Ahhh, networking...sounds scary to some of you doesn't it? We spend so much time making "computer" friends and writing that sometimes the idea of face to face networking can be daunting. But trust me, everyone has something they can use to their advantage while networking at a conference... even if the very ideas of talking to strangers makes your hands sweat.
And why should you trust what I have to say? Well for those of you who know me personally, I'm outgoing and usually have a lot of success when I attend conferences.
But here's the thing: None of it was accidental.
I remember someone laughing the first time I went to RWA Nationals when I said I didn’t care what classes I was taking because I was just going to hang out in the bar. It may have sounded silly but it was part of my plan. I went there to make connections and meet people.I knew people would be at the bar and I was going to meet them.
I had a plan! Was it perfect? No, but I had one.
I have been networking professionally for my career since 94. Being a hairdresser is all about selling yourself, making good first impressions, being prepared, executing a good service and follow up. Same things one needs to network and network well.
So in the next few days I would like to pass on some of the things I have learned.
Today I am going to discuss possibly the most important of all.
This is the hard part. Just like plotting your book, all good things come from good preparation. Its more than just business cards but planning what to say and where to go. I tried to break it into four easy steps.
1. WHAT IS YOUR AGENDA?
Why you are at the conference?To improve your craft?
Meet an agent?
Pitch your books?
Meet other authors?
All of the above?
My personal goal is always to make a good connection with one person each day. Just one...now come on, that isn't that hard when you think about it. Just one.
If your goal is to take a lot of classes, then your best chance of meeting people is in the classroom. So don’t sit with your friends. Find a stranger.
Personally, I would caution against only focusing on classes while attending a conference. There are great things you can learn but you can do that at home online, too. If you spent the money to attend a big conference you need to network.
Remember: Everyone else is there to network too!
2. MAKE A GAME PLAN
a. Dress for success. Sounds like a no brainer, but you would be surprised by what some people think is acceptable. You should look your best at all times, like you’re on a job interview for your dream job.
NO SWEATPANTS!!!! Get out your make-up, ladies!!! No frumpkins allowed.Writing is a business and just because we can wear sweat pants while we work, doesn't mean we can at a conference!
b. Identify where are you most comfortable meeting people?
The biggest part of networking is being where the people are so golden opportunities don’t pass you up.
There are basic places you meet people:
So think of the places you feel comfortable and put them into your plans to be there you wont miss serendipity stopping by.
Are you an early riser? The coffee shop.
Are classes your fave place? Sit buy a stranger.
Bit of a lush like yours truly? The bar. And frankly this is where 80% is done, is a great place to make friends!
Over wine sudden friendship springs....
c. Before you get on the plane, make sure you have an active Facebook account because I guarantee 90% of the people you meet will ask. And its becoming almost unacceptable not to have one.
3. BUSINESS CARDS AND PROMO
This is possibly the most important thing in preparation after psyching yourself up.
Once the conference is over and everyone has gone home this is all they have of you.
Things to avoid when making your business cards:
a. Shiny paper. The person who gets it can't make notes about who you are if its shiny.
b. Busy, dark backgrounds. If you use a dark card, make sure the back is white so people can write notes about you.
c. I would avoid putting your face on your card if you are using something you think is sexy or if your face consumes more than 1/4 or the card. If you put a pic of yourself on the card...think Real Estate Agent, where their face is in a box next to their name.
Your name and contact info are THE MOST IMPORTANT THING not some sexy/fun picture or an overexposed pic of your face.
d. I would even caution against having more than one book cover on the card. It tends to get busy
A busy crowded card is a forgotten card. KISS: Keep it simple stupid
If you want your cover on the card, make sure it is a thumbnail pic and your name is the most prominent feature.
e. Clear concise font, no fancy swirly stuff no one can read. Preferably a pale background with a matte finish.
They will get a lot of cards and you don't want them to forget you!
f. ALWAYS have your promo material handy. Maybe paperclip the card to your bookmark and tie it with a ribbon so you have something nice to hand folks.
The extra touches will be what they remember when they get home and are sifting thru that giant stack of promo and cards they have in their conference bag
g. Always say your name twice!
When you introduce yourself and when you hand them your card. Say your tagline.
Repetition for emphasis!
4. CONVERSATION STARTERS
My consultation with my customers is scripted. I ask the same questions every time and I ask then in the same order. This is because I do not want to miss something important. You can be just as prepared in ‘casual’ conversation
There’s nothing wrong with making a list of 5 or 10 interesting things to start conversations if you are nervous about talking to strangers.
"Have you attended RT before?"
"This is me 1st/2nd conference. How about you?"
"Wow, this is a really nice hotel!"
"Are you a writer?"
"What classes have you taken so far? Wasn’t that a great welcome speech?"
Well now that you have a start on how to prepare yourself, you are one step closer to having a successful conference. Some of these things may seem simple but they are great reminders.
Stay tuned for tips on how to execute all of your preparation when you get to the conference!
"Spicing up your love life one naughty read at a time!"