Listen, Debrief, Take Notes and Let It Be: Taking Full Advantage of Your In-Person Events

It felt so good to be networking on Sunday at an industry event. There are still certain discussions that just work best face-to-face, without our precious Zoom windows and lovely pets at our side.

If you haven’t been to an event in a while, it will be like riding a bike—once you start engaging, it will feel comfortable again—but there’s so much more that we can get out of these events if we come with a little preparation.

The perfect time to test out your learning and networking skills will be June 27-28 as our AMPLIFY 2023 Content & Marketing Summit takes over Washington, D.C. (See the awesome agenda here.) To get you ready for that event and others you might be attending, here’s a primer on how to get the most out of your events.

Another purpose is for you to borrow these tips for your own event audience. The fall will be jam-packed with in-person events, so this can be a great refresher course for your attendees. To make it even more interesting—and to celebrate a new Beatles song in the works with an AI-aided John Lennon—we’ve given the list a Beatles twist with Fab Four song title subjects. Enjoy.

Listen. Do You Want to Know a Secret? “It’s easy to get distracted and think about what you’re going to say after the person you’re talking to finishes their point,” wrote blogger Nathalie Lussier. “Don’t let your mind take over! Instead, focus on what the people you’re with are saying and chime in without pre-rehearsing what you’re going to say in your head. I promise it will come out just as smart, but you’ll have the added benefit of knowing exactly what people are saying and giving them your full undivided attention.”

I’ve Just Seen a Face. Jot down notes and information. Yes, I mean in longhand. When you get a business card, write down what made you ask for the card on the back. I can recall times when I empty my pockets after a long day at a conference, see a bunch of business cards, and don’t quite remember what I was going to follow up about. Many designers now leave business cards blank on one side just for that reason. Of course, writing notes on your phone also works.

The Long and Winding Road. Focus your attention on possible outcomes. “Many people think of networking as showing up, randomly interacting, and hoping something good will happen,” wrote Jeff Korhan, author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. “You have to be crystal clear about what you want so you can communicate it to others and recognize it when you see or hear it.”

Please Please Me. Increase the probability of favorable outcomes. Korhan scripts his daily schedule for meetings, breakfast, exercise and all. For in-person events, he likes to show up a bit early; “it’s a great time to make invaluable connections,” he writes. “Simply put: Smart networkers always plan for serendipity at live events.” I love this having written a column once titled, ‘You Want to Leave Room for Magic’; How to Plan for Serendipitous Outcomes.

With a Little Help From My Friends. Articulate what your company and colleagues have had success with. One of my favorite interview questions these days is, tell me something you’ve done recently that’s been successful. Everyone is looking for ways to grow their organization. If you can clearly articulate what you are doing well, others will do the same for you. And that will facilitate a better discussion.

We Can Work It Out. Do research about those you may want to connect with. Knowing something specific about other organizations always makes for interesting conversation. The best opportunities are often squandered because someone is not ready. Here is the link for the organizations coming to AMPLIFY 2023. You can also look at the EXCEL finalists in a specific category—maybe podcasts, website design—so that when you see a person from there you can ask questions.

Come Together. Saying hi to old friends is certainly more important now—we’re all concerned about our mental and physical health after the last few years. And that’s part of what makes a conference great. But you want new connections too—so much has changed. Perhaps it’s a younger person who looks a little isolated. These days, we can learn as much from them as they can from us. Or it’s someone who may not have a clique or posse to turn to.

Act Naturally. We share so many more commonalities now about our home offices, kids, pets, Zoom backgrounds, etc. “Have you really read all those books behind you, won all those awards, have that beautiful garden?”

Getting Better. Debrief throughout the event. This is important. You will experience information overload at AMPLIFY 2023 (and other events) so take a few minutes each evening to digest what you have learned and the people you have met. Call it doing your homework before going home.


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