5 Tips for Your Next Networking Event

As the leader of IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, I oversee the robust 3.5-day program that includes more than 50 educational sessions, a variety of networking opportunities, “meet and greets” with keynote speakers, and other special attendee events. An important value of our conference, or any in-person business event, is the opportunity to network with like-minded professionals in our field.

If you’re uncomfortable by the idea of networking and approaching people you don’t know, here are some tips you can use at your next conference or in-person business event.

1.    If offered, attend the orientation session for first-time attendees. This will acquaint you with the event’s agenda as well as other attendees in the same position as you. When the time is right, introduce yourself to others.  Some “ice breaking” tips include sharing your name, where you’re from, where you work, and your role. Then ask others those questions, listening carefully for commonalities and differences in your backgrounds. Oftentimes, further conversation occurs naturally after this point and first-timers frequently plan to connect again during or after the event.

2.    Before or after a presentation, start a conversation with someone sitting nearby about the presentation topic. Start out by introducing yourself and asking about his/her interest in the session. If you have specific questions or insights about the session, offer that as further information, or ask how the session relates to his/her job responsibilities or career aspirations.  meeting presenter

3.    After a session that sparks your interest, introduce yourself to the presenter and ask specific questions regarding the concepts covered or how you can obtain more information. Offer your business card so that you can continue sharing material on the topic.

4.    During networking events such as “meet and greets,” group meals, or cocktail parties, seek out individuals who are standing alone, who you haven’t met, or who you’ve met in a prior session. Besides introducing yourself, inquire what sessions he/she has participated in, what his/her impressions were, and what he/she has learned. Share your thoughts also.

5.    Small group activities like conversational roundtables or exhibitor showcases allow for additional one-on-one time with other attendees as well as opportunities to meet with exhibitors to learn about their services. In addition to the above examples, other conversation starters include inquiring about new industry or regulatory events, discussing work challenges you may be experiencing, or learning more about the organization hosting the event to better understand other services of interest to you.

Make It Count

When you feel the conversation has ended, offer to connect on LinkedIn or exchange Businessmen exchanging business cardsbusiness cards. And don’t forget to follow up! Starting and sustaining a conversation with business professionals in your industry is an important way to grow, build your self-confidence, and expand your career horizons. So go ahead and mingle on!

To jumpstart building your networking skills, join us at IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo held in Las Vegas on June 18-22, 2016. Register now for your chance to network with the profession’s top thought leaders and professional colleagues.

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

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Personal Branding: Be an Advocate for Yourself

While your everyday job may offer various opportunities to be an advocate for your industry, company, or products and services, how often do you advocate for yourself and work on improving your personal brand? A personal brand is how you portray yourself both online and in person. As with a company brand, your personal brand should be consistent across all channels and should represent who you are.

iStock_000014300896_Small1. Decide what you stand for.
First, determine who you are, what your values are, and how you want to represent yourself. Choose three to five values that guide your moral compass, and design a strategy from there. Personally, I would use “trustworthy,” “committed,” and “respectful” to describe myself.

In my role as staff liaison to IMA’s technical advisory committees, these three values are essential. I conduct myself in a way that committee members have faith in how I communicate and respect their position on technical issues that impact the management accounting profession.

2. Share relevant content often.
Always be careful of what you post on a public social media profile. Delete inappropriate pictures or content on your profile that might discredit you, or make your profile private. Instead, post blogs or articles you wrote or share relevant research in your field. This will show your enthusiasm for knowledge sharing and career development. Creating a posting plan will help you stay organized and ensure you maintain a healthy stream of content.

It’s also important to share content with your coworkers who may have similar interests. This knowledge sharing at work can boost your reputation and can prove your integrity as an expert in your field. In turn, your coworkers might advocate for you as well.

3. Network and get involved with groups that interest you.
Connect with companies and causes you’re interested in to show what you’re passionate about outside of work. Not only will this boost your brand, but connecting with these companies online will give you real-time news updates and research in your news feed. You’ll also stay informed with industry networking events and meetings.

For example, I follow IMA® and Fairleigh Dickinson University, my alma mater, on LinkedIn. It’s a great way to stay connected with my company and what’s going on with other alumni at the University. I use the discussion forums as networking opportunities and as a way to search for in-person events the alumni association holds.

Your Personal Brand at Work
Becoming a self-advocate means you stick to your values. Since mobile apps are so readily available, your digital persona is at your fingertips 24/7. It’s very easy to share information these days. You can use it to your advantage, but don’t lose sight of your values and what you stand for. Being a professional online is just as important as acting professionally in person. As we become more and more tech savvy, don’t forget about the value of in-person connections. These interactions can leave impressions stronger than any digital footprint.

Written by Linda Devonish-Mills, CMA, CPA, CAE

Related Articles:
The Value Of Personal Branding For Small Business – Forbes
5 Steps to Fix Your Personal Brand When Insults Stick – Entrepreneur

The Elevator (Pitch) of Success

An “elevator pitch” is a short 30- to 60-second sales pitch for your business, your product, or yourself. The term derives from the image of meeting someone in an elevator and having to sell them on your product or yourself in the time it takes for the elevator to get to the next stop. It’s especially important for students and recent graduates to craft their own personal elevator pitch before they enter the workforce and know how to use it throughout their career.

Create ItBusinessman hand touching going up sign on lift control panel
Start off by writing down the goal of your elevator pitch, basic background information about yourself, and what characteristics give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This shouldn’t be more than 100 words long. Here’s a sample elevator pitch that I might have used many years ago:

“Hi, my name is Dennis Whitney. I’m currently studying finance at Fordham University. I really enjoy the analytical nature of finance, but I also like to write. My professors have encouraged me to look into an internship at a financial publication or finance-related not-for-profit organization. I would love an opportunity to use my knowledge of accounting and finance, as well as my strong analytical and writing skills. If you know of any such opportunities, please let me know. Here’s my business card.”

Practice It
After you’ve organized your thoughts, practice your speech verbally in front of someone. Your family and friends can help you identify what’s good and what needs improvement. As you progress through your career, you’ll become better at writing your pitch and speaking more comfortably in front of people. Outlining it on paper allows you to think about the details before verbally practicing it. You don’t necessarily have to memorize the speech, but you should memorize the outline: introduction, skills and interests, what you want, and why. Also, be flexible. You might want to customize what you say depending on who you meet in the “elevator.”

Professionals use elevator pitches in their day-to-day work. Whether your boss asks you to pitch a new product to the team or go to a trade show to acquire new clients, you will always need an elevator pitch to help you along the way.

iStock_000011097997_MediumUse It
Once you’ve created and practiced your elevator pitch, you can use it nearly anywhere. In-person events are the best place to use your pitch, since your passion and the first impression you make play a large role in how your pitch is perceived. Using it online or on your résumé might not be as impactful. Recent college graduates looking for their first job can use it to promote themselves at a job fair, networking event, or even the supermarket to build contacts. And no matter what industry you decide to work in, you’ll use elevator pitches throughout your career – whether you realize it or not!

It has been said that it only takes seven seconds to make a good first impression. Make them count by dressing professionally, making eye contact, and being respectful, and don’t forget to smile.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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Memorable Conferences: How to Make Them Last

As IMA’s Professor-in-Residence, I travel to at least six conferences per year around the world to speak about accounting education, to advance accounting practice, and to network with like-minded professionals. I just got back from Budapest where I attended the General Assembly of the International Group of Controlling (IGC), of which IMA is a member. It was a great meeting that offered informative presentations and many opportunities for knowledge sharing with a beautiful city as the backdrop. These factors made the meeting memorable for me because they all contribute to my being able to help advance the management accounting profession. Here are a few more thoughts on how to make your conference experience more memorable.

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KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Typically, well-known speakers draw attendees to conferences. Hearing from passionate, animated industry experts make the sessions a lot more interesting and memorable. To this end, IMA hosts popular and inspiring speakers at our Annual Conference & Expo. This year Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s will talk about being an entrepreneur, J.R. Martinez will talk about rising above our challenges, and Stephen Dubner will expand our view about business issues. Each has his own way of passing on knowledge and best practices to the next generation of business professionals.

