I attend many conferences, both as a speaker and as an attendee. I find that I don't always get all that I would hope or expect from the experience. Part of the problem is, I don't remember going through any classes or training that taught me what to do at a conference or that gave me the tools I needed to maximize my experience.
That's why I was excited when I came across the book Conference Crushing and had the honor of interviewing the author, Tyler Wagner, on my podcast. His Amazon bestseller shares the "17 undeniable rules of relationship building," which you can use to make the most out of your next conference.
A few tips from Tyler include:
Before the Conference
Researching those that will attend the conference beforehand is a great way to jump into a more meaningful dialogue than the typical "What do you do?" banter that begins most networking conversations.
Some may find this creepy, but I am always impressed when I meet someone who knows something about me or my writing. The fact that he or she knows me makes me feel like I need to work harder to learn about that person, and I am less likely to assume the person is just trying to sell me something.
At the Conference
Tyler provides some practical advice on how to break through the barrier of actually meeting people once you are at the conference--which can be a real struggle for an introvert like me.
A trick he discusses, and something I learned from one of the best salespeople I ever worked with, is to continue to ask the person you are talking to open-ended questions. The less you say, the more the other person will like you. I would watch this sales professional have a conversation with someone new, telling the person very little about himself, and the person's parting words would be, "It was so nice to meet you. I had such a great conversation!" He had just made a connection for life.
A key component to Tyler's advice about maximizing the conference experience is to "fall in love with the people," which means to accept them unconditionally and be fascinated by what makes them tick. Make it your job to make others feel comfortable, and they will return the favor.
After the Conference
A really cool trick that Tyler uses is to take notes during the conference and then send those notes out to the list of people he met and post them to any groups that are formed as a result of the conference. By doing so, he is immediately giving value back to these new connections, and they feel indebted to him when he reaches out for a follow-up. If, on the basis of what he learned, he thinks two attendees should connect, he adds that to the narrative.
Tyler's book is chock-full of technology to help you maintain your connections and superpower your inbox. Ultimately, Tyler shows that having a systematic approach that includes planning and purposeful follow-up is the best way to get the most out of your next conference experience.