1. Bring business cards!
I cannot stress enough how important this is. There will be upwards of 300 people there and not everyone you meet is going to remember you. When you meet someone, hand them your card. It will help them remember you - plus they're more likely to follow up and contact you after the event. If you don't have a card, head over to VistaPrint and get some. They're stupid cheap and you'll be glad you did.
2. Always have a pen handy.
You will be bumping into people everywhere you go, especially within the hotel. Particularly in the bar I can't tell you how many tips and URLs were shared with me over a 2 day period. Before you head out to the bar, make sure you have a pen because you will wind up with a pocket full of napkins with nuggets of knowledge scribbled all over them. When you talk with someone and they hand you their card, jot down a quick note on the back of the card about what you discussed. Do not rely on your memory, you will forget things. Write them down. Or even better, follow this next tip.
3. Get a voice recorder.
This is one of the best purchases I ever made. I grabbed a simple $30 voice recorder at Walmart. It's so much easier and faster to use one of these instead to writing things down. After a conversation with someone, just record a quick note to yourself about what you learned, discussed or any follow ups needed. Later when you're back in your room, you can play back your recordings and make notes. Using a voice recorder is so much easier and faster than relying on pen and paper, it's one of the best investments you can make before any networking event.
4. Don't try to write down everything a presenter says and does.
The speakers are given 1 hour to make their presentations and they squeeze a lot of information into that hour. I see people making the mistake of trying to take notes and take pictures of the screens with their phones during the presentations. Here's a piece of information that isn't even a secret - you're going to get a copy of every presentation on video after the event. You'll be able to watch them over and over. Unless you hear something that you want to take action on immediately, you don't have to kill yourself trying to write down everything you see and hear.
5. Don't be afraid to say hello.
One of the coolest things about and event like this is that you actually get a chance to meet some of the people that you're always hearing about or an idol of yours whose list you're on. Don't be shy or intimidated, walk up and introduce yourself. You will be amazed at how friendly and approachable everyone is. Don't be intimidated by the big names. These people got to where they are by networking and making friends, so they understand the importance of being social. The first event I ever attended was JV Expo about 2 years ago and Tim Castleman was there. He won't remember me and you know why? Because I was too shy to walk up and say hello. I've learned a lot since then. Tim is speaking in Orlando and his presentations are always extremely entertaining. I'm looking forward to meeting him this time.
6. Don't eat alone!
Every minute you are there is a networking opportunity. When you're going to lunch or dinner, invite some people to go with you. Or, be bold and invite yourself and tag along with another group. Everybody there is beyond friendly, so don't be shy. As a side note - if you walk into the hotel restaurant and see someone from the event sitting alone, go over and invite yourself to join them. Chances are they're a first timer or they don't really know anyone yet - make them feel welcome. The best part of eating with a group of people is the conversation. You will not believe the contacts you can make and information you can learn from simple lunch conversation. When I was at the Raleigh event, I found myself sitting at a lunch table next to Brad Spencer - completely by chance. That lunch conversation changed my life. I won't go into the details here, but when you see me in Orlando, ask me about that lunch and I'll tell you the story.
7. Know why your going
Before the event, write down why your attending and what you want to get out of it. You should plan for the Warrior Event just like you'd plan for any other project. Set goals for yourself and plan to meet them. Here's some typical things that you might want to accomplish at the event:
- Meet one or more JV Partners for an upcoming product
- Find someone who can help you with ____________. (fill in the blanks)
- Learn how to ____________.
- Meet ____________ and ask him ______________.
- See if you can help anyone who needs _____________.
8. Don't be that guy
I am encouraging you to be social and network, but don't be the guy who walks up to every person in the room and says "Hi, you've never met me, but would you pitch my new WSO to your list?" This is surely one way to get remembered, but not in a good way. Concentrate on establishing relationships. Offer to help people before you ask them to help you. Follow these simple tips and good things will come to you.
9. Follow up with everyone that you meet.
If you ignore this tip, I guarantee you will miss out on opportunities. As I've mentioned, you're going to meet a lot of people and discuss a wide range of topics. Taking notes is only half the battle. Follow up on those notes. After the event, send an email to everyone you've met. Tell them it was a pleasure meeting them, recap a conversation or follow up with a question. This will help them remember you and help you establish relationships.
10. Write emails that night and schedule them to go out later
This one requires discipline, but it's worth the effort. It's a tip for following up with people. When you get back to your room after a day of networking, review your notes and business cards you've collected; then write those follow up emails right away while everything is reasonably fresh in your mind. You don't need to send them right away. In fact, I recommend not sending them right away. While they're at the event, people usually don't review their email as frequently, so when they open up their email on Monday morning, they're going to have a lot of catching up to do. Personally, I prefer to wait a few days, let them get back into their routine and then contact them. Here's a few tips on how to do this:
- Write the email immediately and then save it to your drafts folder. Just remember to click the send button a few days later.
- I prefer to schedule the emails delivery date at the time I create it. This is easy to do in Outlook using the "delay delivery" option.
- If you use Gmail, get Boomerang. Boomerang is a browser extension for Firefox and Google Chrome. This add-on allows you to schedule email with Gmail at later times. Boomerang offers three options for sending emails. The first option allows you to send email after a specified amount of time (for example in 2 hours). The second option allows you to set a specific time in the calendar. The third option allows you to send out a email at a random time.
I'm going to stop there for now because I don't want this post to get too long. My list is much longer than this, so I'm calling this post Part 1. If you interested, let me know and I'll post Part 2 in a day or two. More importantly, I'd be interested on hearing some of your ideas as well.
See y'all in Orlando!