In-person conferences are coming back, so it’s that time again to start networking. However, many people go to these conferences unprepared. They don’t know what to do and who to talk to. That is the importance of a goal even before registering for a conference. Join Sam Reeve, Char Miller, and Sumit Singla as they talk to Greg Roche about creating a networking strategy for your in-person conferences. Greg is the Vice President of Compensation of United Health Group. He is also the author of The Fast and Easy Guide to Networking For Introverts. Registering for a conference? Learn what to do before and after, and rid yourself of whatever’s holding you back from networking today.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to the show. Thank you so much for joining us wherever you may be. It does not matter because, at the end of the day, it is the same mission. We are here to engage, energize and elevate your employees and your company. Each week we get together, we have an awesome panel of hosts, and we always bring on a guest speaker. We have fun conversations centered around the workplace, different issues, and topics that come up.
My name is Jules. I will be introducing everyone. Let’s start with Char. She has an HR background, she also has her own company, Mountain and Sea Health Advocacy. She is also a career coach for expats. It is a new venture she is diving into. It is called Mountain and Sea Career Coaching. She consults with Sam’s company, CompTeam as well. She is a very busy lady.
We also have Howard. She is a compensation expert. He works with Sam at CompTeam. He has worked for some large companies like Barclays, Citigroup and JPMorgan. We also have Sumit, who is an HR professional and people strategist. He helps companies of all sizes all around the world, some of which have included Deloitte. He specializes in bringing in new and exciting HR practices.
That is our panel, and we also have our fantastic guest speaker. We have Greg Roche. We have had him on the forum before. He is not a first-timer. We loved him so much that we brought him back on. If you do not know Greg, you maybe were not on the last panel that we had with Greg. He is an author. He has written a book called The Fast and Easy Guide to Networking for Introverts.
He is a networking expert. He has worked in human resources for many years. He is a speaker. We are going to be discussing how to network in person. How do we do that? We have forgotten it along the way. We have been isolated for so long. Masks are finally coming off. We are going back into the offices. We are going to conferences and live events. Greg is here to guide us and coach us a little bit on what we can be doing and how we can best network in person. Welcome back, Greg. We are excited to have you here, and we hope you all enjoy this session.
Thanks, Jules. Thanks for having me back. Sam, Char, Sumit and Howard, thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to this conversation. You gave me the intro and the background. When you asked, “Would you want to come back and talk again about networking or something else?” It was great timing because I have been working on how people start getting back to networking at conferences, in-person or at events.
It is a little bit strange for me because my whole book is about how you network without going to events. There are a lot of things that translate from connecting with people one-on-one and online that you can use as you start to go back to these in-person events. We have not done that for a couple of years.
We have been locked in our houses. We have not gotten out to see some people. I went to an event here in Denver, Colorado. Our Rocky Mountain Total Rewards Association had a get-together. It was the first one they had in-person in several years. We got to get together and talk. People were like, “This is great. I miss the interaction and the conversation.”
I started thinking about how we can hone our networking game when we go to these conferences, especially if we are people that do not tend to gravitate toward large groups of people. We do not talk a lot in those groups or we are more introverted. How can we put together a strategy to help us take advantage of these conferences?
I want to talk a little bit about how you can put this strategy together. I’m going to use an example as I talk through this. The WorldatWork Conference is coming up in May 2022. I do not have any association with WorldatWork. I do not have any skin in this game. That is a total rewards conference that is coming up. I figured it would be a good example to use as we talk through this.
I am not going. I have a personal conflict with the dates. I won’t be there but if I was going, this is what I would do. I wanted to think about it from this standpoint. I have gone to a lot of these conferences before. I’ve always felt like I’m spending quite a bit of money to go to these and I’m going to learn a lot. There are going to be a lot of sessions. It is educational.
I always walk away with some good ideas. I always wish I would have made more connections and met more of the people who are there. These are people who are like me in terms of career. They are into comp and benefits. They are talking about the same things. It would be great if I had the opportunity to connect with them afterward. I always feel like it is a bit of a missed opportunity that I did not meet people more, have those conversations, and develop those relationships. That is what I have been kicking around my head. If I was going to go to this conference, what would that look like?
Social media can be seen as bad but it can also be seen as good. It gives a low-risk proposition of connecting with others. Click To Tweet
I break it down into three pieces. We will talk about each of these three pieces. It is simple and not complicated. It’s before, during and after. What would you do before the conference? What would you do during the conference? What do you want to do after the conference? Focus on networking.
The first thing is networking starts as soon as you register for the conference. As soon as you have done that, you should start your networking process. You know the dates you are going to be there. You have booked your flight. You have made sure you are going to stay in the hotel. You have gotten some sort of email or information from the conference that says, “Here is the schedule.”
You are probably going to pick a content track or pick the sessions that you are going to go to. I’m looking at the WorldatWork schedule. It is May 23rd through the 25th, 2022 in Atlanta. They have all the sessions by day, but the great thing about all the sessions is they have all the presenters there too. These are people who are experts on these things. For the most part, you can click on it and either get to their LinkedIn or some information about them. As you think about this, it would be great you will probably stand out because while this seems obvious, I do not think a lot of people do this. Connect with the presenter before the conference. You can follow them on LinkedIn. You do not even necessarily have to connect.
If you go and see if they are posting on LinkedIn, you can follow them. If you are connected, you can send them a message and say, “I’m excited to hear your presentation on blank at the WorldatWork conference. I would love to chat with you at some point during the conference.” It’s something as easy as that. They may or may not respond, but your name is probably going to pop up in their LinkedIn message box. If it is their email, you will be in their inbox. They may look at your profile. You have at least laid the groundwork to have that in-person conversation when you get to the conference.
That is one thing I would say to start doing right away. You can scroll through this. There are a lot of sessions. I’m not saying you have to connect with everybody because what is the real possibility that you are going to talk to every single one of these people at the conference. The ones that you are interested in and you would like to ask more questions and have a conversation about, connect with those people. Do one a day. I’m not saying you have to spend hours and hours sending connection requests. Spend some time connecting with those people.
That’s an outstanding idea. When I do career coaching, I talk about utilizing LinkedIn in that fashion. Identifying the pain points of certain companies or individuals utilizing that tool is a great recommendation, particularly if you are trying to work with XYZ company and you identify a particular individual or certain expertise to connect with them in a personal way. It’s not just saying, “I’m a job applicant. I want to work for you.” It’s more of, “I would love to meet you and get to know you,” versus trying to sell yourself or who you are. I think that is a fabulous idea.
Also, Greg, you can do a shoot-off. We were talking about social media earlier. We send out a note to our network saying, “I’m going to be at this conference. If you are going to be there, I hope to see you there.”
The second point there is not only connecting with the speakers, but all of these conferences usually have a webpage or a hashtag. If you look at the bottom of the page for the conferences, there are things for Twitter. Tweet that you are going. See if there are hashtags. Continue to write posts or write things and updates saying, “I’m looking forward to being there. Who else is going to be there?” You could throw that out there and who knows. It could be somebody that is not a speaker who saw that and says, “I will be there.” Take the opportunity to make that connection online. Setting up to make it easier so that when you get there, you almost got a list of people you intend to talk to in person.
That seems to be a hard thing. At least it is hard for me. I know it is hard for other people who are introverts. When you go to a conference, it can be overwhelming. There are so many people. You’re like, “Who am I going to start talking to?” You’ve got some people with whom you have already established that online relationship. You have maybe traded some messages about what you are looking to learn or who you want to connect with.
Once you see that person, it is much easier to start a conversation. There is no, “I have got to come in with some opening line or some ice breaker.” It is, “Good to meet you in person. It is great to see you. How are things going?” You can then start the conversation from there. It is a lot less intimidating to do that online.
We were talking about social media. There are a lot of things about social media that can be bad in terms of consuming our attention or taking our time away from us. It is also a lot easier way to connect with people. It’s a low-risk proposition to do that. I talk about LinkedIn all the time but you can do it on any of them. That is just my platform of choice, but whatever is more appropriate for the people you are trying to connect with, you can pretty much use it to connect with them.
People love to talk about themselves. If you can do that research ahead of time, have some facts about that individual, maybe their prior work experience or their interests, and get them talking about themselves. Oftentimes, that individual will find you more appealing because you are interested in them and know a few facts about them. It is great to do that research ahead of time.
A lot of these conferences have these apps that go with a conference too. The last time I went to WorldatWork, they had an app that showed all the attendees ahead of time. It was easy to reach out given the app. That seemed very helpful.
Usually, they do or bigger conferences do. That is a great recommendation to get that because that will help you also see who is there. In my experience, I do not know if I have gotten the app in advance. Maybe they are doing that now. That is a thing where when you get there, get the app downloaded. Start looking through that and see how you can engage with people. See if there’s an opportunity to connect with some other people and break that ice, so it is a little bit simpler to start that conversation.
