You’ve booked your flight/hotel and packed your business cards. Your mission? To make vital contacts, get up-to-date on industry trends and have a better feel for the competitive landscape of the Architecture, Engineering & Construction (A/E/C) industry. Here’s how to come away mission accomplished:
Don’t leave home without a game plan. You should have done all your homework before your plane leaves the tarmac — your goal is to hit the ground running upon arrival. Ideally, you’ve done your pre-planning and all that’s left is the execution (well that and the follow-up!). So before you go …
If you are expanding your business, imagine conference planning as draft season.
You want to recruit the best team possible. Consider not only the relationships you have now, but also those you might need further down the line. For example, if you are expanding regions, have you built relationships within the new regions; will you need contractors, clients, team partners or subcontractors? Pull the exhibitor list as well as the attendee list, if available, and pre-arrange meetings for the conference.
Align your game plan with your corporate strategy.
Analyze your current pipeline and future goals — look as far out in the future that you typically plan (e.g. two years ahead) — and identify gaps in teaming needs. Evaluate the conference attendee/exhibitor list, and make it your mission to meet with any contacts that match those teaming gaps. If there are new companies you are seeking to contact, whether to meet teaming needs or future pursuits, track them down and introduce your company. If you are like me, you may be a little more proactive and reach out prior to the conference to set-up an in-person meeting while at the conference. Conferences can get hectic and you don’t want to take a chance in not getting the face time you need.
Set goals. Make them quantifiable.
I am a big planner by nature. I like to quantify things because it’s how I process forward motion. Examples of quantifiable goals may be, “I need to find a Team Partner with specific trade or skill capabilities in a certain region” or, “I have an opportunity that I need a commitment from my Team Partner on, and I have to lock them down at the conference to get a commitment before they commit to another team.” And just like any set of goals, prioritize them. More than likely you will run out of time. If you have one or two priorities, you know where and who to focus your effort with.
Show up to the sessions and be present in the conference.
Spend the most time with the companies you might actually work with (Quality over Quantity!!!); don’t waste your time hanging around booths just to score the best goodie bag. Don’t miss half of the day’s conference because you stayed at the evening events until the wee hours of the morning. (Yes, this does happen, but we won’t name any names here!). You invested the money already, so try to make the most of it. Every conference I have ever attended has resulted in something positive – whether it’s a new contact, a new client, mentors, or gained knowledge that I can share with my staff and clients … the list goes on and on.
Put away your phone.
Talking incessantly on your phone makes you seem unapproachable. Do whatever it takes to avoid answering calls, texts, emails, etc. while in a conversation. It sends the message that your time is more valuable than theirs. If you have to check emails, find a discrete place to do so and keep it short. You are at the conference for human interaction. Interact! Do not be that person walking through the conference with your head down staring at your phone screen; it gives the impression that you would rather be anywhere but here.
Never bad mouth your company, air its dirty laundry or give the impression that you are looking for work.
This is extremely unprofessional and offensive. Would you want to hire that guy? This is a small industry, so what you say and how you act might very well get back to your boss(es). Attending conferences is a privilege, essentially you are a designated ambassador so do your company proud.
It’s not over just because you arrived home.
You are not done yet! Follow-up! Seriously. Not many people follow through with this essential part of the process. This includes de-briefing those you work with on pertinent conference info., such as notes from sessions (you did go to all the sessions, right?!) or contacts they may need for their part of the business. Shake out your briefcase and go through each business card, brochure, plan proposals and any other scrap of paper used to take down information, and get a jump start on your action items, which can be as simple as dropping a contact an “It was a pleasure meeting you …” email acknowledgment. A personal touch can go a long way for building a future teaming relationship, such as sharing relevant industry information that they could benefit from (you need to give to get, right?!). This method shows that you are staying current with industry happenings and have a genuine interest in their company.
So before your next conference, make sure you set tangible goals and do your homework. Second, execute that game plan with purpose! Lastly, don’t forget to follow-up in a meaningful way.
If you would like more information on conference strategies, please contact us at www.strategiccreations.com/contact.