We all attend professional association meetings for a variety of reasons (networking, education, job search opportunities, etc.). However, many of us attend these monthly or yearly meetings without an effective plan. Below are some helpful hints that will make your next meeting attendance more productive.
- Who is attending the meeting?
Are you able to acquire a registration list ahead of time? Or are you able to deduce the audience by speaker type and topic areas? The ultimate goal here is to proactively identify key decision makers, or people you know, so you may connect with them at the meeting.
- Is it possible to schedule visits?
If you’re able to determine who’s to be in attendance, try to schedule a one-on-one meeting just before or right after the event. Perhaps you can extend a lunch invitation, or organize a small group dinner. Use the opportunity to connect with these individuals beyond the structure of the event itself.
- Why attend the meeting?
Is your goal for attending strictly for education, i.e., to get certification credits? Or, are you attending to try to meet decision makers, sell a service or product, and/or network with peers? Having a purpose in mind before your meeting makes it that much easier to shape activities that help you achieve your goal(s).
- Identify centers of influence.
You enter a room full of what appears to be people wandering or networking. Since people tend to gather around those they want to associate with and hear, focus on the circles or groups of folks. Identify these opportunities and introduce yourself to the person of influence – usually the one in the middle. Make it a priority to follow up with these centers of influence (no pun intended) after the event.
- Refrain from talking shop.
Use networking meetings as an opportunity to connect – on a personal level – with people you know and don’t (yet) know. Discover areas of commonality and begin to develop a relationship. If asked what you do, deflect and ask about him/her. Use a follow-up meeting as an opportunity to share more about your role. There’s nothing worse than creating the impression that you’re someone asking for a job, selling a product or service or “pitching” something.
- Connect with the speakers.
Among the most influential people with whom you can connect are event speakers. These individuals generally are well recognized in their industry and are centers of influence. Connecting with them and following up to develop a relationship are critical. Take a few moments to meet and greet them after their presentation. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and exchange business cards.
- Display energy and a smile.
You only have five seconds to make a first impression. People will remember you by how they felt after your interaction. Thus, it’s vital to be energized when you attend meetings and walk around a room to network. Differentiate yourself by leaving a lasting impression of confidence, enthusiasm and energy! Lastly, always greet people with a firm handshake and smile that lets them know you are in charge of YOU.
Please keep in mind that solely following the above steps does not automatically result in a successful connection or relationship. It’s important to have an effective follow-up, post-meeting process. In my next blog, I’ll touch on five effective methods for continuing the conversation and following up with individuals you just met.