make sure that the people you meet will remember you long after the conference is over? Here are some things you can do to make your conference experience and networking efforts more memorable:
Keep your head up and your hands out
Keeping your head up is a great way to make sure you don’t accidentally walk right past an old friend. It also helps ensure you don’t mistakenly ignore a potential new business contact.
This point seems really obvious, but it’s easy to forget when your phone is always distracting you. Your posture says a lot about how open you are. Assuming you want people to approach you, make sure you appear approachable. Keep your head up, eyes open, with one hand ready for a greeting.
Show the people around you that you are welcoming. Hands that are full of stuff, checking phones, and hiding in pockets don’t communicate that you are open or even wanting to meet people. At best, these indicators tell people you are not confident or that you’re shy. At worst, they tell people to leave you alone.
So if your goal is to make great first impressions and really connect with other attendees at a conference, be conscious of where your head is at and how your hands are behaving.
Act like an interviewer by turning the “mic” on them
When we meet new people, our tendency as humans is to try to impress the other person. The thought is that if we can sound “impressive” the people we meet will want to get to know us more.
The problem is that the other person is thinking the same thing. They want to sound impressive to you as well. So when you spend your time talking about yourself, you are not leaving any room for them to impress you.
We know this from experience. We love when someone else acts genuinely interested in us. It’s flattering. It makes us feel important. We remember that person because they seemed to care about us. They made us feel special for a moment, and we seek that person out so that we can repeat those feelings.
So the best way to help the people you meet remember you is to make them feel special. Act like an interviewer trying to learn more about your “guest.” Put the other person in the spot light. Who knows, you might even learn something about who they are or what their company does that will help you start a new collaboration.
You don’t have to make it awkward. Just try to ask a few more questions than you answer. See how that dynamic changes your networking.
Make it easy to stay connected with the people you meet
Everyone knows that when you go to a conference you bring business cards. If you didn’t already know this: bring business cards – lots of them!
Everyone has business cards and they hand them out like candy at a parade. How many cards spill out of your suitcase after a conference? If you’re like me, then it’s probably quite a few. And most of them just get lost or tossed. I don’t mean that to sound rude, it’s just a fact of my experience. I can only keep track of so many cards and contacts. The ones that don’t stand out have to make way for the ones that do. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience.
So what can you do to make sure you’re not one of those cards that litter the floor, or end up in someone else’s recycle bin a week later? How can you make a more lasting impression on the people you meet with your handout materials?
If you know that most of the people you meet will have your standard 3.5×2” business cards, flip the script by handing them something they haven’t seen. Today, you can order cards with special textures, metallic finishes, square shapes instead of rectangles, and even unique images across several cards.
Something as simple as a unique feeling business card can be enough to make people want to put that card in a special spot so that they don’t forget it. Combine the experience of making them feel special (see above) with a memorable handout, and you will skyrocket your chance of being remembered. You’ll turn the people you meet into the people you stay connected with.
Ask your Marketing department what options you have for using more impactful cards and handouts.
But who says you even have to hand out business cards?
Do you have a popular blog post or eBook that your company has shared some really useful advice in? What about specific questions that a lot of the people you meet keep asking? Do you have your own conference tips that you could share?
Take advantage of this information by printing it out on a small postcard. One to three easy points that highlight something unique is all you need. This works especially well if the message fits well within the conference theme. If you are one of the conference presenters, you could sum up a few of your points on a postcard, or feature the main point of your message on the back of a business card.
This isn’t a “sales card” or anything. You are simply offering information that you feel is valuable to the people you meet. It doesn’t even have to be business related. You could hand out cards that share the top 3 places to eat in that particular city.
Another thing you could invest in are motivational postcards with your name, company, and contact info on the back. Picture a beautiful mountain scene that says something like “Dare to Do More” in the middle. Can you picture this card being pinned to someone’s wall by their computer? And right there in the bottom corner, is your company logo. I’ll bet they remember you next year when they come looking for a new motivational card.
These are just a few ideas to keep your business card from ending up in the messy pile of takeaways that the people you meet come home with and forget.
Don’t let your card end up as a dis-card.
More Conference Tips
Check out some of our other articles designed to help you have the best conference experience possible: