Back in the day, meetings and networking could only take place face-to-face. You would think that today’s technologically advanced world would have made this practice extinct, but many people still believe in the power of in-person networking to create a more emphatic, memorable experience.
The Meetings Mean Business Coalition was created by the U.S. Travel Association to showcase the incredible value that business meetings, travel, and events bring to the U.S. The following are the pillars of the Coalition and are great to keep in mind when attending a conference or event.
Creating Personal Connections and Building Strong Communities
Networking isn’t easy for everyone, but within a conference community, there’s nothing to fear. At an event, there’s a sense of community, shared commonality, and reasoning. You can share dilemmas and solutions you’ve experienced at work and learn from others. Conversations can lead to a new job, a new idea, or a new partnership.
For example, I’ve met meeting planners from the West Coast and can reach out to them to find the best hotels in the region. I would easily trust them over other referrals because, after meeting them, I know that we understand each other’s job responsibilities and needs.
If the conference offers a “first-time attendee” orientation, I highly recommend participating. Take that last empty seat at a lunch table. Exchange ideas, connect with people, and collaborate. Swap business cards with everyone you meet and follow up on LinkedIn so when the time comes to re-connect, you’ll know how to find them or vice versa.
Driving Positive Business Outcomes
People tend to forget that conferences also are conducive to conducting business. When I attend an association or meeting management conference, I make appointments with hotel sales managers and the local convention and visitor bureaus.
In November 2013, the Crown Plaza released its first-ever Business Meetings in a Modern World global research report. Of the 2,000 business people surveyed around the world, 47% of them believed they had lost a contract or client simply because they didn’t have enough face-to-face meetings, and 81% stated that face-to-face meetings are better for building long-term trust and ensuring strong client relationships.
Most people will say the reason they registered for a particular conference is to continue their education and to maintain their certification. They rush from session to session, and they disappear at the end of the day. If you’re already at the conference, take the time to engage and observe – ask a question to the speaker, find out more about an organization, or stop by an exhibitor booth.
Conference learning includes personal development, career development, networking, and broadening horizons. You’re surrounded by opportunities to grow. You enable yourself to become an expert.
When you attend any conference, take full advantage of your investment in your most valuable asset: yourself.
Written by Tina Gaerlan, CMP