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Tips for Connecting at the FISH Conference

 

One of the most valuable takeaways from any conference is the new relationships and contacts made through networking. Understanding how to network at a conference, and going in with the right strategy can be a game-changer for your business.

 

To get the most out of the FISH conference and meetings you attend, it’s important to plan your strategy well ahead of the actual event.

 

These 16 tips will help you make the most of your conference networking opportunities before, during and after the event.

 

1. Have Clear Goals and Objectives

Conferences tend to move people quickly from one conversation, session, or event to another, and our FISH Convention is no exception. It’s easy to get lost in the flow of things. Identify clear objectives of sessions to attend, who you hope to meet, and what you want to take away, prior to the event.

2. Go Prepared

If there are specific attendees, vendors or speakers you hope to meet and talk to, do your research and prepare well ahead of time. If it’s a franchisee, check out their current numbers on the Fishing Report and reach out to congratulate them or encourage them if you see they’re getting close to a benchmark (such as getting close to 500 new accounts). Connect with them on their social media sites and follow/engage in conversations up to, and while at the conference. Have your initial questions or a comment prepared ahead of time. Once you’re at the Convention, check out the Leaderboards that are on display after the Friday morning Opening Session.

3. Send an Email or Message Prior to the Event

To ensure you have time to speak to someone specific while attending the Convention, you might want to consider reaching out ahead of time to set up a brief meeting.

4. Avoid the Helicopter Approach

Many times at conferences, people begin to approach someone they would like to meet only to stop 5-10 feet away and go into “hover mode”. Nothing makes a person more nervous than the possibility that a stalker is nearby. Seeing you in “hover” mode, the person you hope to meet will most likely already be formulating their exit strategy. Complete your approach and simply introduce yourself.

5.  Be Ready with Conversation Starters 

If at some point a conversation gets “stuck”, have a few conversation starters to get it going again. Here are a few examples.

  • “Where are you from?”

  • “How long have you been with FISH?”

  • “Where were you before joining FISH?”

  • “What has been your favorite sessions/speakers so far?”

  • “What are you hoping to get out of this conference?”

  • “I’m trying to improve  (Fill In The Blank) — what are you doing, any tips?

  • “What sessions/speakers/roundtables are you looking forward to?”

 

6. Be Approachable

Don’t spend all your time outside of sessions using your phone, laptop or tablet. By circulating and looking open and engaged, you’ll make it more likely that someone else, looking for someone to talk to, will approach you. Knowing “when” to network is just as important as “how to network”.

7. Study the Schedule

Know who is speaking where and when in relation to your interests and conference objectives. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to be in the session with that “one” person you’re hoping to meet or hear. If you brought employees with you, get together to decide who is going to what. This is the time to divide and conquer. If you didn’t bring employees with you, think about doing it next year.

8. Use Social Media

Tweet or post about the conference while you’re there. Tag people you’ve met, or hope to meet, and make complimentary, positive comments about their session, session topic, panels and the conference itself.

 

9. Check the Name Badge

It’s always okay to check out someone’s name badge if you want to know who “that someone” is – that’s why we provide them! Be sure your name badge is visible so others can identify you. If you don’t know what a certain ribbon means, ask the person. It might be a great ice breaker.

10. Be Open to People That Want to Meet You

Listen to others and you’ll be surprised at the amazing relationships and opportunities that open up.

Note: If you’re going to drink alcohol at networking events, do so responsibly. More than a few reputations, relationships, and opportunities have been damaged by neglecting this simple rule. There’s always time after the event without incurring the risks of overindulging at the open bar.

 

11. Keep in Mind Most People at the Conference Are in the Same Situation as You

That is, they go thinking that they will only know a few other attendees. During the various sessions, introduce yourself to the people on each side of you and use the conversation starters mentioned earlier. Try to engage with fellow attendees. You’ll build your network in no time and leave with several new connections and friends.

12. Be Prepared If You Need to Excuse Yourself

The FISH Convention is action packed and there are a lot of people to meet and talk to. Be prepared to politely and gracefully excuse yourself from one conversation so you can talk to as many as you can while you’re there. Always thank the person for their time before you leave.

13. Don’t Forget the Tangible Items You’ll Need

The FISH Convention can be long, all day, and goes well into the evening. Lack of breath mints, gum, eyedrops, a comb or brush, cologne or perfume can ultimately be a deal-killer when you’re meeting someone. It’s summer and hot outside, but the hotel can feel freezing inside, so don’t forget your jacket or sweater. Plan and pack accordingly.

 

14. Bring Business Cards

“I don’t use business cards, I like to connect on social”…., says the person who always forgets them. Don’t believe it – business cards are still a valuable asset to have at the ready. It’s one of the quickest, most effective ways to introduce yourself and share your contact information. You may have only a brief moment to make contact with someone and handing them a business card is always better than a missed opportunity.

15. Head to the Gym or Pool

If working out is a regular part of your daily routine, go to the hotel gym. It’s a great place to meet other conference-goers in an “outside the conference” environment. Don’t want to go to the gym? Sit outside by the pool in the early morning or read the morning news on your phone in the lobby. FISH people are everywhere, but if you’re always running late in the morning, you won’t get those off-time opportunities to meet and connect.

16. After the Conference Follow up

You should have a number of business cards from people you’ve met. Send an e-mail or Linkedin invite summarizing an interesting point from the conversation and suggest whatever follow-up is appropriate (phone call, coffee/lunch, or simply “let’s keep in touch”).

Where it makes sense, connect the person with others you know personally, where there are shared interests and a likelihood of a valued connection.

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