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Chapter 17. Connect at Conventions > Show Up at the Conference

Show Up at the Conference

Be there! Set aside thoughts of the work stacking up back on your desk and the messages piling up in your voice mail. Use these ten tips for making great convention connections.

  1. Arrive at the convention early. The important people— speakers, conference organizers, association leaders—are likely to arrive early for "pre-meeting meetings." Rub shoulders with the successful people. They are the ones with the knowledge. Find a mentor or a role model.

  2. Wear a smile. Make your body language say, "I'd be easy to talk to." React to visual clues. Comment on jewelry, a necktie, a T-shirt, a name tag listing a state you've traveled in. If you're in line to pick up theater tickets with someone who is wearing the same kind of convention badge you are, go with the obvious. Say, "Hi, I'm Jack . . . Jack Armstrong. I'm at the NCAC convention, too."

  3. Volunteer (again!) to help. Give out name tags, fill in for a panelist whose plane got fogged in, distribute handouts for the speaker. Participation leads to relationships.

  4. Introduce yourself to speakers or panelists. Welcome them before the program, and let them know why you chose their session. Often they are eager for more information on who's in the audience, so, if they aren't busy getting ready, talk to them. They may mention you in their presentation—instant visibility! Or talk to the speaker afterwards. Ask if he is free for coffee or lunch to continue the discussion. It's rare to be turned down. If people can't do what you ask, they may offer something even better in return. One speaker said to Robert, "I can't go to lunch right now, but why don't you join Walter and me for supper." Walter turned out to be anchorman Walter Cronkite! If you feel shy about issuing an invitation to a speaker, ask two or three other people with similar interests to lunch and then ask the speaker to join the group.

  5. Participate in the sessions. Ask a question. This does several things. It forces you to think actively rather than just sit- ting passively and taking it all in. When you ask your question, stand up and talk loud enough to be heard. Introduce yourself and tell where you're from or what organization you're with. You'll be remembered because you have been seen. Your visibility makes it easier for people to come up to you after the session and start a conversation. If there is time, you might even announce that you'd like to talk to people who "have successfully used an executive search firm" or "have solved the problem of doing long- distance sales training when field offices are spread out"—whatever is on your Agenda. Your question may attract others who have the same interests. "Every time I have asked a question, someone interesting has come up to me afterwards and started a conversation," says Rhonda. Also listen carefully to other people's questions. Follow up after the session by getting together with those people and commenting on their questions or asking more about their point of view. Those are instant conversation starters.



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