The conference brings together roughly 200 people from all divisions, areas and clubs. This is a fantastic opportunity to network and learn from your peers. What are their other interests? What insights do they have to share? How has Toastmasters helped in the industries that they work in? There is so much collective talent and experience gathered in one place. Take advantage by building relationships.
Two specific events that you do not want to miss are the Pre-dinner Drinks and Social held on Saturday evening and the breakfast with the Champions and Special Guests on Sunday morning.
1. Practice your elevator pitch
Practice your elevator pitch before you go. Who are you? What do you do? Why are you attending the Conference?
You will be asked these questions, so rehearsing your answers ahead of time will help you prepare your thoughts. Plus, you might discover another reason why you are attending that you hadn’t considered.
2. Show up early
Try to get to the conference early, and stand near the registration table, entrance, or food area. These are the places where people congregate.
When you first arrive, solo attendees will especially be seeking a friendly connection. Don’t let them become wallflowers.
Also, consider approaching sponsors and introducing yourself. A casual conversation with a conference sponsor led to my book deal.
3. Express interest in others
Be more interested in other people than yourself.
4. Ask questions
Ask questions, and actively listen to the answers. Use eye contact and body language to show you are listening.
5. Talk to strangers
Forget what your parents taught you. Everyone is there for a similar reason. You are all sharing the same experience.
A good icebreaker is to ask someone what they thought of a particular speaker or who was their favorite speaker of the day.
6. Be personable
Use a person’s first name several times as you are speaking to help you remember it.
7. Take notes
Take notes on a person’s business card about your conversation to refer to later. Can you help this person? Who should you introduce them to? Don’t forget to bring your cards, too.
8. Keep it fresh
Things can get stale during conferences. Bring mints and gum to keep your breath fresh.
9. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water, and go easy on the alcohol.
10. Stay connected
Follow up with each person you meet after the conference. Staying in touch is a crucial part of networking.
Follow up with a pleasant email, remind them what you spoke about, offer them a link to an interesting article, connect on LinkedIn, or schedule a “no agenda” coffee meeting.