Before the Conference… 

1. Have concrete goals in mind. You can’t talk to everyone at a conference, so it’s a good idea to go in knowing what you want to get out of it. Do you hope to find an “in” that will eventually lead to a job offer? Do you want to garner more business for your company? Perhaps you simply want to meet people in your line of work and foster a deeper connection with others in your industry. 

  • Your goals will influence which sessions you attend and which people you seek to meet. Instead of just going with the flow, plan out your time so you’re utilizing each hour to work toward your goals.
  • Remember that you’ll be more successful if you’re open to other people’s pitches instead of just trying to push your own agenda. Getting to know people is a good goal in and of itself since it leads to long-term relationships that just don’t happen if you’re tossing out as many business cards as possible without taking time to have real conversations.

2. Research the attendees (you mean like google?). It’s important to know who your fellow attendees will be and what their specializations, business, or expertise are. In particular, look up the people who will be presenting at the conference. Prior to the conference, download our conference app to look at agenda topics, speakers, sessions and all of the needed details for the conference! They are the influencers who can help you get better connected to your industry, or who may even be able to share ideas with you or give you a little time to talk through projects you’re working on. 

  • Take the time to visit the presenters’ websites and learn about their backgrounds. If you’re aiming to network with someone working for a company, research the company’s background, including its history and age, mission, achievements, and principal staff.

3. Set the stage before meeting key prospects.Introduce yourself to key people prior to the conference online and let them know that you look forward to hearing their talks and meeting them in person. The CMA conference offers an interactive app that all attendees have access to connect with other attendees and learn about conference agenda items, speakers, networking events and more. Interacting with people beforehand will give you a bit more history to fall back on when you see them at the conference.

  • Take advantage of our conference concierge that will help you navigate your way through Nashville and the conference!

4. Pre-planning is the new ‘going with the flow’. Determine which sessions and presentations you want to attend, and map out a schedule accordingly so you don’t miss anything important. You don’t necessarily need to go to every single session since casual time spent in the break room or at lunch is also a good way to network with people. Take a look at the specific session topics, and pick and choose which topic or presenter best fits your needs and goals you came to the conference with

  • Set appointments with people you know you want to meet. Everyone will have a busy schedule, but you could coordinate a coffee break or breakfast meeting with one or more people you definitely want to have a conversation with.
  • Plan to take advantage of parties, receptions and cocktail hours. This is when people let a little looser, and the conversations are more natural. Instead of going back to your hotel room, plan on networking into the night. Tuesday night will probably be the biggest night for you to network! We have a networking reception and to follow, we are providing entertainment and a HUGE party from some very big country music names in the Nashville community, including our MC who, in fact, has found ‘All the Gold in California…”

5. Toothbrush, CHECK. Phone Charger, CHECK. Business Cards…….CHECK! Passing out business cards is an effective way to give out your contact information, although some people might prefer to enter your details directly into their mobile devices. You should also plan to carry a business card binder so you can keep track of other people’s cards, too. There’s nothing worse than having a great conversation with someone only to realize you lost their card and don’t remember their name. 

At the Conference… 

6. Hello…it’s me. Introduce yourself effectively! No matter who you’re talking to, whether it’s the person sitting next to you at a keynote session or someone with whom you’re riding the elevator, be friendly and introduce yourself. Limit your introduction to 30 seconds, during which you say your name, who you work for and a bit about your background. Presenters, business people, and others associated with the conference will generally be time-limited and won’t get much of a chance to stand around chatting with you.

  • Practice what you’re going to say at home, so you know how long it takes and you make sure to include all pertinent information. However, try not to sound rehearsed when you give your spiel. 
  • Pay attention to what the other person says, too, instead of being self-conscious about how you came off. 
  • Don’t be intimidated, everyone is there for the same reason! Are you a first-time attendee or a lone wolf coming to the conference? Look out for some special events geared towards you to help you navigate through the conference and introduce you to some friendly faces!

