Conferences. Am I the only one who has a love hate-relationship with them? Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy going … Networking with people and attending presentations. However, then I have to network with people and attend presentations! See the struggle?
I finally decided I needed to set myself up for success at self-storage industry events rather than have the passive attitude of accepting “whatever comes along.” Here are my six tips for making any conference or tradeshow successful and beneficial for you.
1. Leave the Party at Home
Remember, you’re at a professional event with your colleagues and peers. There’s never really an “off time” at conferences, especially if your intent is to learn, network and grow. While there’s nothing wrong with having fun and relaxing, be mindful of your behavior, particularly how much alcohol you consume. Nobody wants to see you do the limbo!
2. Plan Your Days
Prior to the show, you’ll receive all kinds of information from event coordinators. Take time to carefully plan your days. What sessions do you want to attend? Who do you want to meet? Five minutes before the event starts isn’t the time to decide. Planning allows you to take full advantage of the offerings available.
For example, do you want to meet up with some of the conference presenters or other experts? Often, their contact information will be included in their bio, so reach out in advance. I’ve done this, and it has opened doors to me that would’ve never been opened before.
3. Polish Your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure all information is up-to-date and you’re presenting your best self on your LinkedIn profile. Also take advantage of the social media site’s “Find Nearby” feature. If you’re not familiar, here’s how to use it:
- On your mobile device, click “press” on the “my network” option in the bottom menu.
- At the top you’ll see “Find nearby (off).”
- Assuming your Bluetooth is on, once you press the button, it’ll find people in your network who are geographically close to you. As long as you and others are on that page, you’ll see each other!
4. Share Your Contact Info
Make sure your contact information is correct in your phone so you can easily and confidently share it. I learned this lesson the hard way.
I have my phone connected to an Amazon Alexa. If my four-year-old daughter says, “Alexa, call Daddy,” it connects her to my phone. But to make that happen, I had to rename myself in my phone as “Daddy.” One day I shared my contact info with a 50-year-old architect. He didn’t think the name was so cute.
5. Don’t Be Lame
Approaching someone new at a conference can be hard. You’re putting yourself out there. However, questions like, “So, what do you do?” and “Where are you from?” are examples of incredibly lame ice-breakers. Instead, try more specific questions such as:
- What's been your favorite session so far?
- Have you met anyone interesting here?
- What’s your biggest takeaway?
- Is this your first time to this event?
If you want to be remembered, ask questions and do things that’ll set you apart.
6. Have an Elevator Pitch
If you’ve read anything business-related in the past 10 years, you’ve heard the term “elevator pitch” or “elevator speech.” It’s a short statement you can quickly share with others to help them understand what you’re about and spark interest in your idea, company or product. Have you perfected yours? If not, you should!
If I ask someone what he does for X self-storage company, I don’t want to hear, “Oh, I manage two stores.” Wow, you and every other person! That’s completely forgettable. Instead, try something like “I facilitate the daily operation of two storage sites. Typically, that includes marketing, sales, staff training, community involvement and the occasional weed-pulling.” This is short and to the point but interjects a little humor to make it memorable.
With these six tips in hand, you’ll be able to master any conference you attend. Keep in mind the most important thing about attending a self-storage event: Always be authentic to who you are.
Rick Beal is vice president of development and management for Easy Storage Solutions, where he spearheads the consulting and third-party management division. His goal is to help a historically slow-changing industry embrace new, more profitable ideas. His motto is, “Storage is a business of inches not miles.” To contact him, e-mail [email protected] or stay up-to-date with all his publications and speaking engagements at www.linkedin.com/in/storagerick.