Getting the most out of industry events

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[[Strategies - networking]]
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See also: [[Strategies - networking]]
= Abstract =
= Abstract =

Current revision as of 19:45, 12 November 2010


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See also: Strategies - networking

Contents

Abstract

  • You may participate in an event as organizer, speaker, sponsor or attendee, but only the last category is considered here.
  • Industry events can be a powerful way of successfully networking but they can be expensive, so it is important to manage them as a project in order to get a fair return of your investment.


Have a clear objective

  • As in any other project, a clear scope is a key success factor. An industry event usually provides plenty of opportunities for learning, networking, socializing and even to visit nice places and enjoy as a tourist.
  • The first question you need to ask is what proportion of these partially conflicting objectives you would like to achieve. For instance, if your main focus is tourism and the event is just an excuse you should read no further, and concentrate instead in the touristic aspect of the host area.
  • Once you have defined your priorities, you are ready to move into the planning stage.


Planning stage

  • Like any other project, you need proper information to make proper decisions. Well organized events usually provide good information, usually accessible via Internet.
  • A first issue to define should be the selection of sessions to participate. Look for issues that may interest you and have a look at the speakers' bios. Assisting to a session is an opportunity for learning but it also carries a cost of opportunity, as instead of being there you could be present at another session, socializing or interacting with the event sponsors.
    • Therefore, instead of selecting sessions to cover all your even hours, you should rather classify them as "must", "give it a try" and "skip", or some other code of your own.
  • Other issue that requires preparation is your marketing documentation.
    • Do you have enough professional cards? Are they updated? A professional event provides a good opportunity for renovation.
    • Have you considered producing a brochure of you as a business proposition? This could be a good quality but not too expensive page presenting you as a service provider, a partner, a problem solver.
      • Keep in mind that you are looking for customers, not for an employment, in order to keep a proper focus.
  • Create and memorize a 30 seconds speech to promote your services. You may have a brief opportunity to connect with very important contacts and having your micro-presentation ready can make all the difference.
    • Another advantage is the power of brevity. When forced to concentrate the presentation, you will need to leave details appart and focus on what really counts.
  • Another area that can improve dramatically with a proper planning it your marketing via networking. You should study the list of assistants and sponsors and identify those that are really interesting to you.
    • To do so you could use for instance ProZ.com profiles, Blue Board entries, profiles in professional association pages and publications, their own web pages etc.
    • Look for people or companies that work in your pair and field(s) of expertise and who look like attractive business partners.
    • Once you have located the candidates you are interested in, create a small dossier about each of them including some key information of top staff, important projects they are working on, key customers, etc.
  • Last but not least, proper planning also includes proper registration, making use of early bird promotion, finding good travel and lodging alternatives and rates and learning in advance about weather, uses and exchange rates.

During the event

  • Once in the event you should act based on your plans, and of course be ready to improvise if new, unplanned circumstances arise.
  • During a session, when prompted by the speaker, consider asking a question or making a comment that may be useful for the group as a whole. Avoid being perceived as pushy or "know-all". A good question could start with the words "In your experience, what would be the best way to ...?". This keeps the speaker at the center of the session and, if the question was a good one, will leave a good impression of you.
  • Follow your networking strategy to approach potential customers.
    • Remember that you are just another in a sea of faces and you have this only opportunity to make an impression.
    • Look for the "heavy" persons in a company booth
    • Get their attention.
    • Ask a couple of pointed questions about THEM, based on the notes you had already prepared and learned.
    • Give them your 30 seconds sales pitch.
    • Leave your card and, if you have one, your brochure.
    • Get the card of the person you contacted and record (after leaving the booth) any relevant information that this person may have given you. This may be useful for a post-event message that may help them remember you and deepen the link.
  • During meals and coffee breaks, do not stay alone in a corner, as there are the perfect moments for networking with colleagues. Walk around from group to group, smile, greet people.
    • If you produced a list of "interesting colleagues" during your planning activities, this is the time to look for them. Remember that bringing a piece of information about them is a strong tool to get their attention "I believe you specialize in Chemistry and patents, don't you?" (if accurate) will guarantee their full attention.
    • Do not hesitate to start a conversation. If you need an ice-breaker, scan quickly the person's badge and start about the person's country/city/name. Example: "Oh, you're from Germany! Where exactly?"
    • Have your business cards at hand and be ready to exchange them with people working in same pairs and similar areas of expertise (or any other business opportunities you may perceive.

After the event

  • Once at home, it is not unusual for freelancers to make a neat pile with all the papers and cards collected during the event and focus immediately in reading the accumulated emails, recovering family time and engage in the normal routine as fast as possible.
  • This is understandable but it is not a good strategy. All projects end when the closing phase is ended, and failing to fulfill this very important phase would greatly reduce the return of the investment.
  • For a proper closure of an event project you should:
    • Review the documentation you brought with you and classify it in such a way that you are able to find it again when you need it. This is better done as soon as you arrived, when you have all the information still fresh in your head.
    • Review the relevant contacts you made during the event and send them a personalized "thank you" or "nice to meet you" message to enhance the probability of being remembered.
    • Provide feedback in the event's page, especially if there is a dedicated forum. Be brief, positive and professional.
    • Upload pictures and comments to your webpage and other networking sites such as ProZ.com forums and LinkedIn.
    • Evaluate and write down your lessons learned. What you did OK and what you did wrong, and what you plan to do differently the next time.
    • Put all your expenses records in order while you still remember them. You may deduct many of them as professional expenses, but to do so you need to have them properly classified, documented and declared.

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