When you are at the networking parts of the conference, they have networking things built-in around meals and after the sessions for the day. Walking into a room full of people can sometimes be a little bit intimidating or exhausting for some people. If you have some of these things pre-set up, it is a little bit simpler to have that one-on-one conversation and not just walk into a room full of people and how do I break into this circle of people that are standing around talking? If you have those things set up, it may be a little less intimidating.
The other thing is, before you go, set your goal. What do you want to get out of this? You want to get knowledge and information from the sessions, but in terms of the connections, is there a particular person, group of people, type of person or companies that you want to connect with? Get specific on that. If there are certain companies that you see and there is going to be somebody there from those companies, have that written down somewhere and get specific.
If there is an individual speaker that you want to talk to and maybe you have not connected with, write that down. If you are going through the app, you can add this to your goal when you get there. There are some people that you see and you are like, “They work for this place. They do this or that. They are in benefits.”
I’m in comp. I want to talk to somebody in benefits because I want to break into that. I’m talking specifically about the person’s name or the company’s name. If you can’t, that is fine. You can be more vague, but the more specific you get, the more helpful this will be. This is going to come into play when you get to the conference in terms of how you can use or have other people help you make connections at the conference. Get specific on what you are trying to do as a goal going into the conference. It’s not just, “I want to go for a couple of days, stay in a nice place and sit in a bunch of sessions all day.” Get more specific about what you like to walk away with.
You have set up your strategy or you connect with people in advance. You maybe have some people that you have said, “I will see you at the conference.” You have a goal. People know you are going to be there. You show up to the conference. There are a ton of people, and everybody is going to meet a bunch of new people. How can you be memorable?
The reason why I say be memorable when you get to the conference is because if you do something memorable, people will remember you. They are likely to also help you network at the conference. They are going to introduce you or say to their other conference attendees, “You need to meet Greg because he is doing this. I remember him and he would be a great connection for you.”
My point here is you are going to want to stand out in some ways. I get that with introverts. They do not always want to stand out. I understand that. Not everybody is going to want to do all of these things. Some of this stuff you can dial up or down depending on your own personal comfort. I would leave that to you to figure out where that comfort is.
The first thing is name tags. At every conference, you have a name tag. Sometimes they are huge and sometimes they are small. They come on lanyards, and there are all these different things. Do not pass up the chance to make your name tag different. The reason why I say that is everybody looks at everybody’s name tag. You say, “Who are you? Where are you from? What company do you work for?” If you do something different there, you can be memorable. It can be as simple as taking your name tag, and on the front of it, the back of it or wherever you want, writing something else on it and adding it to your name tag.
I did this at this event. I said, “Greg Roche, United Health Group.” I wrote underneath it. I said, “I’m hiring comp consultants.” That was what I wrote. Everybody came up to me and was like, “You are hiring people. I have got somebody I could refer to you.” I did not even have to say anything. They came up to me and I got a couple of referrals for people that we looked at for some different positions.
If you are not hiring, you could say, “I want to meet benefits leaders. I want to meet somebody who works at such and such company.” Think about what makes sense there. This goes back to the goal that I was talking about. If you have a goal to meet certain people, you can possibly put that on your name tag. Let’s say there were five companies you wanted to meet somebody from. You could put all five on there.
Don't pass up the chance to make your name tag different. Be memorable so people will remember you. Click To Tweet
The reason for doing that is once you have done that, you are standing out. People are going, “This guy changed his name tag. What a simple idea. Why did not I think about that?” He said he wants to meet people in these five companies. They are going to remember that likely. Maybe not consciously but subconsciously, they are going to remember that.
The next time they talk to somebody that works at one of those companies, they are going to say, “Greg has got it on his name tag. He wants to meet somebody from one of these companies. You need to go meet this guy. Let me introduce you. He is standing over there. You can go meet him.” You then get introduced.
Doing something with your name tag that is a little different and that stands out. It gives people the opportunity to remember something about you and also helps connect you to other people that are at the conference. I would even go so far as to say, “You never know what the size is going to be.” If you were planning ahead, you could take an index card or a piece of paper, or you could even go to Office Depot or Staples and get a box of the name tags like a small of cards. In advance, write down what you are looking for.
If you want to get crazy about it, you could do something like print your LinkedIn QR code on your name tag or something to put in there. People would be like, “What is that?” You are like, “That is my LinkedIn profile.” They scan it and go to your profile on their phone and connect with you. There are a lot of things you can do with this to try to stand out. Other people have said things like wearing something memorable. Not everybody wants to stand out in those ways, but if you have a weird hat or some original hat, or you have some piece of clothing that is your signature color or something that you wear.
