Picture this all-too-common scenario: you’ve just left QuickBooks Connect 2016. You’re on the plane, exhausted but inspired and exhilarated by the last few days. You open up your bag and start going through the pile of business cards you collected during the conference. You quickly realize that your memory of the face associated with each card is already fading. You open your LinkedIn app to find 100+ new connections and very little recollection of what you discussed with each person or why you connected in the first place. You were a busy bee during the conference, as you should’ve been! Many conference attendees have experienced networking overload after a 3-day networking event. Luckily, there are some simple methods you can use to avoid post-conference confusion.
Let’s begin by taking a page from Forbes Magazine’s guide to networking: Start with a plan. It will be difficult to know you have met all of your networking goals if you walk into QuickBooks Connect without a plan. Make sure that you pre-determine a few strategies regarding who you want to meet and how you are going to remember them. Make a list of 10+ people (or types of people) that you’d like to meet, find a business card scanning app and map out your days according to the conference agenda. You’re sure to meet everyone on your list at different types of events.
If you’re looking to meet a few fellow accountants and pick up some industry tips and tricks, Try some of the sessions like “Tricky transactions in QuickBooks Online” or “Changing Clients Lives the Fast Way”. If you’re a female entrepreneur or small business owner, you may want to connect with other women entrepreneurs in the accounting industry. Try the “Female Small Business Owner and Entrepreneur Meetup”. Identify the areas or types of connections you want to focus on and seek them out at the relevant events!
Be selective about who you want to meet and remember. Participating in an event like QB Connect means meeting TONS of people, all day long. Don’t try to cram every single one into your rolodex (haha). Pick the ones with the most relevance to you, your business and your priorities. Though it may seem tempting to spend time chatting with anyone who crosses your path, you’ll optimize your time at the conference if you make a plan and stick to it.
Once you have your plan for who to meet and where, it’s time to figure out how you’ll keep everyone straight. Even with a plan, it’s easy to get information overload. There are a few ways to remember each and every one of your new friends:
- Picture time! One quick solution to remembering your connections is to take a picture with that person. Make it even better by asking that person to hold their nametag next to their face. You’ll never forget them if you can associate their face with their name in a visual way. Post-conference, you’ll be able to easily pair names and faces with their business cards.
- The folded-business-card trick: if you’re not comfortable taking pictures with your smartphone, use this quick trick to categorize your new connections. Hold their business card face up during your discussion and fold the corners of the card according to what your plans are:
- Want to follow up immediately? Fold down the RIGHT upper corner of the business card.
- On the fence as to whether or not to follow up? Fold down the LEFT upper corner of your card.
- Might they be a potential partner? Fold the bottom right corner of the card.
- Not interested in contacting them again? Fold the card in half!
This is inconspicuous, uncomplicated and will keep your memory fresh about who the person was and what your thoughts were when you met them. Use whatever folding method makes the most sense to you. Just make sure you stay consistent, and you’ll have an organized way to recall details about your new connections.
- The memory trick: mnemonics. A mnemonic device is a technique that helps your brain recall important bits of information by associating that information with something easy to remember. One simple mnemonic device is to associate the name of your new connection with the things you learn about them during your conversation. For example, if you meet Donna, and you learn she is from Delaware, use that alliteration to make the connection between the name and the person. Donna from Delaware. Cement the mnemonic into your brain and you won’t soon forget it.
The most important thing to do when meeting lots of new people is just to make the effort to remember them. As long as you create a purposeful connection between that person and their name, you won’t have to scratch your brain to remember them. Don’t meet someone on your list without making a conscious effort to remember them. If you miss their name the first time, don’t be shy and ask them to repeat it.
Now that you’re equipped to tackle the name game, it’s time to be social. Follow up with each of your new connections, and do so in a timely manner! Send an email, add them to connect on LinkedIn and, for those that you really hit it off with, shoot them a text. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that you’ll get a response or further develop your professional relationship. What’s the point of attending a tradeshow if you’re not going to make lasting connections? If you find you have time in your hotel room during the evenings or on breaks, start your outreach then so the cards and connections don’t pile up.
If you follow these steps, you’re sure to avoid networking mayhem. It’s easy: just make a plan and stick to it. Let the QB Connect conference empower you to become a fabulous networker. We’d love to hear more ideas about networking at conferences. What are some of your tips and tricks for networking that you’ll bring to QB Connect?