Want the only conference advice you need to get the most out of every event you attend?
Of course, you do!
How do I know?
Because I used to be like you.
Before, I subscribed to Groucho Marx’s view of the world:
“Who would want to belong to a club that would have me as a member?”
As a result I often suffered from Conference Wallflower Syndrome:
It sets in when you attend live events without a colleague or social wingman. So you feel isolated and less willing to engage.
But, like Fight Club, no one talks about Conference Wallflower Syndrome!
Instead they work in their hotel or take phone calls in the lobby to look important.
While conferences provide no shortage of knowledge and useful new ideas:
The true key to success is not spending all of your time in the presentations!
Instead, the only conference advice you need:Focus on making human-to-human connections that build trust and form the basis for long term personal relationships. Click To Tweet
When I attend a live event,
I focus 100% on being present and connecting with the people attending.
What does this do for your marketing?
- Builds your personal network and broader community to increase business trustworthiness and visibility.
- Improves exchange of business ideas, knowledge and experience to extend your thought leadership.
- Lays a foundation for business deals, partnerships and projects.
In turn, you develop a career, not just occupy a job position. Since more people know you in a professional context and can recommend you to new employers and clients.
Let’s explore how to succeed with this conference advice.
What Is The Only Conference Advice You Need To Make You Better?
While we all have a voice inside our heads, we never hear the talk track running in other people’s heads. So we never realize that they may experience the same insecurities as we do.
At Content Marketing World, Ann Handley gave us the green light to become our best selves including our human flaws when she said:You have to be real and relatable VERSUS perfect and polished. @AnnHandley Click To Tweet
Ann’s words allowed me to leave the black patent leather Mary Jane version of myself at home.
Because without leaning into your unique talents and skills, you’ll never shine.
Instead, you’ll just be another cookie-cutter copy of a non-existent ideal.
The Only Conference Advice You Need:
- Give yourself permission to be you. As long as you treat everyone with respect, dignity and good manners, you can take a deep breath and let go of your “shoulds” and “coulds”
Start by accepting yourself. Then allow yourself to become a conference attendee other people want to meet.
Where do you start?
Greet each person you meet at a conference with a smile and a handshake regardless of whether you know them or not.
Actionable Marketing Take-Away:
- Practice self acceptance every day. If necessary, use affirmations and other techniques until you believe it.
How I Conquered Conference Wallflower Syndrome
While I’ve attended lots of marketing events and conferences over the years, I never thought of myself as a marketing rockstar.
So I never realized that people who read my blog, newsletter and/or social media interactions wanted to meet me face-to-face. As a result, I often experienced these encounters with surprise. Yet I did the same thing when I met my marketing heroes.
Even worse, I hated taking conference photos.
Because when I looked in the mirror or at photos of me,
I saw a woman with a big nose and “challenged” skin. (Thank you eczema and allergies!)
Over the past year, I started to accept myself as I am.
To do this,
I had to stop judging the person in the mirror—because what does she really know?
I intentionally pushed myself out of my comfort zone to let go of “Old Heidi”.
Like a caterpillar shedding its skin I let go of my perception of who “I should be.” This allowed me to grow and flourish into a better, more real version of myself. In the process, I gave myself permission to succeed and more importantly to be happy.
So how did I celebrate?
During the #CMWorld chat prior to the conference, I invited attendees to take a photo with me. And then I upped the ante by turning it into a hashtag, #IWantAPhotoWithHeidi.
Friends, colleagues and others joined me to create fun photos and even better memories!
I gave other attendees permission to reach out to me. Even better they came up to me and asked for their photo. So we created fun memories!
One of my favorite moments:
Dressed in the brightest orange shirt he could find, Dennis Shiao greeted me as I entered the conference center just to have a photo with me.
BUT more importantly:
You can do this too!
While you don’t need to attend a conference to do this, getting outside of your everyday routine and environment allows you to “test the waters” to see how it feels.
In the process, you’ll make progress towards improving your marketing by expanding your network, gathering new business ideas and developing new partnerships.
Actionable Marketing Take-Aways:
- Give yourself permission to step outside of yourself to become a truer version of who you are.
- Test small changes in new places where you don’t feel judged.
Conference Advice: Do Your Networking Homework Before You Leave
Before the conference do your homework.
Beyond determining which sessions you need or want to attend, decide who you want to meet. Ideally, have a reason for meeting the person.
To this end, check the speaker list and the app for attendees. Because top executives and influencers go to events as attendees to check out speakers and sponsors as well as to learn. For example, I met Jeff Bullas when he attended SMMW and I saw Jay Baer at Voice Summit 19 this summer.
Understand that this research and outreach takes time so you must make it a priority since it pays big dividends.
Where appropriate reach out to people you want to meet before the event. BUT, don’t scrape their email address.
Instead, follow them on social media, sign up for their email (if they’re like me, it’ll give you a chance to communicate with them), and comment on and share their content and/or blog posts. This gets you noticed the “right way”.
In my life, there are way less than six degrees of separation. So wherever possible find points of commonality. For example at Content Marketing World, Drew Davis realized that he knew my husband’s late wife.
I made connections from the moment I stepped onto the plane to Cleveland until I left the cab in Manhattan, I reached out to attendees.
The ways to do this include creating roundup posts that give you a reason to reach out to specific attendees and speakers. Here are 3 examples from Content Marketing World:
- How to Get the Best Out of Content Marketing World 2019: Advice From the Experts by Agorapulse’s Veronica Jarski, who attended my session!
- 50 Content Marketing Influencers and Experts to Follow 2019 #CMWorld by Top Rank Marketing’s Lane Ellis
- The Top Content Marketing World Presenters You Need To See
Actionable Marketing Take-Away:
- Download the conference app and take the time to create a conference game plan. If possible, don’t wait until you get to the conference. Since some people like Marcus Sheridan, Mitch Joel and Andy Crestodina only fly in for a day or less.
- Go up to people you want to connect with even if they didn’t respond to your pre-conference outreach. There’s a good chance that it’s not personal! Take it from me–people get busy before and after events.
The Only Conference Advice You Need Conclusion
At their core, live events and conferences are about meeting people face-to-face. Unlike the stranger next to you on a bus or plane, attendees share common interests.
So take advantage of this opportunity to connect with them, even if you feel shy.
By overcoming your shyness, you’ll feel more supported and connected.
But here’s the reality:
You only have one life so why not enrich it by developing relationships based on trust.
Further, you’ll improve your marketing by:
- Expanding your network and community.
- Establishing your authority among your peers.
- Developing new business opportunities.
Even better, research shows that people with more connections do better professionally over the course of their lives.
So step outside of your comfort zone and just do it! Not attending the conference in person? Here are some tips on how to look great in video conferences.
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Photo Credit: All photos via Heidi Cohen except photo of Ann Handley via Twitter