I even read an article about this lady who has this coffee mug that is bright pink and stands out. She walks around with it all the time. Her point is, “Everybody is going to come to talk to the lady with a pink coffee mug.” It is a way to attract attention. Not everybody wants to attract attention. You dial this up or down however you want. At the minimum, do something to make your name tags stand out a little bit so that people remember you.
Greg, you were talking about business cards. What is your take on business cards? I have been seeing these electronic cards that are out there. People are a little bit more shy about handing out cards nowadays after the pandemic. What is your thought there?
I have personal thoughts about that. I do not hand out business cards and that is me personally. I know a lot of other people love to do it. There are many other ways to exchange your information. I have collected many business cards at conferences that go in a drawer and I never look at them again. That is just on me.
There are other people I know that have apps that scan business cards. They go into their contacts and they manage it. If you do that, that’s great. That sounds good. I do not tend to hand them out because I end up carrying them around. I forget to give them out. That is just me. If somebody says, “Do you have a business card?” I say, “They don’t have those where I work.” When people go, “Where do you work?” I say, “The 21st century.” They go, “Okay, I get it.”
What I usually do is I take my phone and the LinkedIn app has a way that you go in. Everybody has a QR code in the app. You bring up the QR code. Somebody else can scan it and they can have your profile. They can either connect, message, follow or do whatever they want. That is how I exchange my information and it is the same if I meet somebody else.
I have it on my phone. I took a screenshot of my QR code because I always forget how to get to it in the app. I go into my photos and go back to my QR code for LinkedIn, and show that to people. That is my opinion. For other people, if the business card is the way you want to go, that is great. It is just a matter of, how are you going to use that?
Going back to standing out, if you are just handing out business cards and you are like everybody else, how do you make your business cards stand out? People get creative and original with those. Maybe you can do that. That is not something I have intended to do, but it does not mean it does not work. That is my own opinion on it.
There are other apps you can use to send your information to people and stuff. I do not know a lot about those. To me, apps come and go. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are not. I try to make it as simple as possible. That is exactly why I have a picture of my QR code for LinkedIn on my phone to make sure that there is nothing that is going to get in the way of me exchanging my information with somebody.
Even down here in the last several months, I have collected many business cards. They are in a big old box. I will probably not even look at them. It is creating a lot more clutter as we try to be more minimalistic. Certainly, it is good to try to capture at least the person’s picture that you talk to. I do not know if you are like me where you are talking to the person within two seconds and you are forgetting their name. They said it two minutes ago. How embarrassing is it to say, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?” If you could connect their face with their name and at least try to remember that, getting their LinkedIn profile is a perfect way to do that.
The point I make here where it says go beyond your headline is we all think it is great to go into the conference knowing, “Here is who I am, here is where I work, here is what I do.” When I say headline, I’m talking about your LinkedIn headline. What do you have on your headline? Is that what you are going to tell people? That is fine.
I would encourage you, in the spirit of being memorable, to think about what is that one-line phrase or two-line phrase whenever somebody says, “What do you do?” Do you want to say, “I’m in total rewards at such and such company?” Do you want to say, “I’m focused on attracting and retaining the best talent in my industry by XYZ,” or whatever you’re working on. What are the problems or things that you are trying to solve or work on? That could be one way.
Get a little bit deeper instead of what I do in terms of my job title and more on, “I solve this problem for these people by doing these things.” Make it a little more interesting and as creative as you can get, try to make that stand out. You are not like, “I’m doing comp consulting.” It is fine. There is nothing wrong with saying that. We have all done that. Everybody is going to say that. The point is you want other people to say, “You need to meet this person.” The whole idea of being memorable is that the people you meet tell other people to meet you. You are continuing to make different connections. That is a little bit about that.
As we talked about prepping your goal, if your goal is I want to meet somebody at these companies, I want to meet this person, I want to meet somebody who has created a long-term incentive plan from scratch and put it in place because I love to talk to them about how they did it. That is specific. You may or may not find somebody like that but you never know. In some sessions, they could hear a speaker say something and say, “I need to tell Greg that he needs to talk to this person.”
It is getting more specific about what you tell people. The target list of a company is something I talk to people about all the time when it comes to one-on-one networking. You mentioned it a little bit earlier when you said, “If you are easy to help, it is a lot easier to help you.” The target list makes it easy to help because an individual can look at that and say, “I know somebody that works here. I met somebody at this conference that works at these places. Let me introduce you.”
