The FullContact team attends a lot of events, and connecting with awesome people through events has fueled a lot of our growth over the years. So a few folks from FullContact will be in San Francisco next week for the big (in fact, HUGE) Dreamforce event. For four days, Salesforce’s annual event takes over the city attracting more than 130,000 attendees from across the globe. When there are so many people attending an event, it’s always hard to avoid feeling overwhelmed as you ponder how in the world you’re going to come away from the event with meaningful connections as you gracefully meet and mingle.
At any event with more people than a medium size town, you need a networking strategy that cuts through the craziness. Opportunities are fleeting as everyone tries to pack a high number of contacts into a limited number of meetings and events. You may meet people at booths or panel sessions or through a conference app, and may only have a few minutes to hook their attention enough to meet up and continue the conversations you start.
Networking like a pro at a monster-sized event like Dreamforce is possible as long as you know how to fully connect, master your contacts, and be awesome with people. Here are five tips we’ll be using to help our team make solid connections at Dreamforce. We hope you’ll also find value in using these tips so you can be more successful at Dreamforce or any large event.
Get ready for relationships, not contact management
You’ll be collecting a lot of contact information at a big event, but finding new contacts for your address book isn’t the same as finding contacts to dump into your CRM system. Even if you plan to meet enough people to require some automated follow up, you need to approach the event as if every connection you make has the potential to become part of your company’s inner circle of core contacts. Instead of casting a wide net and filtering out contacts that don’t seem responsive, take a more targeted “quality over quantity” approach and aim for an overall target number of in-depth meetings with specific individuals from specific companies.
Create target groups and tags before you hit the ground
Make a list of the types of people you need to connect with and then turn those lists into groups into tags in your address book. For example, if you’re trying to meet potential partners, prospects, customers, influencers, and talent, create those tags in your address book so you can tag new contacts as you meet them. You should also tag any existing contacts you have that fit into those categories so you can reach out during the event and ask for introductions to others like them. (Hint: Your current contacts don’t need to be at the event to ask for an introduction to someone who may be attending). As you find new people you want to talk to and add them to your address book, don’t forget to share them with the rest of your team so you can pass tagged contacts to each other and collaborate on follow up.
Join the chatter on social media, and then fully connect
Conference hashtags attract a lot of posts and some conversations, but shouting to the masses isn’t likely to get you noticed. Instead of treating a conference’s social feed as a numbers game, make it a part of your target groups and tags strategy and reach out to interesting people directly. For example, by quickly searching Twitter for #Dreamforce, you can scan the active discussions going on and the people who are posting. Adding people from the social feed to your address book allows you to tag them, make notes about the context, and include them in your targeted outreach. If you use FullContact you can pull in more of their social profile information and find out if there is any additional common ground or context before trying to reach out.
Exchange business cards, but do it right
We recently blogged about using business cards effectively because our customers are heavy users of business cards. At big events it’s easy to collect countless numbers of business cards as people are usually more willing to pass you their information than have a deeper conversation on the spot. Rather than schlep around a conference gathering a pocket full of paper, use a mobile app to scan people’s business cards, saving you suitcase space and maybe some sanity. Then, tag them, make notes, and reach out if the contact has potential. If you use FullContact’s card reader app, a real human will enter the contact information from the cards you collect so you don’t have to correct the errors caused by so many traditional OCR scanning apps.
Be genuinely interested in helping people
It’s a simple truth that businesses make money when they help people get what they want. So start conversations with people you have never met with a “give before you get” attitude. Ask them, “What can I help you with?” You’ll not only be able to help a lot of people at a big event by asking that question, you’ll also get a lot of people responding with, “Thanks. Now, how can I help you?” Recently we featured this tip on our blog recommending ways working professionals can up-level their careers through networking. It’s useful counsel for anyone looking to meaningfully network in any situation.