It’s also important to hear the speaker’s insights to stimulate your thinking and provide you with ideas to bring back home. For instance, at the meeting in Budapest, Péter Horváth had a session about management accounting vs. controlling – the German version of management accounting. Horváth is considered the “Father of German Controlling,” and he had thought-provoking insights regarding the relationship between controlling, management accounting, management control systems, and performance measurement. This was followed by a cutting-edge presentation by Professor Dr. Klaus Möller on controlling innovation. Passionate, informed speakers such as these lead engaging, interactive sessions, so choose a speaker you’re interested in and ask questions. That will make your conference experience even more memorable!

BRING HOME THE VALUE
The most memorable part of a conference is the knowledge and value you bring back to your company, and value comes in many forms. The conferences I attend allow me to promote IMA and the management accounting profession while developing long-term relationships. At these meetings I form relationships with academics and practitioners from around the world, discuss emerging practices, and connect with possible future business partners. Attending these face-to-face meetings shows your peers that you’re truly dedicated to your profession and passionate about the work you do.

Raef-conference

You can also see the reach of your profession through the many conference attendees. For example, in Budapest I was able to learn first-hand the state of management accounting in many countries and how it’s developing among the local practitioners. It expanded my understanding of how management accounting is practiced globally, and the role IMA can play in advancing our profession.

EXPAND YOUR VIEW
There are many ways to make your conference experience memorable. Whether you attend for the people, location, or sessions, conferences help broaden your career horizon and also help you grow on both personal and professional levels. At the end of the day, attending a conference says a lot about you – that you’re passionate about your career, that you’re dedicated to your profession, and that you choose to increase your professional knowledge. Make it a point this year to attend at least one conference in your field to prove to yourself and your peers that you’re serious about your future.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

Related articles:
How to Choose Which Conferences to Attend – Intuit QuickBooks
TED Founder Reveals How You Can Create a Memorable Event – American Express

Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

In the past I’ve talked about how continuing your education by earning certifications and participating in mentoring programs can be beneficial to your career. Another important form of continuing education is attending a professional conference. Conferences should be a fun, engaging experience where you learn new skills and make professional contacts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next professional conference.

Personal Development Plan
Before you go to the conference, spend some time reviewing the program and choosing the sessions you want to attend. Think about this in the context of your career goals. Write down what you want to achieve in the next few years (e.g., job change, promotion, etc.). Then do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and choose sessions that will help you address the needs you have identified.

Continuing Education10492588_10152329086225829_6431722515604022926_n

I’m a huge advocate of lifelong continuing education, and conferences are great learning forums. Conference sessions offer a variety of educational opportunities and, depending on your area of interest, can include discussions of top industry trends, how-to sessions, and motivational presentations. Not only can you learn from leading experts in the field, but you can also get inspired by hearing motivational life stories.

Attending the session is only the first step. What is perhaps even more important is applying what you learned on the job. That is how you reinforce what you’ve learned, improving your skills and helping you be more effective in your job.

Networking
There are so many opportunities for networking at conferences. It can be intimidating at first to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, but when you do, you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. You might also make a valuable contact who will help you a great deal in your career, solve a current business problem, or offer career advice.

10458451_10152330358455829_6042484930867715104_nNetworking is also about helping others. Your knowledge and experience is valuable, and sharing it with someone else could help them in their job and perhaps help them advance their career. And you might also make a lifelong friend! Many of the attendees of conferences I attend, including IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, became friends when they met at the conference. Conferences almost always build in time for social activities that keep it fun.

Many conferences now have mobile apps that allow you to not only plan your session attendance on your mobile device but also connect with other attendees both before and after the event.

Something for Everyone
Conferences are offered in nearly every area of interest. I attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo nearly every year and find it to be a great way to stay current in the field of management accounting. Every couple of years, I also attend conferences for testing professionals and association management, since I have to stay current in those fields as well. Attending conferences helps me stay connected with the latest industry trends and techniques and to other professionals in the field.

If you haven’t been to a conference yet, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. When you ask your boss for approval, be prepared. Show him or her which sessions you plan to attend and what skills and resources you intend to bring back to your job. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo is coming up in June, and we can’t wait!

