Put Your Best Foot Forward

Cheryl Cain
In what promises to be its most heavily attended event yet, The Phoenix Forum returns to Arizona this week, set for another industry-leading round of networking and fun in the bright desert sun. While I don’t have any official attendance figures, the last number that I heard was that around 1,500 attendees are expected for the three-day event, a marked increase from the show’s humble beginnings.

With such a large number of attendees on tap, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some basic networking tips that will make your show experience better and much more productive. Although there have been networking and show preparation articles in the past here at XBiz, they’ve typically focused on dealing with the larger shows and the added challenges of navigating exhibit halls with several times the number of attendees expected in Phoenix.

My first suggestion, regardless of the event, is to have a plan of action. Don’t try to meet everyone just for the sake of meeting them; instead focus on meeting the people that can help your business grow. Do you need a new sponsor? Maybe you’re looking for power affiliates or hosting providers, or traffic brokers, or? Make a list of the companies that you want to establish relationships with and seek out their representatives.

While there are no exhibit halls at the Phoenix event, there are quality seminars and a who’s who of industry leaders. The lack of exhibit areas might make it harder to “nail down” the person you want to meet, but the more relaxed pace makes it easier to spend some quality time with that person once you do find them. My next suggestions will then be about how to find the people you want to speak to. In the case of seminar panelists, they are easy to get in touch with: simply attend the seminar then introduce yourself at its conclusion during the time allotted for such interaction. For everyone else, it’s often best to make arrangements ahead of time to meet at the show.

The Phoenix Forum website makes this process easier, since it not only lists panelists but registered attendees – and the companies they represent – as well. This makes it easy to identify multiple contacts for the companies that you’re interested in doing business with and to have a name for reference.

Now that you know who the people you want to meet with are and how to contact them, the next step should be to consider your goals. Some over-anxious types like to run around with contracts in hand, trying to seal a deal on the spot, but this is a great way to send your contacts running. Save the serious business until you are both back in the office – use your time at the show together for introductions and relationship building. Buy the person a drink or a meal if you want to spend more time with them than a five-minute conversation will allow, and keep in mind that they did not spend the time and money to go to the show simply to meet you.

Remember, good networking involves talking a little and listening a lot. You’re trying to make “friends” at this point, not sales. The sales will come later, and will be a lot easier, especially if you can respect your new contact’s time at the show.

Give your card to everyone you meet and take theirs in return. Do yourself a favor and make notes of your conversation on the back of their card and use these as references when you follow up with them after the show.

That’s all there really is to it: there’s nothing earth shattering in this, nor should there be in your approach to doing business at an intimate event such as Phoenix. This isn’t Vegas and you shouldn’t treat it as such. Relax and you’ll do a lot better.

With such a relatively large crowd expected in Phoenix this year, networking will not be as easy as it once was, but by following these tips you should be able to make the most of your trip. Have fun and enjoy some profitable networking!