Networking is more complex than simply showing up to an event and shaking hands with like-minded people in your industry. It is a blend of art, science and psychology. Altogether, it is one of the most critical professional and personal skills you have at your disposal regardless of your industry. Affiliate Summits are a great opportunity to let your social skills shine. Here are some tips in case yours are in need of polishing:
Identify Networking Targets.
By now it is likely too late to set up formal meetings with potential new business prospects. However, it is not too late to identify and study up on networking targets. Create a short list, review headshots, identify booth locations and prepare a five-second ice breaker line in the event you run in to one of your targets on the way to the bathroom or while in line for a cocktail.
Example: “Mr. Smith, I’d like to introduce myself. You recently published a metric analysis of customer profitability and it was a really helpful read for my team!”
Establish realistic goals.
If your goals for the conference exist only in your head and are comprised of:
1) Meet new people
2) Learn new things
…then you are setting yourself up for failure. Be specific with your conference goals and write them out ahead of time. Ideally, they should measure up to your business goals for the next 3-6 months so you can turn new learnings into action items upon returning home. Be realistic about your expectations and pare down your list to only those items that you can realistically tackle this quarter. Use your list of objectives to help you prioritize sessions, workshops and conversations.
Seek 1 Degree of Separation Contacts.
Affiliate Summit is the biggest conference within the affiliate marketing industry so chances are, even if you’re new to the game, there will be a handful of familiar contacts with whom you’ve met at previous events or connected with digitally. Although speaking with them directly may not satisfy this year’s conference goals, they may be beneficial as a “connector”. Phrase your request in a positive light that shows you genuinely value them as a reference and ask for contact recommendations that would be relevant to a specific area of interest.
Example: “Tracy, I am a devout follower of your blog and continue to learn a tremendous amount about effective social media tactics. I see you frequently reference Bob Smith’s expertise with content strategy and I’d love your help connecting with him today in order to expand my knowledge on that topic.”
Power in numbers.
It’s hard enough to fight your way to the front of a crowded booth or catch the attention of a contact who is caught in back-to-back conversations. Arrange to walk the floor with a buddy from another company or industry so you can double up your network and provide each other with introductions for contacts that may require an ice breaker.
Get by with a little help from your [online] friends.
At the end of a conference day, you may find yourself with nothing to do and nowhere to go. If you belong to specialty or professional groups on LinkedIn or Facebook, create a post asking who from the group is attending which evening activities or directly message a contact who is clearly at the conference. Most digital marketing professionals will be tuned in to any updates or notifications from their social networks and can offer a real-time reply.
Rein in social tendencies.
Conferences are arguably the best way to connect professionally with new people in a scalable manner. They also have the tendency to reunite non-professional contacts from all over the country. The sheer joy you feel when gabbing with former coworkers, friends from college or even socializing with your current coworkers can create temptation and become a huge time suck. Be mindful of your time (and limited energy) and focus on your original intentions. Whenever you feel the urge to retreat to comfortable and familiar conversation with a friend or coworker, think of your future self looking back on the conference with regret wishing that you had spent less time rehashing old stories and more time expanding your network. Your friendships will live on beyond the conference where as the opportunity to score new contacts is fleeting.
Affiliates and Merchants alike continue coming to the Summits not only for the invaluable industry insights, but for the plethora of parties and FUN. All parties offer something different and, come 6pm, it is very easy to completely step out of your professional persona and onto the dance floor for the remainder of the night. However, it’s important to be intentional about choosing which social events to attend and how you spend your time there. Night-time parties and happy hours provide a laid back and casual environment in which meaningful conversations can spark more organically. The ShareASale Party is the perfect atmosphere for both networking AND fun, and many past attendees have favored this atmosphere where you can achieve both.