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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“4 Reasons Your Employees Should Attend Conferences” – Janine Popick, Inc. Magazine

Inside Insider Networking

The benefits of networking with peers outside your organization are many, but making connections with those who have similar interests and work at similar companies is only the first step in building a network. Now think internally: How can you leverage the inside network of your current company? Your coworkers are just as valuable to have in your network. This may sound obvious, but many of us (including me) don’t step outside the comfort of our own work teams often enough.

What Is Inside Networking?
Inside networking is when you build connections with your coworkers to create value within your company, which in turn can help you advance your career. Many professionals turn to outside contacts for research and advice, but connecting with people who know your company from within can be beneficial in many ways. You can gain insight into projects that other departments are working on, advice on projects you’re working on, and knowledge about a specific product or service you might have questions about.

iStock_000002214189_LargeNot only will you learn more about your company’s products and services, but you’ll also open lines of communication between departments. Use this to your advantage to work cross-functionally. In talking about your day-to-day job, you might realize that a tool that someone else is using might also help in your work. In turn, this might help you learn new analytic skills, for example.

Another benefit to connecting with your coworkers is learning about what they actually do. A job title might be misleading, or the job description might have changed silently. Knowing about others’ day-to-day work is helpful if you need assistance with a specific project, ultimately smoothing company processes.

How Do You Start?
Try to connect with people at all levels of your company, but you can start by getting to know the people who work closest to you and in departments around you. If you usually eat lunch at your desk, ask a coworker or a group of coworkers to eat with you. During a meeting, sit at a table with people you’ve never met or talked to before to get to know them and learn about their perspectives.

At IMA Headquarters, we have a café space where we eat lunch and hold meetings. Staff take advantage of this open space to participate in interdepartmental mingling and getting to know their colleagues. This fosters the feeling of unity and becoming a tight-knit team.

Don’t be intimidated to talk to your superiors. If they don’t walk around the office often or make many public appearances, request a face-to-face meeting to get noticed. This may lead to a nomination to join a leadership committee or even to a promotion. Taking the initiative to connect with people on the chain of command will highlight your personality attributes and can help you grow.

growing plant, isolated on white

A Benefit For You and Your Company
Inside networking can help you grow both personally and professionally as you expand your network, develop stronger communication and team skills, and plan your future. It will also be a benefit to your organization as you become a more valuable employee with cross-functional connections. For some, inside networking may seem daunting because stepping out of their comfort zone to network with colleagues is something new, but taking that next step can pay off greatly for you in the future.

How are you leveraging your inner network? Do you connect with people in your company who you don’t see often?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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Reverse Mentoring as Continuing Education

Not all knowledge comes from books and classrooms. Mentoring is a different “classroom” setting that will help you acquire skills needed for the constantly changing business environment. Mentorships aren’t only beneficial to young professionals trying to get their foot in the door—seasoned professionals have just as much learning to do.

Seasoned Professionals’ RoleSize difference
Professionals at any stage of their career can learn from their younger counterpart—called “reverse mentoring”—but they must have an open mind to do so.

Earning a certification shouldn’t be the end of your professional development. Continuing education, experience with special projects, and mentoring can help you advance your career even further. Young mentees can teach more “seasoned professionals,” for example, how to leverage new technology and use social media in new ways. The generational gap should be used to better the business rather than create barriers of status, power, or position.

You can also harness young mentees’ fresh, outside perspective about processes “you’ve always done” to make them more efficient. Just remember to be open to change and give honest feedback to their suggestions.

Young Professionals’ Role
Most of us know the basics of a mentorship: They help young professionals learn about their new industry, learn tricks of the trade, and work on their career development and leadership skills from seasoned professionals.

origami birds - Large_tealIn a traditional mentoring role, young professionals learn problem-solving skills, how to manage a staff, essential skills for performing well on the job, and more. But these skills aren’t acquired overnight. Mentees must be patient because these skills are developed over time, and there’s always something new to learn. After all, learning is a lifelong journey.

Sometimes mentorships are undervalued because “students” aren’t learning in a traditional classroom. But real-world exposure is arguably the most valuable learning tool for young people.

As someone who recognizes the benefits of reverse mentoring, I encourage you to find a mentee as soon as possible. Become active on social networking sites to be proactive with making these contacts. You will be glad you did.

Have you ever participated in a mentorship? What were your experiences?

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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