These days, it seems to be less about real life connections and more about Facebook, websites, and Twitter feeds. It’s all anyone seems to talk about these days in the online business world.
But let me tell you, when it comes to making real life connections and starting long-lasting relationships, nothing beats face-time. And I don’t mean on your iPhone, either!
Live events, trade shows, and meetups can be a huge boom to your business. Making an In Real Life – “IRL” connection with a live person beats sending them 10 emails or giving them 20 Facebook likes.
People need to make real life connections people. And live events are STILL the one of the best ways to make those genuine connections that stay with someone a lot longer than a text or a tweet.
But what if you’ve never set foot in a conference hall before? Are you terrified of a trade show or a live event where you might actually be in the same room with a host of your heroes?
What do you say, where do you start, what’s your snappy opening line?
Never fear, my friends! I’m going to show you today how meeting people, working a room, and connecting with influencers isn’t nearly as scary as you thought. You’ve got all the skills you need right now, I promise. You just need a plan.
So let’s get you ready to knock ‘em dead and make your next big real life connection!
Let’s say you’ve got your eye on a trade show, conference, or live event that is right up your alley. You want to get your room-working skills on, but where do you even start?
Four things: Prepare. Research. Execute. And Follow Up.
First you prepare. And to start with, you’ve got to know your audience.
Once you’ve determined your target event, do your research. Get a list of the speakers. See if you can find a list of the attendees, too. Who is going to be there, who do you want to meet the most, and most importantly, what can YOU do for them?
(Remember, it’s not just about you, right? Relationships never are.)
When I ran FITzee Foods, we catered to a lot of professional athletes, teams, and trainers. Once we went to this “little” event called the NFL combine. Ever heard of it? It’s an invitation-only experience where the top 100-200 college prospects get the opportunity to show their stuff to the scouts before the draft. Kind of a big deal, right?
My colleagues and I knew we wanted to connect with the strength coaches there, because at the time they were the ones who dictated what athletes were going to eat. Clearly we had something of value for them in our products, so off we went!
But here’s the thing: we had 32 strength coaches we wanted to meet. How did we plan to keep them all straight? How could we track them down in a conference center that was pretty much wall-to-wall people?
We needed pictures. So that’s what we did. We printed out 32 “mug shots” of all the target coaches. We showed up with a mission and a visual aid, and then set out to divide and conquer.
Not only were we able to track down a lot of our targets, but also we got popular pretty fast because we were handing out free food!
(As it happens, the “free food” part didn’t go over very well with the people who actually paid for their booth space on the floor, so we were eventually kicked out… but that’s another story!)
My point is we were prepared. We had pictures of each person we wanted to meet. We knew their names. We stayed diligent. And we sought them out.
You may or may not be headed to the NFL combine next winter, but the where of it doesn’t matter. The rules for working the room are the same whether it’s a State Dinner or the State Fair.
Here are 5 steps to help you strategize, research, and execute your game plan for real life connections at your next live event!
- Where are you going and who’s going to be there? Who will be speaking, presenting, and attending? Get as much info as you can there and choose 3-5 people that are on your “must” list for connections.
- Do your homework. Research these people. Get to know as much as you can about them, maybe from their social media or their website. Perhaps even connect with them in beforehand some way if possible like through email, Facebook, etc.
- Have a picture. Know not only their name but their face. Get that visual connection so that you know just who you’re looking for. If you’re not a name person, this is where the pictures come in handy.
- Make the connection! Now that you’ve found them, go talk to them! Simple as that. Go up to them, introduce yourself, and make sure that you have a compelling opening line. Most of the time you’ve got about 10-15 seconds to grab someone’s attention before they walk away (especially at huge events), so make it something good. And if you’re stumped on this one, think about it this way: what can you do for them?
- Show up consistently. Once you pick a target event, try to make it a regular thing. When you show up time after time, year after year, you might become one of the stars of the show. My colleagues and I kept showing up at the NFL combine and became known as the “food girls”. We had protein bars, we had freebies, and we had a room full of hungry people. How could you go wrong there? So we showed up consistently, and shared something memorable.
That’s how you create real life connections with influencers at big-time events: know where you want to go, who you want to meet, and how you’re going to do it.
Another way to rock the live events is to be of service to others. You can do this by playing a little bit of “cruise director” and bringing together people that you know who would hit it off.
Once I met a girl at a trade show who was in the booth right next to me. Her specialty was natural juices. Since I was in the food industry at the time, naturally I knew just the kind of people she was looking to meet. She wanted to connect with strength coaches. I already knew several, so I hooked her up without a moment’s hesitation.
And here’s the thing: she turned out to be a beneficial connection for me, but that was just a pleasant surprise! I wasn’t looking for anything, I just wanted to help. If you give without expectation, that’s when really amazing and exciting surprises start to happen.
So you’ve made the real life connection. What happens after the excitement of the moment has died down and life goes back to “normal”?
Now it’s time for the true icing on the cake: the follow-up. This is where it all comes together. You’ve made the real life connection. You’ve gotten on their radar. Now it’s time to stay there, whether they’re ready to buy right now or not.
Here’s the truth: people aren’t always ready to buy on the spot. Sometimes it’s just not the right time for someone, and in nearly all cases it has nothing to do with you. It has to be the right time for THEM to buy.
This is where the follow-up is gold. You’ll stay in their sphere. They’ll start seeing you on a regular basis. And just like we’ve been saying all this month, if you keep showing up and keep providing value, when the time is right, the sale for you will simply be the cherry on top.
So how do you keep things going after a promising first meeting? It’s not rocket science, just simple common courtesy. The day after you meet them, send them an email. Shoot them a text. Let them know you remembered and that you cared enough to connect again.
Stay on top of your new client or prospect’s mind after that by setting your time to follow up and do it regularly. Maybe it’s weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. It just has to be consistent.
You might send text, shoot an email, or (gasp!) make a phone call. Follow their social media and give likes and comments. And one of my favorites is sending an off-topic, no-sale email about something I know they’d enjoy or find useful. Maybe a good book. An informative blog post. Or a journal article that is right up their alley.
Remember, it’s all about providing value to them as a person, business related or not.
A sale is not something you pursue. It’s what happens to you while you’re immersed in serving your customer.
In sales, you’re not really selling. You’re serving. And when you serve people something of quality that solves their problem, you’re immersed in serving that person. It’s when you truly see that it would be a huge disservice if you didn’t tell them what you offer.
But once again, the sale comes back to the relationship. And the relationship is just SO much sweeter when it happens in real life! So use what we talked about today. Work those rooms, whether you’re at a trade show, a live event, or in line at Starbucks.
Show up, drop the agenda, and get into a spirit of service every time you step out the door. It’ll make all the difference in your confidence, your connections, and ultimately your bottom line.
Want to know more about making YOUR game plan for your next big live event? Download my FREE guide and make real life connections with confidence. Download Working the Room 101: How To Rock the “IRL” Connections Like A BOSS” right HERE!