Confession: I have a thing for conferences.
I believe that having a valuable network can open doors for new opportunities, increase your knowledge, and can help you connect with experts and influencers. Building and maintaining a healthy network is one of the most important things that you can do as a professional. An easy way to build your network is by attending conferences.
I first saw the value in conferences when I went to local empowerment conference at my college a few years ago. At the conference, I connected with an aspiring HR professional that was a blessing in disguise for me. This person had dreams of working in HR and he knew I had dreams of being a successful woman in business. I connected with him at the conference, and later we became close friends. After the conference, we stayed connected and when I was job searching a few years ago, I emailed him to just "catch up." Through the email, he told me that a company that he just started working with was hiring. He provided me with a great reference, and I was not only able to land an interview, but I also received a job offer after nailing the interview!
At another conference that I attended called Blogger Bootcamp, I was able to receive another bomb opportunity. At this conference, it was pretty small and intimate and we were able to play "speed dating/meeting." I had one minute to greet and give each attendee my 30-second spill, and in those 20 minutes of chatting it up with other girl bosses, I connected with a few amazing women. One person in particular that I met, I stayed in contact with and she helped me land a few freelancing gigs with a local publication headquartered in Houston, Texas.
If you want to not only learn new things, but want to effectively grow your network, you need to go where the experts are. And by the experts, I mean the panel members and attendees that are well-established and are influencers in their industry.Successful people attend conferences and see the value in them. These same successful people even budget their money and invest in conferences because they know that's where the most influential people will be and that's who their target network is. Remember, your net worth depends on your network.
Here are 5 quick reasons on why you should invest in conferences:
Social media allows us to meet new people everyday and establish relationships, but there is nothing like meeting someone in person. Going to conferences allows us to meet and build new relationships with new people. Whether it is over breakfast, lunch, cocktails, or at a breakout session, you can find yourself meeting your next mentor, customer, business partner, or friend.
Increase Your Knowledge
When you go to a conference, the panelists chosen are experts in their respective fields. By attending a live conference, you are able to get first-hand knowledge, and learn more about different things in your field in a diverse, professional space.
Ignite Your Passion
Conferences are great way to ignite the hustle inside of you. With the heavy load that we can get from school, work, family, bills, and friends, it is easy to feel worn out. Conferences can give you the boost that you need and can motivate you as well.
Connect With Like-Minded People
There is so much positive energy that you can get from being in the same room with someone that is as motivated as you are. When you are at the conference, you will be connected with people that are like you – they desire on improving themselves and have similar interests. The positive energy that you can get from like-minded individuals will give the boost that you need to keep yourself motivated and focused on your goals.
Even before the conference, you can start connecting with like-minded people. Personally, before I attend any conference or networking event, I look on the event's site and social media and see if there is a hashtag for the event. The weeks leading up to the event, especially the days before, I search for that hashtag on Twitter and Instagram and start following people that I think are interesting and would be beneficial to follow. I always follow all of the panelists for the conference, and then I follow people that I assume are attending because they are using the same hashtag.
By following people on social media before the conference and even starting conversations with them, you will have started a positive connection with them and it will make your conference experience even better.
When talking to my boss about this, she even suggested how beneficial it would be to connect with people through a DM and maybe setting up drinks or meeting up for coffee during the conference to establish that relationship early.
Opportunity To Invest In Yourself
Conferences allow you to sharpen your skills and learn new ideas that can help you become more effective and efficient in your work. Investing in a conference is an investment to not only your career and company, but most importantly it benefits YOU. When you purchase your ticket, it shows that you understand the value in investing in yourself and you will do what it takes to further evolve.
Although they can be expensive, investing in conferences will force you to grow and challenge yourself, and it will allow you to network and learn on a whole new level. Keep in mind, even after the conference do not let the money and time you spent on attending go to waste. Stay in contact with everyone that you meet, and find ways to grow a healthy relationship with them. You never know when you may need them, or how you can help them out as well. When you meet people at conferences, exchange contact information with them, and shoot them an email telling them how great it was to connect with them, and that you hope to stay in touch.
In that email, let them know how you can be beneficial to them as well (maybe you are a blogger, and they are starting a new business – you may be able to help them out with content for their site, or maybe you know a photographer that can help them get photos).
If you are feeling really comfortable after meeting someone, it is even okay to shoot them a quick tweet or DM to let them know how great it was meeting them and how you hope to stay in touch. After sending that email, tweet, or DM, make sure you truly stay in contact and do not just randomly pop up when you need something – if you do, I'm sure they may not respond or may not remember who you are.
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