Paul Nazareth, Philanthropic Advisory Services, Scotia Private Client Group
Conferences are one of the most powerful ways to learn, grow a peer support network and grow professionally.
How can you take full advantage of your time and organization’s funds invested to send you? Here are some tips we hope you find useful:
1. Know thyself. My favourite authors call conferences the “Olympics of networking“. Extroverts thrive but what if you’re not one? How do you keep your energy up and survive these crazy few days? Here’s a great read for the thinking-class “introverts” who dread these noisy, busy affairs. Don’t focus on the formal program, go off the beaten path. An example of this the great networking dinners being hosted at AFP Congress in Toronto this year. Going ‘off site’ is a way to have deeper conversations with peers one on one, seasoned conference veterans know this is the best way to establish lasting professional connections.
2. Bring lots of business cards! Yes, cards are still importing with networking, even in a digital world. Write down what you spoke about with that person to follow up and if you ask them to send you something – write it down for them on your card. Here’s a great read on business card etiquette.
3. Try the social media thing. Notice, this is #3. Yes, I’m the LinkedIn enthusiast but I’m advising you to NOT send connection requests to everyone you met – do you go steady before the first date? Spend some time before you write their name in ink in your digital-address book. DO follow them on Twitter though! It’s the passive non-intrusive networking tool so follow everyone you met! If you’re not on Twitter, now is the time to sign up and use this as a free skill building opportunity! See if there is a #Twitterteam to support, coach and engage. Read this great post on how to engage during a conference.
4. Don’t wait for meetings to happen. Take a look at the delegate list, reach out to people you want to speak with and book a meeting. At a break, in the morning, whenever you can. Why fight for time with a famous speaker after the session when there’s a long line when you know you can spend 10 well invested minutes with them one on one?
5. Do your homework before. You’re making the time to go, your organization is spending money for you to go so like this great article on LinkedIn says, do a little homework to get the most from the speakers. Y’know how at the end of the session a speaker says “does anyone have any questions?” – be that person with a question. Everyone in the room will remember you (and the speaker will never forget that you saved them from that horrible crickets sound).
6. Share before you return to work. They say it’s not how you start but how you finish. The networking secret is actually in the follow up. It’s hard to make time to review your notes when you get back to work, so here’s an idea – write down golden nuggets for other members of your team or peers who didn’t attend on post-it notes in your notebook in sessions. Go over your notes in max 1 hour before you return to the office and triage the Post-It notes via email. There’s nothing peers appreciate more than an email “ I heard a great idea, a speaker referenced a great article and I thought of your work…”.
7. The ultimate follow up in a digital world: a handwritten card. Our inboxes are full, it’s too easy to hit delete on an email and yes, our constant connectivity has killed civility! Bring it back by picking up a blank card, writing a note about the impact this person had on you, what you learned from them (speaker at a session, someone you had a great conversation with, someone who taught you something) and throw in a business card (yes, even if you already gave them one).
Networking is all about connecting for success, cause and career.
Paul Nazareth is a former charity fundraiser turned philanthropic advisor with Scotia Private Client Group. Networking as an AFP member has had a big impact on his career and he is obsessed about helping peers do better and live better through connecting with each other. Find him on the web or follow him on Twitter at @UinvitedU.