Saturday, July 30, 2011

Networking: 5 Lessons from MPI's World Education Congress 2011 #WEC11

Meeting Professionals International Annual Conference took place on July 23-26, 2011.  Planners and suppliers converged on Orlando's conference center to educate themselves, promote business interests and have a generally good time.  The conference offers some great speakers, many business opportunities and some great parties.

Networking is such a large word.  It is used to describe many things.  But it is a huge skill that is needed for successfully gaining Return On Investment (ROI) for a meeting that can easily cost an individual or business upwards of $2000.00 per person to attend.  

One of the ways that MPI continues to support its members is by providing education that allows its members to communicate and subsequently network with their peers, clients, and potential clients better.

A few of my lessons:

#1. Asking questions

It is usually very difficult to start a conversation.  But there are simple truths in this world like the fact most people like showing that they are knowledgeable.  From "what sessions have you been in today?" to "what vendor have you used that you really enjoyed working with?" the answers tell you something about the person you are speaking with.  Your super power is defined in how well you can listen and find the points of interest that can extend your conversation.

Conversation Keys: 

A. People enjoy talking about themselves.  They also enjoy hearing their own name so be sure to say "Karen, please tell me more about your involvement with that great event."  This also helps you to remember people's name so submit your dialogue partner's name into the conversation as often as possible.

B. People enjoy someone who listens.  So if you can't focus, find your focus before continuing a conversation otherwise the people you are speaking with will be really turned off.

#2. Take Action

How do you find the right people to connect with?  Ask the right questions!  Take action and openly pursue your goals with honesty and integrity.  Be honest with people about who you are looking to connect with and listen as the suggestions flow.  Listen and then take action!

#3. Think You Can

It is so easy to psyche  yourself out.  We create our destiny.  If we believe we can't, we are right!  If we believe we can, we are right!  Tell yourself you can talk with people.  You can record their information and you can pursue your business goals.

#4.  Love People

This is really tip #1 but this is probably the hardest suggestion at least at times for people to follow.  You know who is influential in your market.  You may not like, love or even have an opinion one way or another about the person you need to speak to but I would argue that you need to love them anyway.

Speaker Sue Hershowitz-Coore who is a regular presenter/educator at MPI International meetings talks about loving the room as a presenter and loving the person you are speaking with for sales and personal connection.  Simply by "caring" (possibly a good substitute for the word love if love is too strong for you) about the person or people you are speaking with they will perceive you differently.  When you make the extra effort to care and love the person you are speaking with people take notice and appreciate your attention to detail and you caring attitude.

#5. Keep Moving

For a large convention like MPI's WEC there are over 2200 people at the conference.  You will not meet everyone.  But one way you can meet more people is to make sure you do not sit with the same people all the time.  Make a conscientious effort to sit with someone you have just met and all of their friends.  They will help to introduce you around.  If they do not, it is definitely not time to be shy - Introduce yourself!  

I have often felt that once I made a few friends maybe I was obligated to stick around.  My feeling on this is ask people what they are doing next.  Discuss your goals together.  If you have matching priorities than continue on down the hall or reception line with them.  But, if you have differing agendas then you have just got your permission to leave and no one feels disrespected or guilty.

Networking is an art.  It is definitely not something I have perfected and your ideas would really be appreciated.  I desire to be an ever more effective networker.  

BONUS TIP # 6 is to introduce people to other people you know.  This generates good will towards yourself and is generally a very nice thing to do.

Please leave your comments below and I hope to see you at a meeting soon!