The Blog of Jake Kelfer
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The time has finally arrived. You are off to your event or conference and you are ready to put all your preparation into action. It’s officially game time!
By the time you arrive at the conference you should be feeling good to go. You might have some nerves because there are a lot of unknowns, but that is okay. At the same time if you read part one on preparation, you will be so prepared you’ll have a plan of attack and several people waiting to meet you.
Like most people when you arrive at a conference there are probably a million thoughts running through your head.
“Who am I going to connect with?”
“What if I don’t find anyone I want to talk to?”
“How am I going to stand out?”
“Who do I want to make sure I speak with?”
“Is it going to be hard to meet people?”
“I’m not sure if I’m ready to do weird icebreaker games.”
“Why am I here again?”
All of these thoughts are normal. Here’s what you have to remember. Everyone is human. Everyone is going through something. A majority of the people attending the conference are feeling the same way you are feeling.
If I ever start to feel nervous, I just remind myself to smile and that everyone is here to meet people and enjoy themselves.
We can all have different plans and strategies heading into the conference but one that almost everyone will have is to meet more people and to share ideas. People attend conferences or events to build relationships.
People don’t go to conferences or events to collect business cards. In the past that was the strategy – collect as many business cards as possible and you’ll get new business. However, the best connectors know that collecting a bunch of business cards isn’t the priority, building a meaningful connection is.
Business cards are a great way to collect info for the follow up, but at the conference you should be focused on the person and who they are, not the business card who showcases the person.
As you get ready to embark on your journey, you’ll find these 4 techniques and strategies will help you implement your plan and create meaningful, lasting relationships.
BE OPEN AND MEET PEOPLE
Be open to meeting people because you never know who they are until you know.
This component combines two Kelf Keys form Elevate Your Network and is extremely powerful to implement and keep in mind as you attend a conference. If we take a second to break this down, we can see that in order to maximize our time at the event, we need to meet people. We need to meet people, but also in addition to meeting the people we set out to meet, we need to be open to meeting people we find interesting or that reach out to us.
The reason this becomes so important is because while you may have certain target people to talk to, you never know who you might meet at any given time during a conference whether it be at the opening session, in a workshop, or even in the elevator.
Whenever I am at a conference, I make sure that I am always on high alert to meet someone new. I constantly remind myself that everyone there is doing amazing things and I shouldn’t count someone out before I give them a chance. The same thing goes in life. Don’t count people out before you give them a chance.
When we are open to meeting new people, we will end up meeting people who can impact our lives in ways we couldn’t predict. We may also meet people whose lives we can impact, ultimately living a life of service and value.
TAKE NOTES AND REMEMBER DETAILS
After each interaction or at the end of a session/day, take notes to remember small details and names of the people you met.
This is one of the best secrets to creating meaningful relationships at a conference or event and here’s what you should do. After you meet with someone, jot down a few notes on who that person is. This is where business cards can come in handy because you can use them as your notepad.
When you write down some notes, try to write down their name so you can refer to it next time you see them. This also helps you actually remember their name making it more likely that you will say their name when you see them next.
Also, write down anything that you remember from details about their work to things you have in common or anything that might be good to bring up in the future.
When I was at my last conference, I met someone who loves snacks as much as I do. We ended up talking about different snacks and I took note of that. She also wore a really cool shirt that I remembered, so the next time I saw her I made a joke about her shirt and snacks. Following the conference, this also gives me a chance to bring these points of conversation back up which is an easy way to remember me and continue the dialogue long after the actual conversation.
The more effort you put in to show that you are genuinely interested in building meaningful relationships, the more sincere you come across which makes connection much easier and more memorable.
RELY ON YOUR PREPARATION
Rely on your preparation and focus on your objectives, while being open to new experiences.
During the conference especially if you don’t know a ton of people, there is a good chance you will feel overwhelmed at some point and want to head back to your room to rejuvenate.
I get it, and I have the same urge. When this happens, I typically take 5-10 minutes to refresh and get ready to dive back in. The reason I am able to take these breaks, outside of them being good for me, is because I prepared so well that I have time to spare and time to evaluate and adjust my plan.
When you are at the conference, it is crucial that you refer back to your plan and your preparation. It will serve as a compass as you navigate the details of the event.
At the same time, there are going to be a lot of new variables introduced to you in the heat of the moment. Since you can’t plan for everything, it’s your job to identify new opportunities and how they fit into your overall objective. For example, if you planned on going to ABC workshop, but you meet someone new who you really vibe with, go with them to their workshop and continue to build connection with that person.
Be open to the new experiences and excitement of the conference, while at the same time, keep your plan in mind and work with yourself to maximize your time.
GO FOR IT AND HAVE FUN!
Hands down, this is the best way to create relationships at a conference. It’s not the workshops or keynote speaker sessions where you meet everyone and actually get to know them. It’s the dinners, the hotel bar, and extracurriculars that make the difference and build the real connections.
For some of us, this is the hardest part. However, it might be the most important piece to building relationships that last.
Do you remember the conversation you had for 3 minutes in a whisper during a workshop or do you remember the person you spent 45 minutes with at the dinner you showed up at?
Most likely, you remember the latter. Even more so, I bet the 3 minute convo led to the 45 minutes of hanging out. To take it even further, the hanging out is where you really got to know someone and learn all about them.
While we may go to conferences for educational benefit or to meet people or to get new ideas, we also need to make fun a priority. Sometimes you just have to go for it and join different groups.
It’s as simple as asking, “Hi, can I sit with you?” If the people say no, then forget them because they’re not the people you want to be with anyways. If they say yes, you’re in.
A lot of the time, people who go to conferences go more than once. If that is the case they not only want to have a ton of fun, but they are looking for people who can spice it up and who they can bring into their group.
Life is about living and enjoying the journey. Even though a conference might only last a day or two, enjoy it. Smile big, share ideas, be proud of who you are, and have fun!
In the final piece of this series, I will be focusing on the follow up for all the amazing people you connect with and even the people you wanted to connect with but couldn’t.