How to Get the Most out of Conferences

How to get the most out of conferences

July 5, 2010 by Clovia Hamilton

Lemongrass Consulting advocates strategic planning.  I lead this charge and I advocate strategic planning in all things that we do – including conference attendance.

As a procurement counselor at the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC), I give vendors notices about upcoming business to government (B2G) conferences routinely.  I also give advice on how to prepare for conferences and for following up after a conference.

Recently Beth Goldstein posted an article “To Get the Most Out of Conferences, Follow Up” in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s smallbiz tips.  Beth states that the goal is to make solid connections.  Beth advocates that conference attendants should:

  • Thank the connection
  • Send the connection an article
  • Invite the connection to an upcoming event
  • Send the connection a copy of your newsletter
  • Introduce the connection to your other connections

The topic of what to do with business cards has been underway in the Linked in Woman 2 Woman Business Group.  Here are some suggestions that I like from this discussion:

  • Use a virtual assistant to help you add names into a contacts database (Jennifer Dixon)
  • Write a note about the person, the date, and the event on the business card (Eileen J Kennedy, Nanci Benefiel)
  • Follow up with the person you met the next day or within the next few days (Eileen J Kennedy)
  • Use Microsoft Outlook contacts and sync your Blackberry to Outlook (Eileen J Kennedy)
  • Scan business cards into your email address book as Vcards (Louise Leduc)
  • Invite your connections to Linkedin and your newsletter (Diane S Turner)
  • Keep business cards in clear plastic sheets (Gwen McCauley)
  • Select a few networking groups that you attend routinely (Nanci Benefiel)
  • Send the connection a greeting card (Gayle McKearin, Mary Kathryn Ewart, or Send Out Cards per Nanci Benefiel)

I noted in this discussion the importance of leaving white space on the back of your business card and do not use glossy card stock that cannot be written on.

I do all of the above – and I sort cards by the first name of the connection and keep the clear plastic sheets in a binder with alpha dividers A thru Z.  I also make copies of cards of potential teaming partners and keep them in a binder sorted by dividers labeled for each type of potential teaming endeavor we might pursue.

Try to connect with everyone or just a few?

Stephanie Robertson and Diane Turner stated that she usually only has 2-4, or 3-5 people that they connect with.  I have been advised by mentors to set a goal for 3 people.  This approach is to promote quality over quantity.

While the 3 people goal may be productive and may keep you from feeling overwhelmed, I have learned over the years that you will never know where your next lead, prospect, or referral will come from.  So, I try to meet as many people as possible. I do not devalue anyone.  I try to connect with as many folks as possible.  This is not really shotgunning – because out of the batch, I will target a few to follow up with immediately.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: http://www.lemongrassplanning.com – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/6cuu28o

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