How to spend time at a business conference with benefits? ISPsystem Buzzing Tips
A trip to a business conference like a sprint race. For a long, long time getting ready, but on the day “X” should give everything to the maximum. In one or two days, you need to tell the top ten unfamiliar people about yourself and learn as much as possible about them, so that this leads to a successful partnership. We must act technically and quickly. This article will help avoid common mistakes and teach you how to flexibly adapt to changing circumstances.
This is the second article from the cycle in which we share our experience at conferences. You can read about the preparation here , but today we'll talk about what to do at the event itself.
We will tell:
- what to do first, arriving at the conference;
- what technical points to take into account;
- how to behave in the negotiations;
- how to use informal meetings.
At the end we will discuss what to do if, after a couple of hours, your beautiful meeting schedule became:
about the author
Head of the ISPsystem business development department Pavel Syrovatsky. The company has been developing programs for hosting , server virtualization and infrastructure management of providers for 14 years . The office is located in Irkutsk, and customers around the world.
Prior to the conference
We recommend arriving at the conference at least one day in advance. This has
two advantages: you insure against unforeseen situations and get time to acclimatize and prepare. The likelihood of encountering force majeure - flight delays or baggage loss - is especially high if you fly far and with transfers.
Would you like to hold your first business meeting in a T-shirt and jeans that were on you all day before? We didn’t want either, but we had to, when in Singapore we lost our luggage. So they met with the largest telecom in the region, and even in their office. It is good that the guys on the other side of the table were with a sense of humor.Another tip: choose a hotel as close as possible to the conference venue. Most likely, it will cost more, but save money on taxis and travel time, and still do not have to understand the local transport system.
What to check and prepare before leaving for the conference
So, you prepared: you got in touch with people, made appointments, set up a schedule, bought tickets, booked a hotel. It seems to have done a lot, but the most important work ahead. Here's what you need to check and prepare before departure.
1. Clothing . Whatever the conference format, for business meetings we recommend using an invincible classic: “jacket + shirt + pants / jeans”. At least a couple of points when you meet the appearance you add.
2. Business cards. If suddenly you do not have them yet, prepare them urgently. Business etiquette is a clumsy thing and changes slowly, so the exchange of paper business cards is still a must-see ritual before any negotiations. Moreover, the larger the company, the greater the chance of spoiling the reputation without providing a business card. It is desirable that she "cling." We make business cards in the form of a “pie”, when the card is as if glued together from two sheets of thick paper. Many people pay attention to this and even try to disconnect.
3. Booklets, handouts (if any).
4. Gifts. Yes, yes, gifts. For those with whom we meet, we bring small souvenirs for memory and give them at the end of the meeting. It could be honey, tea, an unusual stand for hot things - something related to Irkutsk, where we have an office. It is pleasant to the person, and helps us to finish any meeting on a positive. I do not remember a single case when such a gift would be perceived negatively or as an attempt to "buy" the location. He is not like this: for us it is an expression of gratitude for the time. In addition, the gift helps to be remembered. At conferences, thousands of visitors, the interlocutor dozens of meetings. Thanks to the present, after the conference, it is easier for a person to remember us: “Oh, yes, this is Paul from Russia, who gave me honey and tea.”
History from experience. Once we lost a whole hour at customs, proving that our designer tea is tea, and not something illegal. Small bags without labels, dried herbs and leaves inside - really, what else could it be, if not tea? :) So, if you are going abroad, be sure to study the customs laws of the country of arrival.
What to do the day before the conference
Use the time to the conference to the maximum.
Check out the technique and prepare everything you need . Charge your phone to failure. Charge the power bank: it will save when the phone "dies", and there is no place to charge and there is no time. Prepare a laptop or tablet if you plan to show something. Stock up a couple of bottles of water, have a lot to say. Buy a few snacks on the go, for example, chocolate bars.
Look for photos. Look for photos of those with whom you plan to meet the next day, and save it to your phone. If you have never met a person, then it will not be easy to find him at the height of the conference at the appointed time and place. Request and save phone numbers in advance so that you can contact if you are late or there will be no one on the spot. Be sure to learn the names of the interlocutors.
Learn more about the other person. If you have time, look for information about those with whom you meet, look social networks. You can learn a lot of important information about a person, what he is interested in. Once in the US, we met with a potential client from Argentina. His Facebook suggested that he enjoys football and is a fan of the national team of his country (every second post). At this time, was the World Cup, in which Argentina reached the final. Having met a man, I started a conversation with this. We had a long and enthusiastic discussion about football and made close contact before moving on to the subject of business. He became our client, and we still periodically communicate on Facebook.
