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Convention Networking 101

Getting the most from attending an industry-specific convention.

Industry-specific conferences and conventions are a hallmark in business networking.

As an attendee, you will be inundated with a who's who in your field -- from the headlining heavyweights delivering keynotes and breakout sessions to the newcomers looking to create a name and garner beneficial connections. The chaos of the convention floor can prove a sensory overload for the experienced and first-timers alike.

For that reason, before you pack your bags, you need a crash-course in Event Networking 101 to maximize your potential.

It is one thing to work a room at a local industry function, but it's another animal entirely when working the convention or conference floor surrounded by hundreds -- if not, thousands -- of likeminded individuals. There are numerous avenues to consider when preparing to attend, but there are a few staples to put into action to certify that your experience is a valuable one and you come home with new contacts, potential job opportunities and increased knowledge about your field.

The Convention Begins Before Takeoff

No one likes airline travel. There are few things more uncomfortable than a cramped cabin, yearning for an extra-inch of legroom and breathing recycled air for an inordinate amount of time. With imminent discomfort on the horizon for a span of several hours, there is a tendency to double-down on the comfort one can control, which usually involves dress and demeanor.

There's no doubt that a loose-fitting outfit and an early-morning mimosa (or two) takes away some of the irritations of travel, but if you're heading to the airport in shorts and a tee-shirt with a head full of bubbly, you're already starting your convention experience incorrectly.

The movie cliché involving a manic driver late to a meeting, weaving in-and-out of traffic, directing choice gestures at other drivers, just to arrive on time and realize the guy he cut-off is the same guy he's delivering a sales presentation to is exaggerated, but true.

When you're making your way through the airport, the convention is already under way. Every interaction should be treated as potential networking, and this means dressing and acting as you would on the convention floor, and ensuring your conduct and attire remain professional because you don't know who is who.

Meetings have been scheduled in the airport Starbucks line, so while the inclination may be to travel in a relaxed fashion in comfortable attire, most working professionals will tell you they would trade a few unpleasant hours for a job offer. 


Augment Your Experience: Deliver a Workshop
A superb way to create some buzz around the convention is to deliver a presentation or workshop. One great aspect of these events is that there is constantly something going on, from quick informational sessions to multi-hour seminars. Often, organizers are looking for individuals to fill out their extensive schedules.

The Convention is Over, but Networking Has Just Begun
You return home exhausted from multiple days of non-stop presentations and long-hours, but your work has only just begun.

It seems like a simple concept -- follow-up -- but it's astounding how many professionals believe their face-to-face efforts will be enough to immediately lead to a windfall of new ideas and job offers. Your mindset upon returning home should be one of "they met me, and they met my competition." Separate yourself from the pack. Email your new contact, convey how much you appreciated their time during such a busy event, and offer dates and times to continue your conversation. Twiddling your thumbs and waiting for the phone to ring often results in a net-zero gain. Proactivity is the key to success.

Regardless of your industry, or your status within it, your calendar should be highlighted with the dates that you're attending their annual conference or convention. Networking is a cornerstone of business, and a convention or conference is the premiere medium to make the most of your efforts.

Russell Trahan is president of PR/PR, a boutique public relations agency specializing in positioning clients in front of their target audience in print and online. For more information, please visit www.prpr.net or email mail@prpr.net for a free consultation.


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