Effectively Networking with a Conference Speaker

A woman giving a presentation in front of a crowd
“MozCon Day 2 – 2013” by Thos Ballantyne is licensed under CC BY 4.0

You just watched an amazing presentation by a speaker and you want to discuss their presentation, or something else, in further detail with them. Based on my experiences as both a speaker and a fellow presentation attendee, here is the best way to effectively approach a conference speaker for networking:

Steps:

  1. Approach the speaker by standing a few feet away but obviously waiting for them, wait patiently for them to acknowledge you.
  2. Approach
  3. Shake their hand while introducing yourself
  4. Give them your short (1 minute) compelling reason you two should speak further at a later date. Examples:
    1. That was a great presentation! I have a couple of follow-up questions related to what you said about x. I’d like to schedule a time with you to discuss.
    2. I’m really interested in what you said about small business marketing and I’d like to discuss how I’ve used similar techniques successfully. I’d like to set-up a time with you to discuss.
    3. My company is doing something very similar to your organization and I think we could be great partners.
  5. Let them know you will be following-up via email to schedule a time to speak with them. Most speakers will hand you a business card at this time, but if they don’t and you think it’s going to be hard to find that information on your own, ask for one.
  6. Follow-up within a few days.

Common errors:

  • Don’t monopolize the speaker’s time. Give your 1 minute compelling reason to speak to them further. No more. If you try to ask any in-depth questions you have then or try to have an in-depth discussion right then, you’ll risk leaving a bad impression with not only the speaker, but other conference attendees who would also like the opportunity to say something (I’ve been behind a few of you in line).
  • Be ready with your compelling reason. Often, someone will approach a speaker without a cohesive thought on what they’d like to discuss. This takes up time and also can leave a bad impression.
  • Don’t sell your product. This is what the follow-up call is for. See the example above on how to pre-sell your product or service by saying you’d make a great partnership.

What advice would you add? What works best for you?

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