That goes back to your prep, whether that is on a piece of paper, a note-card or a physical list that you can show to somebody that they will put in their memory, usually subconsciously. When they meet somebody from one of those, your name will pop up and they will say, “I got to introduce you to these people.” That is the other piece of that, using your prep to make this work a little bit better for you at the conference.
All of these are designed so that as somebody who is introverted, people come to talk to you as opposed to you having to go, break the ice, make the first move, and start the conversation. My problem is I always feel like that is where I struggle the most. I struggle the most with being the one who makes the first move and breaks open the conversation. If somebody comes up and starts talking to me, I’m perfectly comfortable having the conversation. I try to think about what can I do to get people to talk to me, as opposed to me trying to go up there and be like, “How are you doing? What is going on?” That is how I approach it.
I was wondering what your thoughts are on this. I meet so many people that are comfortable with their companies and their positions. Years go by and they do not even bother to update their headlines or their profiles, or as we were talking about earlier having outdated-looking pictures and things. Why do you think many people put that on the back burner?
We do not know what is happening in our industries and what changes may impact our current jobs, our roles, our positions, or if we need to make a drastic move to a different company or whatever. It’s not just in our career but also in our expectations in work. Your manager might expect you to have connections with other companies. Why do you think many people put all that on the back burner?
We have short-term memories. We forget what it was like to search for a job. As soon as we get a job, we are relieved that we got a job. We just want to focus on that and not worry about ever having to look for one again. The problem is that it is not realistic. You are going to be looking for a job multiple times during your career, sometimes several times. Sometimes it is your choice and sometimes it is not your choice. It is always one of those things that whenever I talk to people about why they don’t network, it is usually, “I don’t have time. I don’t know anybody. It is not a priority right now because I have a job.”
I always try to tell people that a network is a garden. It takes time to grow. If you plant a seed now, you can’t expect that there is going to be food on that plant tomorrow. You got to start now when you do not need a job. It is the most effective time to network. That is hard for people, especially when it comes to online networking. They feel that if I go to LinkedIn and I update my profile, my boss is going to think I’m not happy and I’m looking for a job. They are going to see me updating or something. They are going to be like, “Why are you on LinkedIn? Are you looking for a job?”
Networking is about developing professional relationships that benefit both parties based on trust and respect. Click To Tweet
That doesn’t have to be the case. There are a lot of reasons to be on LinkedIn frequently. A couple of those are keeping up with trends and finding other people who are doing what you are doing and are talking about it. It’s connecting so you can share knowledge. You go to this conference and you meet all these people, and that is okay. Your boss expects you to go, collaborate with people, get knowledge and bring it back.
Being on LinkedIn on a daily basis is almost like an ongoing conference if you use it that way. It is a way to find those people and share that information and knowledge or at least find the people who have it. The other thing, and I try to turn it around with people saying that, is your work on a team. That team is probably going to need to hire some people at some point.
Isn’t it better to hire people you have a relationship with and maybe know what they do, can’t do or you have like talked to them at least to get them in the process than to host a wreck or something out there on a job board and get a bunch of people? You have no idea who they are. All you look at it as a piece of paper with their accomplishments on it, maybe their LinkedIn profile and try to make a decision. You have a couple of interviews over a number of hours and you got to make a decision.
If you can be out there on LinkedIn as an individual who is connecting with people in your industry and your function, you’re seeing who is doing things and who seems to be good talent because you can see their comments, posts and where they have gone. You maybe have that conversation and they are in your talent pipeline. You open a rack. You go to your boss and be like, “I got three people that I think would be great. I know them all. I have interacted with them online. We should talk to them.” Whether you are the boss or you are working on the team and you bring that to your boss, you are going to stand out.
For people who tell me, “I do not want to get online and update my profiles. I feel bad about being on LinkedIn because I’m not looking for a job.” Those two things I say are great reasons to make yourself feel better about being on there. I have wasted the time that I’m on social media. The last one is who knows what is going to happen.
In the last several years, you could have been a superstar performer and on top of your game in 2020 in the hospitality industry. Within a couple of weeks, it completely shut down and they were laying off thousands of people. You do not know what is going to happen. You might as well be the one who has been ready with your network so you can quickly move than the one who is starting from scratch with everybody else.
Careers do not last more than sometimes 2 or 3 years anymore. I would also say working for a large organization of 160,000 employees, on the other hand, even internally, the beauty of working in HR is you know all the leaders of all the major departments. It was odd when I thought departments get siloed in their own function and do not reach out to colleagues either in different regions or different types of departments that could effectively help them in their roles. If you want to be a true performer and succeed in your current company, you have to get to know people throughout that organization. It is a vital skillset that your bosses and executives expect of their people.
