Seek and Destroy: How to Make the Most of Conferences & Panels

by Ryan on November 5, 2010

power networking,conferences,panels,connections

This is post is part of a new series of planned posts on “Networking”.

As a startup founder, I try and attend only one “full day” conference per year (if you’re in tech, try TechCrunch Disrupt) and to attend networking events that occur only during the evenings, for no more that 2 hours at a time, and no more than one evening per month. Go into all events with a mission of who to “seek and destroy” – i.e. who at the event you have not met before, need to meet, and have and “ask” prepared for those that you will meet.  e.g. A good ask for an experienced auto industry exec might be ” would you mind intro-ing me to a few of the top auto-parts supplies for my new website which sells European tailpipes”.

IMPORTANT – When you’re at a conference or other networking event for that matter, try your best to avoid talking to people you already know or those that you can otherwise presume (even if you’re wrong) in the first one minute of meeting them will provide little to no value. Get in, connect with the folks you need to meet, and get out. Another general tip that works well for me is that I try and avoid, at all costs, having to sit in a room and be talked to by a panel or a speaker – i.e. for any event you go to, the impact is made in the connections.

Skip the lectures, presentations, panels, and pitches and go straight for the networking session.  Spend 1.5 hours at the network session at most, seek & destroy, and get out.   To avoid the time wasting panel discussions, you can even show up at the end of a panel just to approach the panelists.  If you absolutely must sit listen to someones speech / panel session, simply catch the online video version on your own time.

Lastly, bring tons of business cards and for everyone you talk to, even if it’s only for a brief minute, be sure to get their business card.  Stop at nothing until you get their contact info.  A conversation with someone at a networking event where you don’t get their contact info is like a wasted moment in the life of an entrepreneur.

In the next post in this series, I’ll provide a few tips on what to do with the business cards you collect.  Special thanks to Chris Seckler for encouraging me to publish this series.

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