We’ve all heard the virtues of networking. Whether it excites you, terrifies you, or you’re generally indifferent towards it, networking should be one of the reasons you’re coming to SMX West 2010. With this popular event just around the corner we can all use a reminder of the best practices. With a deliberate strategy in mind you’re bound to leave with valuable new relationships.
Come With A Plan: Many people have no problem coming to a conference and meeting lots of new faces, but to make the most of your time you should be strategic about your approach. Decide who you want to meet, or at least the types of people you’d like to speak with. Try to find out where they’ll be: which sessions, which parties, which hotels. It’s easy to meet a ton of new people at an event like SMX West, but decide first who you would like to talk to, what you would like to ask, and what you can offer to the conversation.
TIP: If there are speakers you want to meet, hang out after the session – they are more than happy to speak with you.
TIP: Hang out at the hotel lobby bar after 10pm. At SMX West in particular everyone hangs out here well into the night.
Get Involved: Even if you aren’t a speaker at SMX West, there will be plenty of opportunities to join the conversation. For example during sessions, participate in Q&A, volunteer information, and generally do your part to add value to the conversation. This will probably bring up issues that several others share and you’ll be surprised how effective an icebreaker those contributions can make in the lobby later.
Tip: A great question to ask at lunch or dinner is what is the best thing you learned today – everyone usually takes away something different at lunch. One industry friend asks this at dinner toward the end of every show.
Pick Your Place: Targeted workshops, such as the all-day In-house SEM exchange on the Friday allow a plethora of opportunities to get involved with like-minded people. Even just arriving early to a session so that you can meet the person sitting next to you can be an effective way to meet people interested in the same topics as you. Attend after-parties and accept special invites – or create your own. I’m organizing a dinner on the Tuesday March 2nd for in-house search marketers. Email emily [at] seoinhouse dot com if you’re interested in joining us!
Tip: Come to dinner with in-house search marketers on Tuesday March 2nd. Email Emily [at] seoinhouse dot com
TIP: Look for the birds of a feather tables during lunch. These are arranged by topic and are full of people ready to talk about the same topic you are interested in.
Give And Thou Shall Receive: It will be awfully apparent if your attempts at networking are driven by selfish motivations. Instead, the best relationships are born when you can offer something to someone without any hidden motives. A juicy piece of advice, a helpful introduction to someone you know, or a great referral creates lasting impressions with far greater weight than a business card.
Play the Matchmaker: Introductions are hugely important to networking. It immediately establishes a degree of trust and association. This is one of the best gifts you can give a fellow conference-goer. Likewise, if there’s someone you’ve been dying to meet ask someone for an introduction.
Tip: If you don’t know anyone, we’ll help you meet a few people. Hunt us down, twitter us @seoinhouse – there is no reason to not be meeting a ton of new people at SMX West.
Keep in Touch: Even outside of your networking ‘hit list’, you’re bound to meet a lot of new people at SMX West. Send a quick follow-up email in the day or two following the conference and if you can deliver on a promise or offer new insight into an earlier conversation, all the better. Let them know you’re now following them on Twitter and invite them to do the same. Although you may not have too much in common now, it could be an invaluable relationship to keep for the future – some of my best industry friends are those that I met years ago and casually at lunch one day, I made an effort to keep in touch with them and we’re now great friends.
Tip: Before you leave the office for SMX West, block your calendar for the full day when you return to email all your great new contacts and to organize all the notes you came back with.