At the time of writing this, World Domination Summit (WDS) is coming up. WDS is a popular conference for bloggers and entrepreneurs that’s held in Portland, OR each year. This year I’ll be hanging around on the fringes as an un-conferencer.
I went to at least ten unofficial meet-ups last year and, even though I didn’t attend the actual conference itself, I got a lot out of meeting people. I got so much out of it that I decided to slow travel my way around the world. I haven’t looked back since I made that decision. I currently balance my time between SE Asia and the US, mainly, but I also spent some time in Europe this year.
Conferences are a great way to network with likeminded people who may be just as multi-passionate as you. Last year I had the pleasure of meeting people I knew online for the first time, getting in touch with people I’d already met, and meeting new people I now consider good friends.
But networking can be difficult and overwhelming, especially if you’re an introvert. I’m grateful that this time around un-conferencing will feel like catching up. So here are some tips for getting the most of your conference or event experience if networking sounds like hard work to you.
1. Choose your angle
As well as crafting your elevator pitch, choose which project(s) you want to highlight and share and which message(s) you want to own. You can switch it up according to the interests and personalities of the people you meet, you can stick with being a multipotentialite and telling people what that means to you, or you can choose to “specialize” by telling people what you do and, most importantly, how what you do benefits people (think about your values and your big why).
2. Ground yourself
Networking events can be overwhelming. Networking is like speed dating in some ways, so you have to learn to ground yourself to keep yourself centered and in the moment. This means not getting too anxious when meeting people and honoring who you are. Take a deep breath. Connect with where you are now, not where you want to be, or where you were in the past.
3. Know your social limits
If you’re an introvert, plan out which meet-ups you want to attend. Remember that you can pick and choose and can go to as many or as few as you want. You get to choose how to participate. There are huge meet-ups and there are smaller ones. Which suit you best? Pace yourself. If you know you get overwhelmed in big crowds, give yourself downtown and take breaks.
4. Know your people
Once you know what your angle is, you’ll probably know who your people are. Who do you want to connect with? Who are the kinds of people you can help? Which types of people would you genuinely love to be friends with? The point isn’t to meet as many people as possible; it is to meet the right kind of people and then to make meaningful connections with them.
5. Follow up
Following up is an important step which is often forgotten about (guilty!). Follow up with people to let them know you enjoyed meeting them and reiterate who you are and how you help people. Use the business cards you collect as a guide, but there are plenty of other ways to follow up. Create a Twitter list of the people you’ve connected with. Add them on Facebook. Invite them to a free thirty-minute “coffee chat” over Skype. A simple hello can go a long way.
Now that you know how to navigate a conference, have fun and enjoy! What are some of your best tips for enjoying conferences and events? Let us know in the comments!