Remind me of a meeting. We advise you to remind every person in your schedule about the meeting the day before the meeting and ask if everything is valid. Unfortunately, even taking a blood oath from a person that he will definitely come, you cannot be 100% sure of this. A reminder will increase the chances that no one will forget anything, and if the plans have changed, the person will notify you in return.
Write down the theses of the meeting. Create a document and write down the main points of each meeting: who we meet with, what we discuss, what questions we ask, what we want to get by the results. Describe the activities of the company, its size, customers, services, prices, and in general all-all-all that can be useful. Save the file in the phone's memory and add to the shortcuts so that you can open and re-read it quickly. Do not overestimate the memory: after a couple of first meetings you will have chaos in your head. Such a file will help you quickly remember with whom the next meeting, what to talk about and what to keep in mind.
Of course, all this is desirable to do in advance, and not on the last day before the conference. But if you have not done so, be sure to take more time to prepare.
At the conference
So, the day "X" has come. We advise you to come to the conference in advance, at least half an hour before the first meeting. First, you need to register, and this is not always (or rather, always not) quickly. Secondly, it is better to set aside 10-15 minutes to walk and look around. Find the locations where you made appointments, look for the best routes.
If you have time, prepare for the first meeting, re-read the schedule and the document with theses. Check business cards, equipment, communications and the Internet (if it is).
Meetings and negotiations
The process started, the first meeting went. Why do you meet, what are you talking about? It depends on the business goals that you set for yourself before the meeting. I will share a couple of universal tips from our negotiating experience.
Meeting place . As I wrote in the first part, a reliable option is to make an appointment at the stand. The stand is noticeable and easy to find. The problem is that people usually walk near the stand, it’s noisy and crowded. In this case, having already met with the interlocutor, look for a quieter place or leave the building altogether and take a walk: in the fresh air and it is more pleasant to speak, and the extra noise does not interfere. If the organizers provide separate talks, then use.
Start of conversation. Start a meeting with small talk: ask how things are going, how the person got, how he got the conference. Use the information that you managed to find out the day before. First, etiquette requires an informal beginning; secondly, it is a good way to get close to a person before talking about business. It is important to take into account the nature of man. If the interlocutor is closed, not too talkative, or is tired and obviously wants to go straight to the point, then it is better to drop informality away and go straight to the matter.
Demonstration . If you meet with a potential client and discuss your product, be sure to show it in action: if the functionality of your solution can be demonstrated, do it. Consider the availability and quality of the Internet. It is better to purchase a local SIM card with internet access.
Photo sharing. If a person is open and sociable, then after the meeting, invite him to take a picture together. This is another reason to remind myself after the meeting, sending a photo to a person. On the whole, everyone is positive about this.
Summary of the results . When the meeting is over and you have discussed everything, you MUST write down a resume somewhere: what did you talk about, what did you decide, what did you find out, what did you promise. It is very important. If you do not write, then forget everything. The next meeting will fill the short-term memory with new information, crowding out the data about the previous one. In general, be sure to write down your resume immediately: on the phone, on the arm, on the business card - wherever you go. By the way, this is why we appreciate business cards with an empty (white) back side: something can be written on it when there is absolutely no time.
What can go wrong
And now I have bad news for you. Even if you are prepared for 110%, they have written to everyone, they have called everyone, they are not late, and in general is a great fellow, this will not save you from forgetfulness, negligence and unprofessionalism. People do not come, forget to warn about the changes, they are silent and do not feel remorse. It happens, from such situations can not be fully insured. But you can try to fix them.
What to do if nobody came to the meeting?And in general, what is the probability of such a sad outcome? According to our statistics, about 10% of meetings fail without warning: a person simply does not come. The percentage may be higher - it depends on the person, his upbringing, your relationship with him, the format of the conference, workload. In the end, he may well linger on another meeting, like you.
If 5 minutes has passed and no one is there, take the phone and call, because for this we asked the person for his phone number. Does not answer the phone? Write SMS or messenger. Not responding? Throw this venture and do not wait. If a person is a professional, he will write or call you, and you will schedule an appointment for other free time (remember the slots we kept in reserve). And if a person is irresponsible, he will never call and write to you. Do you need such a potential partner or customer?
And what if the person did not come to the second meeting?Forget about him, delete the number, do not be humiliated and do not lose face. We had a case when a potential large client did not appear at the first and reassigned meeting, did not respond to messages and calls, and calmly wrote two hours later: “Well, I’m kind of freed, where are you?”. Here we have already given the brakes and politely told our colleague that we are no longer ready to meet, maybe another time.
