This is the first of a two part article titled:
"Conference Stars: How to Get the Most Out of Conferences"
Smart people use conferences as an opportunity to extend their network. While keynote speeches and panels can be inspiring and informative, there is rarely enough time to impart in-depth knowledge.
Conferences should be where you expand your network: they're full of like-minded individuals from your industry, including potential investors, customers and employers. In other words, conferences are an opportunity to meet people who could change your career.
However, with hundreds of attendees and only three days, who should you be speaking to? In order to get the most out of conferences, smart networking requires that you act strategically.
Here are some tips we use to help Global Professionals Practicum (GPP) clients to maximize visibility and impact at a conference:
Get Behind the Podium (Especially if You're an Introvert):
While it may seem somewhat counterintuitive to ask an introvert to speak at a conference, speaking is a high-impact activity with lots of visibility.
Personally, I find it more comfortable to speak to a large group (of say 100 people) than introduce myself to 100 people over the course of a few days. When you speak, people are much more likely to remember who you are, what you do, and the message you want to convey.
Instead of making introductions to strangers, people tend introduce themselves to you throughout the conference - and they'll have enough knowledge of you to skip the small talk and initiate a thoughtful conversation.
Speaking at a conference can come in many forms- from participate on a panel, asking the organizing team for a room to host a small workshop, or speaking in front of hundreds as a keynote speaker.
Choose the one that your most comfortable with, develop a pitch for your speech (you'll need content and a unique perspective/niche to stand out from other speaker applications), and get in touch with the organizing team to let them know that you're interested in contributing to the conference.
Throw a Party
Throwing a small party is another high-impact activity with lots of visibility- even if they everyone doesn't get the chance to chat with you for very long, people generally remember the host.
When I'm travelling for a conference, there will often be a number of people I want to catch up with. However I'm usually only in town for a few days. So I meet with a number of people at once- I'll generally host a cocktail party for about a dozen people that I think will enjoy getting to know each other and will have a good time together.
I'll call a nice bar/lounge ahead of time to make reservations for a dozen people (if few more show up, they can generally add a seat or two), and I'll often invite a few new friends I've met at the conference to come along too.
If there's someone that I'd like to speak with one-on-one time, I'll generally ask them to come half an hour early so that we can catch up before the party starts.
Jessica is the Founder and CEO of Global Professionals Practicum.