As you prepare to attend your next conference consider this: “Comparison is a Thief. Connection is an Investor.”
You’ve juggled your schedule and arranged coverage to spend a full day away from your usual demands. You’ve got a ticket, a conference schedule, maybe a fresh stack of business cards and you’re ready to learn, be inspired, and move forward. So, how do you get the best return on this investment of your precious time?
The most rewarding part of serving on the Boards for the South Shore Conference for Women and the MetroWest Conference for Women is seeing all the connections that are made and how they evolve into opportunities, jobs, collaborations, and friendships. These connections are the key takeaways from a good conference. They help us to sustain our inspiration and propel us all forward.
For some of us, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with people all around. When we feel our courage wane, we can sometimes default to comparison. “She is so accomplished, but I’m just a [fill in your blank]” or “I just do this, but she does that” It might seem like everyone else knows someone. Or maybe it feels like we don’t have elegant or new points to add. This doesn’t make you different, it's what makes you human. We have all felt this awkwardness at different times.
At a conference, we’re all here to connect. People are ready and hoping for introductions and extended hands (or elbow taps) just like you. Make space; if you’re standing in a group, make a horseshoe, so others can easily join in your conversation. If you sense that someone else is having their moment of awkwardness, smile and say hello.
If you’re not sure what to say to people? Here are 5 questions you can ask that don’t include “What do you do?” (which often ends a conversation once someone has shared their profession.)
What did you think about the last speaker?
What do you do for fun when you’re not working or attending conferences?
What projects are you working on right now?
[if someone indicates they are in transition and looking for a job] How can I help?
What made you sign up for this conference? What are you hoping to learn?
Like a challenge? Pick a number. Decide how many new contacts you’d like to make. Think about the type of contact you’re looking for. Our connections will be our best sources for referrals, opportunities, new jobs, and help when we need it.
There is no better place or time to add to your network than your next conference.
“Comparison is a Thief. Connection is an Investor.” #networking