What if the person you are meeting with ignores you?And this happens. You have agreed to meet in a certain place, and this person is really present there, but is not talking to you. With a colleague, a casual acquaintance, a clever salesperson of another company - it does not matter, the main thing is not with you. He even sees you, but asks for words or words to wait for him to finish. If so, then go ahead, break into the dialogue and check with the person how much time he needs. If a lot, cancel and transfer the meeting right there. If a little, then wait a bit. Does the person still communicate with the other? Well, that's too much. Do not lose your face and bargaining position, just leave, and write to the person that you can no longer wait and offer to postpone the meeting. If you are interested in him, he will apologize and answer you.
What to do if, after several postponements, delays and delays, the schedule of meetings completely “moved out”? Sooner or later it will happen. To some extent this is even good, as it most likely speaks of your popularity and a large number of meetings :) When we go with a stand, at certain moments the influx of visitors becomes such that people (most often current customers) even stand waiting in line to talk to a company representative. Therefore, we advise you to leave free slots under force majeure and drive at least a pair, so that there is always someone who can insure.
No, the author, you do not understand: the schedule has moved so much that neither the colleague nor the slots will help.In this case, find a couple of free minutes to send a message to those with whom you can not meet. Apologize and ask to postpone the meeting the next day. Then you will think what to do with them. This is better than not meeting someone or being very late.
What to do if suddenly there is a gap in the schedule without a single meeting? This is a great opportunity to put yourself and things in order. Take time to record the results of past meetings and your commitments. Check messages, mail, missed calls. Have a snack, if you have not had time. Walk through the stands of companies that are interesting to you, but with which you did not manage to make an appointment (we even specifically set aside time in the schedule for such trips).
Networking and parties
Conferences are not only about negotiations and reports. Often, at the end of the official part, the organizers launch an informal one. This may be a small buffet for an hour, a hike in the bars or a party with a concert of rock stars.
In any case, you need to be there. Such aftepati is an opportunity for networking. Here you can communicate with the same people, but more closely and informally. Very often, transactions in words are concluded precisely here.
History from experience. Once at a similar event, I spoke at a bar with an unknown American to me. We talked about something not related to the business. By chance, he drew attention to my name on the badge. After a sharp silence, he took out his phone and began to search for something, and then showed me a letter in his mail. It turned out that I had already contacted this person, and more than once: we wanted to integrate our billing system with their domain registrar, one of the largest in the world, and I wanted to discuss the terms of cooperation. Prior to this meeting, he had not responded to any of my letters due to his busy schedule. I apologized terribly. We laughed, and I made a promise with him that he would write to me after the conference. And he wrote! The integration was successful, and we signed a partnership agreement. It would be all that if not for a chance meeting at a party after the conference? Not sure.
Use any opportunity to communicate informally to make such acquaintances, and it will become much easier for you to develop your business. In general, I advise you to read the book by Keith Ferrazzi "Never Eat Alone." There are a lot of practical advice on similar events.
In general, this is a typical day of a more or less standard conference of those that we attended. If the conference lasts more than one day, then the following days will be identical.
I would like to finish the article with a couple of recommendations that can also be useful.
Should I attend reports?Worth, but very selective. On most of them you will want to sell something, deftly masquerading as an interesting topic and a big name. We pre-compile a list of those reports or speakers that interest us, and reserve a place for them in the schedule of meetings. Moreover, their positions in our schedule are always the most precarious: if any meeting should be appointed at the time of the report, we refuse to go to the report. We usually attend no more than one report on the day of the conference. It is better to visit one, but the most interesting and popular speech, than to divert attention to a few walk-throughs.
Does it make sense to meet someone outside the conference?Yes, there is a sense, and a big one. Not all companies that are interesting to you will be at the conference, not everyone will be able to cross. If you come to another city or country, then it is a sin to miss opportunities for meetings outside the conference room.
As I mentioned in the first part , for such meetings we leave a day or two before and after the conference. You can meet in a cafe, bar and in general, any place that suits your interlocutor - adapt to it. It often happens that meetings at the conference are few, and the person with whom you spoke would invite you to continue negotiations in the office of his company the next day.
In fact, it would be possible to tell much more, but the format of the article does not allow writing about everything. Write in the comments how useful the described tips are for you and how the conferences differ in your field. In the final part, I will talk about what needs to be done after the conference so that everything is not in vain.