You have to network internally in some of these large companies nowadays too. Before we move on, I would like to ask a question to Sumit. We are talking about how to prepare for conferences and how to network within conferences. Sumit, across the globe and the different locations that you have been in, I know you likely have gone to conferences in many different areas. Do you see some of the same trends? Are there any cultural differences?
In my part of the world, it is a little tougher to start a conversation which would simply begin with, “The air conditioning not working right.” We do not make small talk the same way. It is something that we are now starting, thanks to a lot of Americanization of organizations. Some of the ideas that Greg spoke about have done that because putting a name tag with a QR code right here is a little tricky. What I have done in the past is a name tag here but a sticker saying, “If you have an HR question, connect with me,” then a QR code on the arm. If somebody is a little shy coming right up to me and pointing a camera in my face, he can come over to the side, scan and connect.
There is an app that I have only used once. It is called HiHello, where you can have multiple versions of a business card. You can have different kinds of branding. For example, in my role, I solve different kinds of problems. I can have a different card as a consultant, a speaker, a writer and so forth. It becomes a little easy because I can simply take out my phone, show the person the right QR code, and hope that I’m not getting confused in giving the right code to the right person.
In terms of pre-preparation, the apps are catching on, as we discussed. A lot of times, you can network a little easier without starting off a conversation. The breakout rooms and the fireside chats with certain speakers help in breaking the ice a little bit. A good speaker tries to encourage you to talk. The only thing I warn people against when attending a conference is if you are planning to compliment a speaker or a writer on their book, make sure you read the book first because you might say, “Greg, I enjoyed your book. I think it was phenomenal.” Greg goes, “Which part was your favorite?” Be prepared and be authentic when you are trying to connect.
I love the sticker idea because that is easy. You could do that before you even got there. You just write down whatever you want to put on the sticker. You show up, you pop that on your name tag, and people all of a sudden will come to ask you questions or start talking to you. That is a great idea. The piece is about connecting in person. It goes back to when you set up these times, you prepared, and you made some online connections with people, and now you are at the conference. Be sure to have those conversations, talk to those people and follow up on those.
It again goes back to something Char said at the beginning that I like and is something I always tell people. Whenever they are having a conversation, whether at a conference or connecting online and having that first real conversation, ask people about themselves. I always tell people that it makes it much easier for you in the conversation.
I tell people, “The topic that people know the most about is their favorite thing to talk about.” I do not mean that in a narcissistic way, but we all know the most about ourselves and our experiences. Some people say, “I do not like to talk about myself.” When you have a one-on-one conversation, “Tell me what you are working on? Tell me, what is the biggest problem for you? What is a challenge that you are working on? What was the one thing you wanted to get out of this conference when you came here?”
Let them talk. It is not a time for you to say what you’re doing, what you want, and all those things. It is time for you to listen to what the other person is saying. Try to understand, what is it that they are challenged with or what is it they are struggling with? Find those opportunities to either connect them with another person, give them your ideas, make a recommendation on a book, or something like that.
Find a way to give them something of value. Anytime you have that conversation, especially at conferences. I can remember going to conferences and when you start talking to people, sometimes they want to talk about everything they are doing. They are giving you this pitch, and they are telling all these things. If you are in the vendor hall, you should expect that. When you are going in to see the vendors, the vendors are going to tell you all their stuff because that is why they are there.
If you are having conversations with other attendees or with speakers, make it about them and let them talk. If you are talking to someone and they are letting you talk about yourself, don’t you usually find them to be one of the most fascinating people to have a conversation with? If you are the one listening, people will go, “We are easy to talk to.” We all strive for that. You will be one of their favorite people to have a conversation with even though they are the ones doing all the talking. Make it about them.
I was talking about the vendors a little bit because I broke down the people at a conference into four categories. There are probably more but you got attendees who are the people that are paid to be there. You got speakers who are the presenters. You have got organizers, which I think is something you should not forget about.
If you can connect with organizers, that is a great thing to do as well because they know everybody at the conference and then the vendors. Sometimes, people try to shy away from the exhibit hall because they do not want to get roped into talking to the vendors. If you go into it with the right mentality, you understand why they are there. They are trying to do business like anybody else.
Vendors meet everybody. They meet a lot of people and they are in the business of remembering people and what they are doing. If you were to walk through there with your name tag, your list or whatever the people you want to connect with, the vendors could be like, “That person was just here. I can introduce you.” Do not avoid the vendors.
