Attending events and networking are the most important things you can do for your career. Online conferences and webinars are a great way to learn, but nothing will replace the value of being there, according to Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing. I couldn’t agree more. Here are some of Matt’s reasons and insights:
1. Get that ‘out of office’ perspective. Away from the regular tugs at your time, the same four walls you stare at, you can have a different perspective. You’ll naturally think about things differently and you will get an entirely new set of stimuli (visual, auditory, written) to spark your creativity and innovation. No matter how you do it, getting outside of your regular environment is worthwhile. Why do you think teams go “offsite” for executive meetings and brainstorms? Same reason.
2. Focus on new opportunities (with your complete attention). If you’re going to an event or conference, give it your full attention. Don’t travel across the country only to stay in your hotel room on a ‘regularly scheduled’ conference call you could have just done from your office. Let yourself be immersed in the event itself with your full attention. Sit through keynotes and panels, focusing time on the trade show floor, scheduling blocks of time with important partners or customers or meeting new people. You won’t have these opportunities anywhere or anytime else.
3. Meet new people and deepen existing relationships. Your social networks are great, but nothing can replace doing it with a handshake, a smile and seeing the whites of their eyes. Whether you do it in the lobby of the conference hotel, on the trade show floor, at the evening events or while playing golf, these are the relationships that go deeper, that develop long-term preference and business value for you over time. It’s differentiating, in your favor, in a way that online networking can never be.
4. Talk to the vendors. They are their to sell you something and some will either be too aggressive or ignore you. But every vendor on the show floor know something that you don’t. Learn from them. Ask them questions about their slice of the industry, what they’re seeing from their customers, what they see moving forward. These vendors often have the best insights into what’s now and what’s next.
5. Use the casual moments to your advantage. Set up quick coffee meetings with people you’ve just met, or haven’t seen in a while. If you need to catch up on email, do so in the hotel lobby or in an otherwise public place so you’re more likely to run into someone you want to talk to. Invite new people to lunch or dinner or drinks to get to know them and learn from them. If you do eat along, do so at a location close to the conference and eat at the bar. You will probably be sitting next to someone else from the conference you can talk to and learn from. Take a long, early-morning walk and take a notepad or recorder to record new ideas, priorities of the day, etc.