Are Coming ––>
A new year is upon us. Soon we all will be getting meeting notices: conventions, alumni reunions, CE meetings, etc.
I have been to an awful lot of these gatherings. I have been an attendee, a speaker, a leader, a follower, an exhibitor, and a convention organizer. (Different roles give me different perspectives.)
At all of them I have been a networker. That has to be your primary activity at any of these meetings. Building your network, keeping it in shape, and modifying relationships is an important process that needs constant attention.
First, a Few Basics
Principle. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, as they say.
Dress code. Be clean, elegant, and professional. Save the flashy stuff for the appropriate evening parties. I like to say, “You can always dress down, you can never dress up” — without going back to your room.
Breath code. Use mints even if you don’t need them. Better safe than sorry. No one will tell you.
Booze code. Minimal. Get well hydrated (H2O) before cocktail time. Nurse a drink as if you paid $50.00 for it. Ginger ale looks just like bourbon and soda.
My wife tells me that when we first met she would not go out with me because at work she had a file that had many photos of me at meetings. In every one of them I was holding a wine glass. She thought I might have a problem.
If you are looking for some specific thing, make a list of the features that are most important to you. Make ten copies of that list, one for each vendor.
Badges. The only correct place to put a badge is on your right shoulder. Your first name must be readable from four to five feet away. Why the right shoulder? As somebody walks up to you, both of you reach out with your right hand to greet and shake hands. That puts your head, and his or her head, right in front of your right shoulders. If the badge is on a left shoulder there will be an awkward dance trying to read the badge
Some badges hang by two strings and must be in the middle of your chest. Make sure they are high on your chest, not over your waist. Make them easy for people to read.
Most issues of ComputerTalk have photos of people attending meetings. Just about all of them are wearing badges. Only one or two of these badges will be in a place where they can be read without staring at parts of people’s anatomy that are not stared at in polite company.
Business cards. Always have your business cards handy — easy to hand to anyone who might want one. Before leaving your hotel room, check your business card stash. More importantly, pack lots of them in your baggage. There are few things worse than having to borrow someone else’s business card to write your name and address on.
Business card content. If you like the content on the card your employer gives you, use it. If it does not have your personal email address and phone number, get some printed (500 go a long way). The personal cards should only have your name, professional degree, personal email address, and personal cell phone number. Give out one card or both, depending on the circumstances.
The Exhibit Floor
Exhibitors. Have comfortable stools for you to sit on. The attendees will all be standing. If you have chairs in your booth, you have to constantly get up and down. That is tiring. Without moving off the stool you can shake hands, say hi, wave, etc.
Do not get such a clever giveaway gadget that you spend all your time explaining it (instead of your product). Do have simple giveaways that are useful and small and that you hand out one by one. Be ready for the student invasion. Students come with big bags and minimal control. Save your good stuff for a day when there will be fewer students.
Remember, your objective is to get prospects. Get their business cards and info, and make notes at that time so your follow-up will be productive.
Attendees. Only pick up giveaways that you would buy if you saw them in a store. Pick up stuff that you really want and need. Concentrate on getting information about new products, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. Make notes.
In so many cases it may look like you are buying pieces of equipment when you are really agreeing to work closely with people who happen to have some interesting equipment. The more complicated the equipment, the more you need to like the people behind it.
Get to know the vendors. Key people are often manning the convention booths. Get to know what kind of people they are. Do you share value systems? Do they care about the same things you care about? In so many cases it may look like you are buying pieces of equipment when you are really agreeing to work closely with people who happen to have some interesting equipment. The more complicated the equipment, the more you need to like the people behind it.
If you are looking for some specific thing, make a list of the features that are most important to you. Make ten copies of that list, one for each vendor. Grade them. Name, price, and people compatibility must be on each list. The rest of the features are specific to the item you are looking for.
After the day is over, review your findings and return the next day to fill in any blanks.
Vendors love to see attendees who ask good questions and pay attention to the answers.
Networking. Again, the main thing you are doing at a convention is strengthening your network. Hand out those cards. Enjoy old times. Get up to date on others and get others up to date on you.
My career has consisted of several very interesting and professionally rewarding positions. Every one of them came to me via networking. None were advertised. You need to know people. People need to know you. Network. CT
is a consultant and past president of the California
Pharmacists Association. The author can be reached at
and PO Box 25, Esparto, CA 95627.