Understand that they are going to be trying to do business and sell stuff to you. You can be polite and you can listen. Who knows, you might learn something. At the same time, they are also pretty well connected in your industry and with what other people are doing at the conference. It is okay to go have that conversation with a vendor.
That is another thing that sometimes I think people try to avoid at conferences, especially if they are more introverted. They do not want to have a lot of those conversations. We already talked about sharing info and different ways to do that. That is what I was going to go to with the QR code, LinkedIn profile or other apps that you can use. Are there any other points before I move on to what you should do at the end of the conference?
No, I thought that this was all great information, Greg. Continue on. Let’s talk about how to follow up and so forth.
You have done a lot of work. You’ve done all the prep, set up conversations, met with these people, talked to them, talked to you and hopefully, you’ve made a connection. You guys have exchanged some information. Do not waste all that effort. Do not walk away and tell yourself, “I should follow up but I’m not going to.”
A network is like a garden. It takes time to grow. If you plant a seed today, you can't expect food on there tomorrow. Click To Tweet
Do not also wait to get followed up. Be the person who takes that information and follows up either with email or through some other social media message that says, “I had a great time meeting you at the conference. I know we talked about this. I would love to chat again in more detail.” Put it on a phone call or a video call. If you live in the same city and you are comfortable meeting in person, try to set the meeting in person but do not let the opportunity pass.
It is easy to go home. You are tired because you have been going for a few days. You are sleeping in a hotel. You probably traveled home, and it is easy to say, “I will get back to it.” You go back to work on Monday. You have been off for a week, and you got emails you got to follow up on all these things, but find a way to follow up. Even if it is just spending fifteen minutes a day going back through some of your notes and your contacts, send that email.
Not everybody is going to be as excited as you are to connect and stay connected. If somebody does not respond right away or if it does not turn into a long conversation or anything else, that is okay. Be the one that follows up and continues to try to help other people. Maybe you have thought about something in the conversation and you’ve got some new ideas. Always feel free to follow up with a person and share your ideas.
Sometimes it might be a few weeks later and you say, “I learned something new. I was talking with this person at the conference. I should let them know about it.” Feel free to do that. You are not selling them anything. You are not necessarily obligating them to anything. You are trying to share and be helpful. Make sure you do that.
Also, be easy to help. Have that list or if you were talking about things that you were interested in, let people help you, introduce you, and connect you with other people as they think about the conversation. If somebody reaches out to you first, make sure that you follow up with them. The whole point is that it all comes back to follow-up. It is easy to walk away and let this opportunity go. This may be the only conference you go to all year. You may only go to 1 or 2 if you have spent all this time and done all this work. Make sure that you do not let it go to waste.
Greg, any advice on when to give up on following up? How many times will you have to check in with a person?
When I’m generally telling people about sending emails or messages and people are not responding, the first thing I say is, “Have you ever had one of those messages in your inbox that you have not responded to?” Sometimes the reason is I had a bunch of stuff going on at work or in my personal life. I have it there. I know I need to respond. I just have not gotten to it. Usually, people say, “Yes.” I say, “Give a little grace there.” They may have some other things going on that you do not know about.
If you follow up again and you are like, “I’m checking in to see if you got this. We would love to talk about this,” and they do not say anything, I would probably put it on the back burner for now. I tend to take the emails that I network with people or the messages in my LinkedIn inbox. I will revisit where the conversation ended every 3 or 4 months. I will go back and say. “I have not heard from you. We love to chat.”
If, after probably 2 or 3 of those, you have not gotten a response, I would say, “We are probably not going to connect.” I have had things like that where somebody comes back six months later. He was like, “I’m going through my emails. I missed this. I’m sorry, how are you doing?” You can maybe slow down on the follow-up. You do not have to follow up every day.
I try to use the rule of what I would want to have to happen. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I would not want somebody sending me an email every day like, “What’s going on? You have not responded.” Whatever probably feels more comfortable for you is what I would advise most people try to use.
Greg, is your book just a hard copy? Do you have Audible or a recording of your book?
I don’t have a recording of my book. I have an eBook and paperback, but I have not done the voice recording of it yet.
Although it is super easy if you open it up in Word, you can have your Word read it to you if you are more of an auditory person. It is a new feature right now. Any book you have, you can have it read to you in any voice.
I will check that out.
They have some pretty decent voices on there.
