Networking playbook – Making global events work for your business.

Recently I met few entrepreneurs who are attending Mobile World Congress, Barcelona event in March. They are first timers and the discussion revolved around maximizing this event for business growth, personal learning, and for professional networking.

Let’s admit it, attending these events is an expensive affair. And if you don’t plan, then you will be lost in a huge venue like FIRA Barcelona. Luckily during my Nokia and Microsoft days, have attended several global events like Mobile World Congress, Slush, Nokia World, Microsoft Global Exchange MGX (and others). Here’s my playbook to get the most out of a networking event (especially ones like MWC or Global Sales and Marketing events).

Preparation:

  • Be crystal clear on your objectives and what you want to achieve from this event. It can be meeting investors, technology experts, media, companies, headhunters, learning new technology trends and so on. Then sort these objectives into high priority and good to have lists. (If your primary objective is to visit Barcelona, then be prepared for a super expensive travel. Prices skyrocket during these global events)
  • Once you are clear on the objectives, identify the key companies and people whom you want to meet. Connect with these companies and people already two weeks in advance over email or social networks. Give them a good reason why you are reaching out to them, and also state what they can expect in return. Be specific but interesting in your communication. Send these letters to both high priority and good to know list of contacts (expect only about 10-25% responses)
  • Send another email about a week later and share your excitement on the event, the company you are representing and how you would love to meet this person during the event. Be honest and try and give a specific meeting day. Day 2 and 3 are perfect for networking. Everyone is very busy on day 1, while most of the participants are really tired or would have returned back on day 4. Request only 15mins meetings, as it is too less to reject and still gives you enough time to make an impression
  • If you still haven’t received a response from your high priority ones, then leverage your network (+ LinkedIn) and get an introduction
  • Prepare 30 seconds elevator pitches and a longer version about you and your business. Be prepared to tweak it for different audiences

Practicalities before and during the event:

  • Print beautiful business cards (300-500 nos.) and plan for a simple business card sorting mechanism. After every business card exchange, write down what you promised and why you should connect with this person (I use different pockets to prioritize and filter cards)
  • Prepare a QR code link for your business card on your smartphone and transfer it directly during the event
  • Find a partner (Fellow entrepreneur, friend, or a blogger) during the event as MWC can be overwhelming. A good partner will help you push ahead on end of day 3 or still on day 4
  • Having a partner also helps in landing a good impression on your contact and you will have lot more topics to refer to while writing a follow-up email
  • Don’t spend too much time with one person or one booth. It is ok to politely walk away
  • Jot down simple notes and actions during lunch and at the end of day as follow-up
  • Spend 30mins during breakfast with GSMA news. This will help you follow the latest tech announcements and strike interesting conversations in your meetings
  • Invest in a good mobile power bank and keep it fully charged. You’ll see many people sitting and wasting their time charging a phone from a power socket
  • Lastly, remember to smile even after a long 14 hour day. You never know how/when you can meet your next prospect

After the event:

  • Send a customized follow up email to each contact about 5-7 days after the event, referring to what you discussed in your meeting. Have a clear follow-up action in that email
  • Connect with your contacts over LinkedIn and other professional networks
  • Request for a follow up meeting or a Skype call if needed
  • Check your notes and capture all the interesting technology trends, business funnel and your learnings. Write a short summary and share it with your friends who couldn’t make it to the event

Mobile Apps for the event:

  • GSMA App is very handy for maps, venue details and practicalities. NFC fast track check-in is pretty useful
  • One Note or Evernote to take notes, and to scan your business cards
  • HERE or Google maps to navigate through the city
  • Barcelona metro app or HERE transit for public transport

One final note: Smile and listen carefully. This will help you follow-up with your contacts and give you stories to refer to.

Happy networking!

Networking playbook – Making global events work for your business.How do you prepare for networking events? Do you use any other tips/tricks during these events? Share your thoughts below or let’s continue the discussion on Twitter: @MarketingRags

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