I’m back from my trip to New York City, where I met with 80 other amazingly talented Dreamers Into Doers and Martha Stewart’s staff, and as always, it was fantastic. Everything about the event is always picture perfect. And meeting so many other creative women always gets me motivated to jump back into my work full speed ahead.
So, it’s good to be home, and back with my kiddos, but there’s also lots of catching up to do. I thought it would be a good idea in today’s post to talk about the best way to prepare for a networking event like the Dreamers Into Doers conference, or really any blogging conference, artisans gathering, etc., how to maximize the limited networking time you actually have at the event, and also give my tips for what to do afterwards, to make sure you stay connected with all of the people you’ve met, and get the most out of the overload of information you receive. These are just my suggestions. I try to get these accomplished before, during, and after every large event I go to. I’ve road tested them myself, but you may need a little tweaking. Hopefully they will at least help get you started!
1. Join the conversation Yes, your inbox will be on fire in the days leading up to the event with questions about who’s getting there when and does anyone want to share a cab, but there will be important info in the mix that you don’t want to miss. Add yourself to the email group, but create a filter in your email so that all of these messages get set aside. This way your inbox isn’t constantly overflowing, and you can set aside an hour at night to quickly go through all of these messages. Quickly delete the “does anyone want to grab a bite to eat the first night” but respond to the “I’m hoping to meet people that can help me grow my business in the following ways…”
PS…Here’s a great how-to video if you need help setting up labels and filters in gmail!
2. Match names and faces This is the one scenario where cheat sheets are ok! Print out a spreadsheet with the following three things: name, business, picture (of the person or even just of a logo if that’s all you can find!) You don’t need to memorize it, but get familiar with it. Star people that you know you want to connect with. Look it over on the train on your way into the city, and give it one last glance before you head out of your hotel room to breakfast the first morning. Trust me. You’ll feel so much more comfortable walking into a room of strangers, if you know their names and can introduce yourself. And, if you’ve studied enough, start a conversation about their business!
*Keep Good Notes! Keep this cheat sheet up to date! Make notes next to people you want to talk more to. Jot down notes if you’d like to email them. Did you connect on a personal level? Did you share a joke or a silly story? Write it down! These are all things that will help that person remember you when you reach out to them after the event.
1. Stay Put Remember, you are there to network! Yes, you’re away from your kids, and would love some quiet time, or maybe you’re excited to get out and have some fun in a new city with new friends, but (and trust me, I hate to be a party pooper) that’s not what you’re there for! If there are dinners related to the event scheduled where you can continue conversations with potential partners for projects, and deepen the business relationships you are making, go for it. Make the most of every minute you are there!
2. Keep us up to date Tweet, post, share…do it all. We want to see the connections you are making. Are you enjoying the workshop you’re sitting in? Find the presenter on Twitter, post a quick tweet, and tag them. Nine times out of ten, they will follow you back by the end of the day…and that is a great way to make a connection if you want to contact them to talk further after the conference is over.
*Hashtags exist for a reason! If there already is a hashtag in place for the event you are attending, use it! It’s a great way to connect with people. You can quickly see everyone that has tweeted using the hashtag, get to know what parts of the event they are enjoying (which makes starting a conversation so much easier!), and tweet back to them…furthering the connections you are making. It’s a win/win! And PS…if there’s not a hashtag already in place, make one! I suggested in a forum that we use #DIDinNYC for my Martha trip because a hashtag had not yet been decided upon, and everyone said perfect…it’s that simple!
1. Go through your notes Follow up on all those leads you were writing down on your cheat sheet. Open the doors for working together and collaborating in the future. Include that personal connection so the reader instantly remembers who you are.
*Do you have an avatar? I’m not sure if all/most email accounts come with an avatar, but if yours does, take advantage of it. My little picture goes along with every email I send out, and is the perfect little “Oh! That’s who this is from!” when I’m connecting with people I’ve met at an event.
2. Share pictures Organize or contribute to a photo sharing account. Sure, you’ll get access to more pictures to include in your blog posts and recaps, but it’s another way to stay connected. If you see someone has great pictures, tell them! Ask what kind of camera they have. Have they taken photography classes? Just because the event is over does not mean your relationship with all of the talented people you have met has to be, too.
PS…I’ve used PhotoBucket and Shutterfly in the past. Create a separate account from your personal one. Share the login info with anyone that wants to contribute. Be clear with where these pictures can be used, and if you’d like photo credit to be given in publication.
PS…A few notes on the pictures included above. The first picture was taken outside of the Martha television studio, while waiting to go in for a taping of her show. The notebook shown in the “Before you go!” picture is part of her new line of office supplies available at Staples. That is Terri Shapiro of Deluxe Corporation speaking to us about PR and marketing in the “While you’re there!” picture. And the last picture is the beautiful centerpieces at the event…you know Martha thinks of every last detail!
PPS…On a very personal note, thank you to all of you that have reached out to me, checked in on me, and sent me sweet words of encouragement regarding the passing of my grandmother. Many of you met my Annie, here, years ago…long before I knew Nikki, In Stitches would grow to be the successful business that it has. All of your support has meant the world to me, and I am so very, very grateful.