I like this slide here that you have here that says, “Complete this sentence. It sounds great but I still want to know more about…”
This is something I always ask people because whether it is in my book or some of the other presentations I have given, people say, “Those are all great ideas. That sounds good but it still does not work for me. I still do not understand this. I’m still hesitant about this or that. What are those things?” We talked a little bit about the fact that people do not always network when they need to.
They will say, “I do not have time. I do not know where to start. I do not know-how. I feel awkward.” There are ways to overcome all of those that are fairly straightforward. Yet I still have people every day that will say, “I know I needed to network and I should have been doing it.” I always want to ask people, “What is it that’s stopping you?”
I was a person who never did this when I was earlier in my career. Part of it was a mindset. I thought networking was like being a politician. I equated it to shaking hands, backroom deals and salesy types of stuff. I equated it with that. Once I realized that it is about developing professional relationships that benefit both parties based on trust and respect, it was much simpler and much less intimidating.
It was about how do I have a human conversation with another person, show interest in them and try to help them out? When they ask to help me, let them help me. Do not be the person who was like, “You do not have to do anything. I’m fine. I’m good.” Let other people help you by being specific about what they can do for you. There is this certified concept that we do not like to be indebted to other people. If somebody has helped us in some way, we want to find a way to help them. We need to settle up the karmic score. We need to make sure that we are not owing people favors. We do not like to do that.
When people say they want to help you, let them help you. Do not be hard to help. Do not take advantage of them. Do not ask them to do something that you would not do for them. One thing is where people are like, “I feel like I’m inconveniencing people when they ask how they can help me.” You are not. It is like refusing a gift. In some cultures, it’s very offensive to refuse the gift. Take that and let people help you.
Once I started thinking more about in those terms, I started to find it was much easier. It was something I could do almost on a daily basis as part of my daily routine. All of a sudden, opportunities started to show up in terms of whether it was giving presentations or it was people saying, “I read your book and I will recommend it to other people.”
Job opportunities and all of those things started to happen from a small amount of effort each day, focusing on having regular human conversations, seeing how I could help people, and letting them help me when they offered. When you look at it from that standpoint, you can get past a lot of those objections to networking.
As we are approaching the top of the hour, Jules, do we have any questions that you have seen in the comments?
It is a little quiet on my end, Sam. If anyone does have any last-minute burning questions for Greg or any comments, let us know what you thought of this session. I, for one, thought it was awesome. There are so many cool little ways because it is hard. I love that you were saying finding ways to make people come to you to make it a little easier, a little less anxiety-riddled. I love all those little tips there. Thank you so much.
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I will be trying some of these concepts out, particularly in the next couple of weeks when I get back to Denver. Hopefully, I will run into you at a couple of conferences.
I got a quick question. I was wondering. Once we have gotten, we have met people and so forth, and we know that we need to network, how do we keep the ball rolling? Life gets in a way a lot of times, and we forget to follow up with people. We forget to keep in contact. What are some good techniques that we can use to stay in touch?
You could do apps, a spreadsheet, and all those things. I have tried a lot of different ones. To your point, I never keep up with them. What I honestly will do is if I have messages or emails from people, I have a specific networking folder where I put them in, in my inbox and email. I will go back to that and revisit that. I make sure I have responded.
If other people have not responded, I like to make sure my name is in the “From” in the inbox and not the other way around. As far as on LinkedIn, I do the same thing in my messages. I have created routines at times in my day when that is what I do. I am a big believer in habits and habits being things that happen for you automatically at a certain time in your day when they are triggered. Building habits around when I’m going to be either in my inbox doing this or in my LinkedIn doing this, I make sure I have at least responded to everybody that has sent things to me.
There are a lot of complicated ways. I do not keep up with them. For me, habits are the things that do it, and whether it is Tiny Habits, which is an approach by BJ Fogg or Atomic Habits, which is James Clear, making him small and things that are going to happen when they are triggered. Those are ways that I do it. There are a lot of ways but until I find time in my day and I commit to making it a part of my routine, it usually does not happen too much. That is how I approach it. I’m sure other people have different ideas but that is my thought process.
This has been great, Greg. I appreciate you joining us once more and sharing all this critical information with us. I’ve mentioned getting back out at a conference. I was at that one and it was weird. There were a lot of people there. After spending so much time alone, it was a little bit frightening, but getting in used to it is important. The funny thing was this conference was expecting a lot less people. People are trying and dying to get out there. We can expect there to be more people at these conferences in the future. Get out there and go. Thank you so much, Greg, for being with us once again. Everyone, see you on the next episode.