HubSpot's INBOUND is a place to meet, greet and get insights from other marketers that are making the magic happen, now. Each year I attend a lot of events and Inbound keeps getting bigger and better (read our Inbound 2016 recap). It's also the perfect time to talk with industry leaders and find others whom you can connect with.
Even if you normally prefer text and email to face-to-face interactions, you can effectively forge relationships and gain a lot in terms of professional connections and/or bonafide friendships.
Attitude makes all the difference, so relax, dust off your networking skills, and get ready to jump into the fray of fun, learning and new opportunities with these 17+ ways to maximize your time at INBOUND.
1. GO DEEP
Your mindset when starting a potential relationship should be to learn about the other person and help them out. People want relationships at a deeper level. Look for ways to connect with the person behind the name.
2. STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Okay, yeah maybe you're already stepping out a bit just by attending, but now you gotta act. Networking power comes from casting a wider net. Go out of your way to talk to and connect with people from different backgrounds.
3. GET SUPPORT
Now's your chance as there are (literally) thousands of highly successful, experienced people in the same place for a week. Reach out to possible mentors and those in spheres that you wish to engage in. As friends, they may be willing to share hard-earned advice and help you to navigate to where you want to be.
4. GET IN ON CONVERSATIONS
I'm not saying be a creepy eavesdropper, but do listen to others as they speak and when you have something to add to the topic, do it!
5. INTRODUCE YOURSELF, DON'T WAIT FOR PEOPLE TO WALK UP TO YOU
A break in the flow of conversation is the perfect time to say, “Hi, my name is---. I overheard what you were saying about (insert awesome topics here). What do you think about (additional awesome topic)?”
6. BRING YOUR CARDS
Yeah, they're old school, but business cards are still probably the easiest way to swap info. Plus, you get to avoid the awkward vocal exchange of spelling out your name, email address, etc. while waiting for the other person to write it down. Carry business cards for a quick swap of contact information and remember to take notes on the back for later follow-up.
7. BE AUTHENTIC
Like attracts like. Come across as trustworthy and honest. Connect with others sharing those traits and add them to your valuable network.
8. BE PREPARED TO SHARE
People want to know others that are willing to share their time, thoughts, and efforts to help them. Everyone can use a step up and a little inspiration from time to time. You will be amazed how much good can happen when you share freely.
9. TAKE PICS, LOTS OF PICS
Don't have a selfie stick? Well, maybe you should! Take photos with everyone that you meet to create lasting memories (more on this below).
10. ENJOY THE PEOPLE YOU ARE WITH
Your new contacts may not be well-known industry leaders this year, but they might be about to explode. In reality, if they have your interests at heart and genuinely want to build a relationship with you, you can grow together.
11. GO TO THE SESSIONS AND TAKE NOTES
Some of the top experts are there to teach you how to get better. So go, take notes, review, and most importantly IMPLEMENT into your own practices.
12. DRESS (COMFORTABLY) FOR SUCCESS
Wear something that you look great in, but that you also feel great standing in for extended periods of time. Your non-verbal communication will reflect it.
13. TRY SOMETHING NEW
With happy hours, the seaport parties and INBOUND Rocks, there is ample opportunity to do all sorts of stuff. Go for a swim (the harbor might be cold, very cold), have a few and belt out some bad karaoke, hit Chinatown late night, or check out one of Boston's historic sites. Talk, play and make the most out of the event. You never know who you will encounter.
QUICK SUCCESS TIPS FOR INTROVERTS AND OTHERWISE SHY PEOPLE
Don’t tell me that you can’t network because you’re shy or introverted, here are 4 quick tips:
1. THROW AWAY YOUR PHONE!
Seriously, at least put it away. You're here to meet people and grow your network. It's weird to approach people that are staring into their phone. Don't make it weird.
2. BE GENUINELY INTERESTED IN OTHER PEOPLE
Many people like to talk about themselves if given the chance. Relax your nerves. Stop worrying so much about what to say and more about asking thought provoking questions that show that you care. And that person that you just met? They'll thank you for it.
3. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THREATENING
While walking, look people in the eye and smile. Practice saying hello to people in line with you or waiting for the elevator. Ask "how are you today?" to the waiter, cashier, usher, and others that you run into frequently. This practice gives you the confidence to engage with others.
4. IMAGINE STRANGERS AS YOUR CLOSE FRIENDS
You may not know them now, but this person that you're meeting for the first time could become an important business ally or best friend in the future. Don't hold back your best until that happens. Show them now who you are.
REMEMBER TO FOLLOW UP!
After the event is over (but your massive smile remains) continue to grow the relationships that you started.
- In a day or so when you get back, send a follow-up to each person you've met. Reintroduce yourself because you're probably not the only person that they talked to. Refer to something personal or specific that you talked about (this is why you took notes on the backs of business cards, remember?). If you took a picture together, even better. Send it. This is an excellent way to open up a conversation.
- Tell your new friend that you want to continue talking and invite them to engage with you on whatever channels work for the both of you. Take the time out to find out about them, discuss the work they do, find ways that you can help and celebrate their accomplishments.
- Better yet, meet in person. If they are in your city, invite them for a coffee, beer or other choice beverage. Live interactions trump virtual connections.
- Be consistent and continue to build the relationship. We all have many acquaintances, but far fewer people that are really invested in our success. Your value-adding relationship might just get you into their inner circle.
DON'T JUST DANCE THE DATA DANCE
As with other things in business, it can be tempting for us to want to collect data and calculate ROI on everything that we do. Consider instead, that attempting to automate human relationships could backfire and sometimes the best and most valuable things are intangible.
So, instead of making the event a numbers game, collecting as much data as possible and trying to categorize and push each new person that you meet into your automated system, just STOP. Smile, relax, take a step back and have a real conversation with someone. It might go places that are better than anything you could have planned for.