7. Ask people meaningful questions and really hear them out.A good net-worker is a good listener. When you’re talking to someone, focus on that person’s answers to your questions and not on anybody else in the room. Limit your own talking and encourage the other person to talk. Whatever you do, no matter how excited or enamored of this person’s expertise or importance you are, don’t jump to conclusions about what he or she will say next and try to fill it in. Remain calm and let the person do the talking. 

  • Maintain eye contact, nod, and unfold your arms. 
  • Enjoy talking to the other person. Remember that networking is a wonderful opportunity to get to know people, so make the most of it by enjoying it as well as trying to connect. 
  • Be receptive to other people’s spiels, too. Plan to accept as many business cards as you give out. 

8. Talk to presenters. Go to the talks of those presenters you want to meet (especially if you emailed them expressing interest in doing so). Arrive early and sit in the front row so that you’re in a good position to reach them after the talk. Listen attentively so that you can raise particular points with them afterward during your discussion. When the presentation has concluded, introduce yourself, compliment the presenter on the presentation, and ask relevant questions. 

  • Have a list of questions you’d like to ask certain presenters. Consider picking the most important two questions in case you are time pressured. One way of getting assurance that your questions are welcome is to preface the conversation with something like: “Have I caught you at a good time? I had two quick questions I wanted to ask you. 
  • Bear in mind that you might be able to arrange to see the person later at a dinner event or similar event during the conference if they’re not free straight after their talk. Give them your business card and be sure to make a time to catch up again during the period of the conference. 
  • If you have promotional material, a paper, or any other documentation or software that you’d like the presenter to have, be sure to have it ready and packaged up to give to the presenter. 

 9. Don’t get starstruck. As nice as it is to meet presenters, if you spend all of your time trying to meet the celebrity speakers, you’re going to waste the conference. They’ll get hundreds of business cards from other people who also want to meet them. It’s better to spend your time meeting other people in attendance, people you might actually have the chance to work with. 

  • Those lower in a company, institution, or organization, have just as much importance as those at the top. They are the people who have time to listen to others. These people will network with integrity and can share good information with you and be important contacts, too. 

10. Enjoy the moment. Instead of thinking ahead too much about what talking to this or that person will get you, be in the moment and try to truly enjoy the process of meeting new people. If you like the industry you’re in, it should be fun to talk to other experts in the field. You’ll come across as someone worth getting to know better if you seem like you’re genuinely enjoying yourself. You should have as much to offer others as they have to offer you. 

After the Conference 

11. Get on top of it, send out emails within a few days. Don’t wait too long after the conference. Get in touch with people while your conversations are still fresh in your minds. That said, you should wait until the day is over before shooting off an email. When the person is still busy at the conference, emailing right away could make you seem too eager. 

  • If you can, send a relevant article to the topic they shared. This will show that you have an avid interest in the topic and that you’re willing to share information with them. 
  • If possible, connect the person with other people you know personally or met at the conference. Share information and connections generously, as this will wind up benefiting you later. 

12. Take advantage of social media and the conference app. In addition to emailing, connect with people on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter but more importantly, the conference app as a way to keep in touch. These mediums are important networking tools, since they help people stay connected and get to know each other better, too. Send a short message with your friend requests reminding the person who you are and stating how nice it was to talk.  

  • If you’re especially active on social media, you can tweet or post about the conference while you’re still there. Tag people you’ve met and make positive comments about panels and the conference itself. 
  • The conference app stays active until months after the conference, so it is a great way to keep in touch with any connections you made at the conference.

13. Stay in touch with the presenter by email and phone.If the person emails you, email back. Don’t drop a connection a few days after the conference, because anything can happen. Even if the person doesn’t immediately give you a lead on a new job, he or she might do so down the line. Networking is about sharing who you are and what skills you offer to the world, and if you’re good at keeping in touch, people will remember you when it counts. 

  • Consider doing your own part to advance your relationship with a connection you’ve made. If you see an opportunity to actually start working with the person, take things to the next level by asking them out for coffee or lunch, or asking for an informational interview. 
  • If anyone you met calls on you for help or information, give it. You never know when someone new in the field might be in the position to help you one day. 

We Look forward to networking with you at the 2018 Category Management & Shopper Insights Conference!