Everyone loves attending conferences. Meeting new people, reconnecting with old friends, and learning new tips and tactics to bring back to your ministry make conferences rock! Even better, having a networking game plan can make the conferences you attend this year even more beneficial.
Utilize the following four tips to take your Christian conference networking to the next level.
Set Your Goals
The key to accomplishing anything starts with goals, and conferences are no different. Take the time to document your goals. Whether you use post-it notes, Evernote, or the app of your choice, write down what you want to accomplish with each conference you attend.
Next, prioritize your goals. Go over your list a few times, pray over it, and keep the list in a highly visible location in your home/office and on your devices. The key is visibility and accessibility both before and during the conference. Make sure to update your list as needed and check off each goal as they are accomplished.
Here are a few examples of goals I set for the 2016 That Church Conference (ThatCC):
- Establish name recognition among industry leaders
- Make 1-3 long-term #ChurchComm allies
- Learn actionable digital marketing tactics
- Add-value to #ThatCC by Twitter conversations to increase my social visibility
- Generate 5+ article concepts
Do Pre-Conference Outreach
I encourage getting a head start on making conference connections. Remember, the key to any ministry is connecting with people. Whether online or face-to-face, the end game is always people.
The key to pre-conference outreach is being intentional. That's why I recommend making a list of key individuals with whom you want to connect. Then, when you have your list (I suggest prioritizing it), consider why you want to connect with that person and why they would want to connect with you. Ask yourself the following three questions for each person on your list:
- How can this person assist me/my ministry?
- How can I assist them?
- What do we have in common? (people, interests, networks, etc.)
Once you're ready, you can use a number methods to connect with them such as social media, email, or go the non-digital route and send a letter or card.
Last year, Sly King was on my target list for the 2016 ThatCC . I read a spotlight on him and immediately knew he could provide value to PraiseOn. I complimented him via Twitter on his interview and asked if he was attending the conference. At the conference we hung out and have since formed a great relationship.
Bonus Tip: make sure your profile photo clearly shows your face, making it easier for people to recognize you in person.
Find Ways to Stand Out
Besides proactively going after your target connections, be welcoming to other conference attendees. You never know, your biggest contact may be someone who's not even on your target list.
Ask yourself: what makes me stand out from the crowd? No matter the size of the conference, you need to find a way to be noticed and remembered. Here are a few tactics:
- Make a memorable comment
- Wear a unique t-shirt
- Hand out snazzy business cards
Bonus Tip: If you're attending a conference where everyone will have their laptops out and in use, try adding an eye-catching laptop skin or stickers to your device. It's a great way to get others to spark up a conversation with you.
Prepare Your Pitch
When you have the attention of your target connections, or someone who just walked up to you - what do you say? Whatever it is, has to be engaging, quick and thought through.
Practice your "conference pitch," a succinct statement that defines your value proposition (aka, what you bring to the table). You may only have 5-15 seconds to make an impression. So make every word count.
While crafting your conference pitch include the following:
- Value: what you do, but more importantly what you can offer.
- Purpose: people are compelled by the why and knowing what drives a project.
- Invitation: include a call-to-action if the situation calls for it.
Feel free to leave a comment and share how you maximize the connections you make at the conferences you attend. I would love to learn your strategies. Your tip may inspire me to write a part 2 - I'm game.