So Iâ€™m on the plane headed to Vegas for Blog World Expo and realize that, while Iâ€™ve made some preliminary plans to meet up with some cool folks, the craziness of next week (cheap foreshadowing, but teasing â€¦ bad Jason) has prevented me from making a solid plan of attack for playing my cards wisely and racking up on network growth. But the thought occurred I donâ€™t have to lock in a meet-and-greet schedule to connect with important or cool people.
So whatâ€™s the conference attendee formula for winging your way through the game and racking in the friendship chips? Here are the five things that will help me at BWE this week:
- Find A Friend Who Knows The Territory
Knowing just one connected person in the room makes meeting the rest 90-percent easier. They can introduce you. Rob May of BusinessPundit.com is a fellow Louisvillian and someone Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of working with over the last few months. He actually told me I should come to Blog World with him and Todd Earwood, that they would introduce me to folks.
While not everyone has the advantage of knowing a SuperBlogger, wouldnâ€™t you agree that itâ€™s easier to reach out to one person than the room full of strangers? Do that ahead of time and have someoneâ€™s lead to follow.
- Reach Out To The Must-Meets Informally
Of course, itâ€™s better to lock in times to meet folks, but Iâ€™ve floated out a couple different, â€œlike to meet, chat, etc.â€ notes, blog comments and such to Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Brogan and Jeremy Pepper, among others. These are folks I read and respect for their thought leadership in what I do. I may never have a direct business reason for needing a connection to them, but being friends with the quarterback keeps the third string long snapper from getting hazed.
- Make Nice With The People In Charge
At Blog World, this is easy. Rick Calvert actually reached out to me first, when I put the conference logo on my blog. Heâ€™s commented on a couple of posts and maintained a connection with me (and plenty of others, Iâ€™m sure) leading up to the event. (Hint: Smart networking â€¦ learn from him, too.) Your first priority when checking in, particularly when someone like Rick raises their hand and says, â€œI know youâ€™re coming and want to meet you,â€ is to find them, introduce yourself and chat as often as their hectic schedule will permit.
These folks are running the show. They probably know the speakers and influential attendees personally. Walking up to them at the cocktail parties can put your name and face in front of the right people faster than, say, chatting with the bartender. That is, of course, unless you have a different interpretation of, â€œthe right people.â€
I admittedly didnâ€™t do as good a job of this at SMX Social Media last month. I traded business cards, hand shakes and a greeting with Danny Sullivan and Neil Patel, but failed to really establish a communication with them. I wonâ€™t make that mistake anymore.
- Be Friendly And Flexible
Neither of these are easy for introverts (read: computer geeks). Fortunately, Iâ€™m not one (introvert, not computer geek). While Iâ€™ve not met him yet, Iâ€™m told a perfect example of this advice is Robert Scoble. The king of our media is well known as everybodyâ€™s friend and not just because heâ€™ll allegedly â€œfriendâ€ anyone on Facebook, Twitter, et al. He built his web dynasty because he was a genuinely nice guy, willing to talk, share and engage others.
So be Robert. Stick out your hand, smile and say, â€œIâ€™m Jason Falls â€¦ nice to meet you!â€ People will look at you funny if youâ€™re not fat, goateed and bear a distinguishing Southern accent, so you may want to insert your own name, but you get the point.
Another point to keep in mind is that everyone else there is a little meet-phobic, too. Or they were once upon a time. For some more tips on breaking the ice, check out this episode of The Daily Idea.
- When Time Is Tight, Meet First, Ask Questions Later
Half the introductions you make or receive at conferences will be in the 15 minutes between sessions or while mingling from one conversation to another at a cocktail party. Make a human connection with folks, but know that you can get to know them, exchange business ideas and so on for days, weeks or years to come after you leave the conference. Introduce, shake hands, exchange cards, establish who you are and what you do, get the same from the other party, then be prepared to move on. If you have the opportunity to continue to conversation, do. If not, say, â€œIâ€™ll email you. Letâ€™s catch up when we have more time.â€ This makes efficient use of your networking time and allows them to do the same.
While I personally think No. 4 is all you really need, these tips will work at any conference, networking event or get-together. In terms of the bankroll that is my professional network, personal connections and blog audience, Iâ€™m confident Iâ€™ll leave Las Vegas with more chips than I came with.
IMAGE: “Shaking Hands” from Aidan Jones on Flickr.[tags]networking, conference, conferences, tips, howto, socialize[/tags]