I recently returned from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) Bid & Proposal Con 2014 in Chicago. Networking with more than 800 business development, capture, and proposal professionals from around the world was both exhilarating and exhausting. I want to share some lessons learned on how to best leverage the opportunities available over four days of workshops, panels, presentations, vendor booth promos, receptions, dinners, and more.
Be All There: As an attendee and presenter, I noticed those ever-present smart phones are quite a distraction. Make a concerted effort to be present wherever you are. If the presentation is not of interest to you, then go ahead and leave rather than staring at your phone and disrespecting the presenter. If you are sharing a table at lunch, join in the conversation rather than checking your email.
Execute Your Message: You should attend a conference with the goal of executing your message. For example, if you want to find mentors, then make sure people learn that fact when they speak to you. If you want to promote your expertise in a specific topic, whether or not you are a presenter, you can participate in interactive sessions, add to relevant conversations, and contribute to social media. By the time you leave the conference, you should also leave the desired impression with your colleagues.
Don’t Sit Next to Your Friends: It is quite tempting to stay within your comfort zone. However, if you sit next to someone you don’t know and/or want to know better, the networking will result in a new contact that may be valuable now or in the future.
Take Time to Enjoy the Venue: Leave the hotel. Get out and see the sights because playing tourist is part of the total experience. Share sightseeing with others to increase networking value and build relationships.
Analyze the ROI: The benefits of attending a conference are both quantifiable and non-quantifiable, but the costs are real. Costs include time spent preparing for the conference, opportunity costs of time lost as well as the more obvious costs such as travel, lodging, food and registration. Free conference ROI calculators are a big help in understanding costs and benefits.
Follow Up: Do not neglect the follow up. You gathered a lot of business cards and attended useful presentations. Reach out to new and existing contacts after the conference to keep the conversation going, thus continuing to execute your message and achieve better ROI.
By Lisa Pafe