Whether you're the planner, keynote speaker, the emcee or an attendee, everyone has a common concern when it comes to large events and conferences; how will anyone remember me?
1. Interactive Presentations – If you’re a presenter, interactive experiences force you to focus on your audience and not your slides. This is great if you’re presenting or trying to engage your audience later in the day when energy tends to get low. Quizzes and contests are a great way for a speaker/host to get the crowd motivated and keep them interested. You can also get your audience moving simply by asking “show of hands” questions or asking them to get up and stretch. Group discussions are a fun way for your attendees to get to know one another while shaking up the monotony.
2. Social Media - Most large events and conferences should have an event app. Many of the already existing registration apps such as Eventbrite are now incorporating a “Who’s Going” feature on their platform. With this feature, you can virtually weed through the hundreds or thousands in the crowd and prepare your 15- second introduction. Instead of business cards, people are now exchanging social media handles which is an immediate way to start communicating after the event and put a face to your name.
3. Be hospitable – When we say hospitality, we tend to think hotels, but there are so many ways to incorporate hotel-like services at a conference in order to elevate the guest experience. The best hotels in the world create their guests’ experience by putting themselves in the guests’ shoes. In that sense, if you’re planning a conference, walk through that experience from registration all the way to post-event. Ask yourself: If I was an attendee, what would make this a 5-star experience? I know personally there are events I will never forget all because of their charging pods, “quiet” lounges and $5 massages.
4. Listen – Part of successful networking and creating lasting connections is by sharing resources with the person you’ve just met. Ask a lot of questions and let the other person talk. By actively listening you will find an opportunity to be helpful. Perhaps the person is running a small business and doesn’t have the budget to hire a social media manager. Ask them if they’ve heard about Hootsuite and show them how to use it. Or maybe they own a staffing agency and would love introductions to caterers. You could give them your card and schedule a coffee date to get to know them better. After all, you’ll need information about their business so you can make a strong connection to the caterers you know. Sometimes listening is all it takes to take that networking to the next level.
5. Get personal - This doesn't mean be vulnerable in a room full of strangers. This means be authentic, be you. And more importantly, encourage the people you connect with to do the same. If someone seems passionate about their work, don’t be shy about sharing your passions as well. When your conversation finds the delicate balance between business and pleasure, people you’ve met will walk away with a sense of warmth towards you which certainly will make you more memorable.
These tips have helped me actually enjoy large conferences, and I find that once you’re comfortable, that warmth spreads and others get comfortable too. Think about every business connection or colleague you currently have… they too were strangers at some point.