Networking: How to Network Like a Pro at Conferences
My first conference in 2008 at the Ian Fernando dinner
I remember going to my first conference back in 2008. I was still working a full-time job and took a week’s worth of vacation time to attend Affiliate Summit East. Not only did I want to grow my business, but I wanted to meet other guys that were as passionate about it as I was. I didn’t know anyone back in Atlanta I could talk to about Prosper202, Facebook Ads, or improving CTR %.
If I didn’t attend conferences then my career the past few years would be nowhere close to what it is today. I’ve met some of my best friends from there, learned information I’d never have figured out, and had some crazy times I’ll remember decades from now.
I’ve always found it weird when people attend a conference and say it’s not worth it. You get what you put into it.
I’m heading to Affiliate Summit West in Vegas for a week. I know for a lot of people this is their first conference and I wanted to share some insights to gain the most out of your experience.
- Have a Goal – Why are you at the conference? Do you want to get more traffic sources, meet new people, or deepen current relationships? Figure it out first because it drives the whole conference as far as how you spend your time, what parties to go to, and the type of people you want to meet.
- Pre-arrange Meetings – Want to meetup with someone busy? Email and setup an appointment. Don’t setup meetings too early in the morning since they’re easy to miss with the partying. Don’t miss the appointment, and don’t be late. If something happens then show some professionalism by texting them as soon as you can.
- Work on Your 15 Second Introduction – You’re going to be meeting a lot of people and everyone’s just wants to know what you do. If you’re new, then just say it. A lot of guys, myself included, don’t mind showing someone new the ropes. It could be as simple as “I’m an affiliate and I’m focused on Mobile traffic.” If they are as well, then you guys found something to talk about.
- Attend the Parties – I’m spending a few thousand dollars and a few days to attend each conference. Getting business done is my priority over getting drunk or getting laid at the club. People are more relaxed and friendly at parties, than walking around the booths.Where to find the parties? Check forums, emails, ask friends, blogs, etc. Also during the night of, you can check twitter to see where everyone is.
- Have a Business Card – It’s a tradition that refuses to die so it’s useful to have some on you. Keep it simple. Name, email, phone number, and Skype.
- Approach – Be friendly and say hi. Don’t be that weirdo that’s by the wall the whole night checking his phone. You’re approaching nerds like you, not super models so there’s no need to be nervous. That guy stuffing himself with free pizza & Mountain Dew could be a potential contact that takes your business to a new level. You never know unless you talk to them.
- Remember Names – It definitely makes a strong impression when you bump into someone again and you remember their name. There’s two tricks I use. The first is to simply repeat their name when you first hear it. The second one is I give the guys a mental nickname based on their name. Ex. Jesse becomes Uncle Jesse, Steve becomes Steve Urkey, Quentin becomes Quentin Tarantino.
- Give Value First – Want to have affiliates share knowledge bombs with you? Follow the law of reciprocity. Share information with them first, and more than likely they will share something with you as well.Around 5 years ago I was one of the first ones to use “exit pops” on my landing page. I shared with a lot of people this trick and how it was a super easy way to make more money. In return people shared with me a lot of gems: good traffic sources, private offers, ways of getting things approved on Facebook, etc. That’s actually how a lot of friendships are formed at conferences. I help you out, you help me, we realize we should talk more.
- Remembering Who to Follow Through With – I’m meeting hundreds of people in the industry, and it’s hard to remember who is who when you have so many business cards the next day. If there’s someone I want to get to know better, I’ll take a picture of their business card in my EverNote app after meeting them. Then I’ll write a few notes underneath like who are they and what do I need to follow up on.After the conference is over, I know exactly who I need to contact and what to talk about.
- Take Notes – We really overestimate our memory abilities. If I’m having an important meeting with a traffic source, I’ll take my iPhone out and voice record it (Letting them know of course). Anytime someone mentions something important, I’ll write it in my EverNote app. Good information is useless if you can’t remember it.
- Follow Up – The longer you take to follow up, the colder that contact becomes. About a day or two after the conference is over I’ll start emailing, skyping, and calling people to follow up.
- Dress Well – People will judge you based on first impressions. Internet marketing conferences are really casual. Buy clothes that fit, don’t wear free shirts, and shower everyday. I think affiliate marketers that wear suits int he daytime are a little try-hard.Be friendly towards everyone. The guy that’s all Gucci’ed out could be wearing the latest counterfeits from Chinatown, while the guy wearing free Neverblue shirts could be a millionaire. You never know who you’re talking to in this industry.
- Quality over Quantity – I’m not trying to meet everyone I see. Time’s limited and I rather make 5 really good friends than 100 acquaintances I’m never going to talk to again.
Say hi if you see me around Vegas this weekend!