By: Maxx Lebiecki, Account Executive, Association of Equipment Manufacturers
We’ve all been there before – a friend or coworker invites us somewhere on short notice. Although not really interested, we decide to tag along to be nice, but wind up having a wonderful time. Or the flip side – we choose to miss out on an event that turns out to be the talk of the town.
The situation reminds me of hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzke’s insightful statement, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”
Technically speaking, it is impossible to miss a shot you don’t take. That being said, your “shot,” translated to networking and meeting people, could mean the difference between an open or closed door in the future.
One thing that I left Expo! Expo! 2016 in Anaheim excited about was the opportunity for more involvement. I made a conscious decision to put myself out there, meet new people and connect/network constantly. Those decisions led to opportunities beyond what I could have imagined. In just a few short months, I found myself joining committees, gaining a YP Spotlight feature, being interviewed by Exhibitions Mean Business on where I see our industry headed and most recently being recognized as an industry trendsetter.
In 2016, I was proud to be recognized at Expo! Expo! as one of the top 20 under 30 in the industry. Anaheim was my first Expo! Expo!, and I look forward to attending many more to come. I would like to share 6 key takeaways that enriched my experience in hopes that they will be useful for you as well:
1. Go to Everything (Practice your ‘FOMO’)
While it is impossible to be in two places at once, look at scheduled events beforehand and really scope out what you think will benefit you most. Connect with others pre-show and onsite, listen and look for after hour events, meet and mingle with every person you can and do a solid vetting of what education classes will benefit you as an individual. Trust me when I say that the hardest part will be showing up. After that, it’s all easy-going…not to mention the food is usually delicious.
2. Try to get involved
Make note of those you connect with while at events or education sessions. Are they in a leadership position? Are they well connected? Be sure to take notice of these things. Let other professionals know that you are interested in becoming involved. Everyone is looking for help in one way or another. A connection today could lead to an opportunity months, or even years down the road.
3. Connect with Everyone
This should go without saying, but bring a stack of business cards with you. Bring them to your classes, bring them on the show floor and most importantly bring them to all networking events. Add your connections on LinkedIn after, and add a message that will make people remember you. It could be as simple as “It was great meeting you at Wednesday’s IAEE networking event.” After all, that’s what these events are for!
4. Be Nice to Everyone – Attitude is Everything
Sounds simple, right? It can be more difficult than you think. Sometimes after long workdays, travelling and missing our loved ones, we can become distracted and appear to be standoff-ish. “Dressing the part” and the way you carry yourself can (in some cases, not all) be just as important as how well you may know the industry, or how much you feel like you can offer. Dress for the job you want. Even if you don’t feel like it, think of every experience as though this is the greatest thing you have ever attended. Your body language will follow. No one wants to work with someone who is difficult to talk to or won’t give him or her the time of day.
5. Ask for help/intros
As a sales person, I would compare this to cold calling vs. word of mouth. In my experience, people are more inclined to trust you and get to know you when someone else that they know (and trust) introduces you. In addition, it can help with any awkwardness that you may encounter when meeting someone new. There can be a fine line to the etiquette of asking, but don’t be afraid to politely ask someone to make an introduction for you. The worst that can happen is that they say no.
6. Create Your Path
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to create your own path. Your path, or end goal is something that should be in the back of your mind throughout your stay. Think beforehand what you want to accomplish. Write it down. Remember it. Whether your end goal is to join a committee, meet 15 new people or make a sale – in the end YOU are in charge of your own path to success.
Networking is not always easy, but taking these things into account at events, such as Expo! Expo! can really help you take a step in the right direction. I look forward to meeting you in San Antonio!
Need a start with a connection? Add me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxxlebiecki/