Comprehensive conventions like the Content Marketing Conference are a whirl of activity: in addition to keynotes, master classes, and sessions, there’s also the crown jewel of community events: networking. Simply put, the sheer concentration of content professionals gathered in one place is its own phenomena – and, as you might imagine, a huge group of people that communicate for a living has its own frenetic energy. So how do you make sure that you’re getting, and more importantly following through with, quality contacts instead of just collecting business cards? Here are a few tips for navigating “beyond the handshake” to build great after-convention connections:
Set Up for Success
Before the conference, spot-check your website, blog, LinkedIn, and other social media presences to make sure they accurately reflect who you and what you do. Not all connections will start face-to-face, and online research is inevitable. In the weeks leading up to the conference, talk about your planned attendance and tap into event hashtags to find other convention-goers. By connecting ahead of time, you’ll have a leg up on any competitors in your field as well as ready-made tablemates for meal breaks and session discussions. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious or you’ve been tasked with sales, this is also an excellent time to set up an RSVP pitch/meet-and-greet after the conference has closed for an evening, at a local bar or restaurant.
Come Armed with Your Info
Half the effort of connection lies squarely on your shoulders, so make sure you’re holding up your end. Have plenty of business cards on hand and make sure they’re accurate: cross-outs and verbal corrections don’t make a great first impression. If you’re in a service-based business, small branded merchandise makes an excellent companion to your card – useful items like phone chargers, tote bags, or hand sanitizer will keep your brand visible and create “where did you get that?” interest in fellow convention attendees.
Collect and Connect
Business cards are an enduring method of connection, but in a digital world, they aren’t always the best choice. Cards can get left behind, lost, or damaged during travel – and losing a bunch of warm leads to an unchecked hotel room drawer will take the wind out of anyone’s “sales.” A new wave of mobile phone apps has made snapping a scan of a business card incredibly easy: CamCard, available for both iOs and Android, is one of the most well-known. If the info you need to capture is more long-form – say, a contract for services drawn up at the convention or a multi-page brochure – you can also preserve a crisp PDF of it with the same method. Companion app CamScanner – also on Apple and Android – does it in seconds.
Connections, by their very nature, aren’t a passive activity. You’ll need to follow up at a reasonable time period post-conference. The space between that last day and your email is entirely up to you, but sooner is typically better than later. You usually don’t want to email for about a week, however – you’ll want to give you contacts time to get back, shake off any potential jet lag, and catch up on work before revitalizing your pitch or conversation. A great way to break the ice is with a news article or blog that touches on something you discussed – it will serve as a reminder and make your re-introduction feel less like a pitch and more like a genuine greeting.
Successfully leveraging your convention contacts into solid sales or powerful network allies is easy with a little forethought and follow-through. Be sure to keep an eye out for their emails and calls as well: they might end up opening the door and saving you time and effort. Above all, remain polite, approachable, and knowledgeable, and each year you return to the conference will be the start of something bigger and better than the year before.
Delany M is a well-rounded freelancer with an emphasis in product descriptions, landing pages and articles. With over a decade of experience to her credit, she has enjoyed writing for national chain retailers, small e-commerce boutiques and a wide range of service providers. She prides herself in going “beyond the word” to capture the essence of a brand or company, ensuring copy that is as noteworthy as the goods and services her clients provide.