When a conference is still several months away it is pretty easy to procrastinate important aspects like creating a networking plan. However, the experts will tell you that if you want to make sure you do this one thing right, it is never too early to start. This is because the best networkers start well in advance of the event they are headed for, carrying their intentional meetings and conversations through the event, and well past it too. So looking ahead at SCALE 2019 Music City, the time to start networking is now.
According to MD Magazine most medical professionals do not learn the same networking skills that many other professionals do. However, “Many non-traditional opportunities in the medical field are not widely advertised. Finding these types of opportunities requires creative problem solving. Often, doctors who hold leadership roles or who have non-clinical jobs explain that they were asked or invited to such positions. This can only happen if those who are hiring for such positions know you and have a strong sense of what you can bring to the table. And that often requires networking.” There are other reasons to network aside from simply getting a new position, including staying abreast of trends and technologies, building a professional support network, and being able to have an influence in your field.
The great news is that conferences are made for networking and SCALE is no exception. We have put together some tips to help you navigate your way through this like a pro.
The Best Way to Accomplish Pre-Conference Networking Goals
It is a different profession, but the lawyers have it down! And we are just shameless enough to take a page from their book. Lawyernomics published a great piece on pre-conference networking with high impact tips.
- Make a networking plan that helps you reach your goals. Ask yourself why you are attending, who you want to meet, and what you are trying to accomplish at the conference.
- Organize a get-together. Try to arrive early and encourage some of those you want to connect with to do the same, then invite them to meet as a group before the conference starts.
- Create or join a social media group with the other conference attendees you are looking to connect with – using the conference hashtag for pre-conference conversations.
- Put together a small gift for those people you most want to connect with, something local and special from where you are coming from.
- Make sure that you look closely at the attendee and presenter list in advance, choose who you want to connect with and invite them to meet with you during the conference, even if for a quick 15 minute coffee. If any are arriving on the same flight, or are in the same hotel, share an uber.
- Plan your agenda to include networking time and reach out in advance to the speakers to discuss their program, letting them know that you are looking forward to hearing them. Then follow up at their presentation and introduce yourself.
- Use your social media profiles to your advantage and update them. Make sure that your photo is recent and recognizable and that you are using the conference hashtag so others can find you and network with you.
- Make sure you have enough cards or other branded materials to give to people to help them remember you. Handing out those items can be an icebreaker. Also, “If you are known for wearing funky socks, hats, broaches, bow ties, or scarves, be sure to include them in your packing list.”
- Get contact information together and loaded into your phone for everyone you want to meet, connecting that with social media so you can easily recognize people from their pictures. Google, company bios, or LinkedIn profiles have ready-to-go photos and smart- phones have the technology you need. If you are not on LinkedIn, make sure you get a profile on and up-to-date prior to the conference.
- Do your homework on the people you want to connect with; make sure you know what they do, and like, and then have real conversations with them about things they care about.
This may seem like a lot of work, but it will pay off when you get to SCALE 2019 Music City and realize how well you prepared yourself.
Smart During Conference Networking
Once you are on the ground in Nashville, it is time to start putting your plan into place. This is the time to remember that you have some natural networking assets that you can put to good use. These are your badge, insider tips that you can offer (in our field everyone has these), contacts that you have, and your contact information. These are all leverageable, as people will be looking for them from you.
Also, make sure that you have your elevator pitch down. You should not sound like a robot when you are telling people what you do, but you should be able to seamlessly tell people about yourself in 10-15 seconds. Make sure that you show more interest in who they are and what they do than you do in them learning about you. And on that note, think about what you can offer to people at the conference. Make yourself an asset, instead of asking for things. This will open you up to opportunities that you otherwise might not have and will make people seek you out and remember you.
Remember to keep your conversations short, enjoyable, and productive. You want to be efficient, for your sake and for theirs. Note your promises, though, and do not move on until you have captured information about your conversation that will help you remember.
Following Up After The Conference Networking
This is the most important thing you can do: follow up and follow through. As we pointed out in our blog post “How to Make the Most of Your Time at SCALE 2019 [LINK TO BLOG]”, following up with everyone you meet after the conference and staying in touch is important. A personal email, connecting on social media, or sending them a card will go a long way. Scheduling a call or coffee, if you are local to them, will help to build the relationships you made.
So get that plan together and network! We look forward to seeing you in Nashville in May!