Today I had the chance to attend The Economist Africa Summit featuring influential speakers who discussed the next generation of African innovation and leadership. Conferences such as these offer a great opportunity to meet key people in your field and gain insight on emerging trends.
Over the years I’ve attended dozens of conferences and for the most part I didn’t really enjoy them. I never left feeling energized or got any great contacts but this time was different. I finally understood what people had been saying all those years about the usefulness of conferences. For the first time I felt like I was in the zone and making meaningful connections. With Social Media Week coming to Lagos in just a couple of weeks and Blogging Ghana hosting their second annual Blog Camp for bloggers and social media users, there are two great opportunities to learn more about digital marketing and social media regardless of career field and develop relationships.
Conferences can be exciting, rewarding, and lead to your next business opportunity so follow these four tips to help you dominate at your next conference:
Decide In Advance What You Want To Get Out Of the Conference.
Do you want to meet a particular speaker? Are you looking to get on the radar of a sponsoring organization? Fully taking the time to review the schedule and bios of the speakers will help you understand what you can do to best take advantage of the conference. Once you’ve set a goal of whom you’d like to meet and when, feel free to reach out to them in advance by sending an email or tweet on Twitter. Introducing yourself in advance gives you the chance to start to build a relationship before you meet or to even set up a one-on-one meeting during the conference.
Use Social Media To Get Noticed.
Most conferences are now actively encouraging participants to take the conversation out of the meeting rooms and share it with the online community. This is a great opportunity for you to interact and speak with other conference participants before and after the conference. If you’re on Twitter use the official conference hashtag and share your experiences on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Smile and Mingle 🙂
If you attend a conference by yourself you may be tempted to sit in the corner by yourself but that is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. Go find a group of people you don’t know and sit by them. During breaks, smile and say hello to everyone that passes you. Sometimes we make networking harder than it has to be but at its core its all about getting to know people and making friends. The first step to doing that is often just a smile and a hello.
Be Brave And Ask Questions.
When speakers and panels leave time for questions they are sincere in their interest to dialogue with attendees and hear new perspectives. If you had a question or concern with something you heard here is your chance to get that question answered and to distinguish yourself in the eyes of the speakers. It may be nervous or scary to stand up in front of an audience but this is great practice in public speaking and leadership. Speak clearly, announce your name, and keep it simple and short.
Follow Up and Keep The Conversation Going.
When making connections at events, exchanging business cards or emails is a great way to remember the people you’ve met and begin developing relationships. But don’t just throw those cards in the corner and forget everyone you’ve met. Use this opportunity to follow up with the person within 2-3 days after the event. Don’t just send a quick email but take the time to mention and share something you discussed and also even connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Be careful to not include those emails in your general friend list because you don’t want to tarnish your professional image by forwarding messages only meant for your closest mates.