Conferences can be overwhelming. Most people look at the program, select a few sessions and just hope to meet and network with someone who can help their business or career.
After spending 25 years in executive sale, I can tell you that conferences were one of the most important selling and networking opportunities I had. Over my sales career I sold a total of $48 million … for other people. It occurred to me that I could share some of these strategies with my fellow podcasters!
Over the years, I developed a strategic plan for approaching conferences, and it worked! Part of why I needed a plan is that I’m a self-diagnosed Outgoing Introvert. What does that mean? It means that at heart, I am an introvert. I truly enjoy one-on-one or small group conversations with people I know well, and I am only truly extroverted with people I trust.
So, when I go to a large event, the networking part of it can be a challenge. While I excelled at networking, schmoozing, and mingling, it didn’t come naturally. In fact, there have been times when the thought of having to mingle at a cocktail party could make me want to stick a hot poker in my eye.
I want to share this strategy with podcasters and entrepreneurs to help you make the most of your conference experience.
Step 1. Have a plan
Long before you step foot inside the conference, have a plan.
-Decide what your goal is:
–To get the attention of a large network?
–To land a new sponsor?
–To find guests for upcoming shows?
–To collaborate with other podcasters?
–To promote your show in general?
– Decide who to see and, just as important, who not to see.
–Look through all the speakers and sessions
–Map out your calendar by the hour. Which sessions will you go to? Who are you hoping to meet?
–If applicable, download the event app to connect with other attendees.
–If your goal is to network, it’s OK to double-dip (split time between two sessions). Use your judgment so as not to disrupt.
Step 2. Develop A Compelling Elevator Pitch
An “elevator pitch” is exactly what it sounds like: Your entire concept in under 30 seconds (maybe 40 seconds) that can be delivered during a one-floor ride. Remember, a pitch is NOT about selling. It should be about succinctly delivering the message and concept of your podcast.
An effective pitch has 3 key elements:
–It must be provocative. Make the person want to know more.
–It must include numbers. Numbers make an impression. Reference the number of listeners or sponsors, audience stats, or revenue range if you’ve reached that point.
–It must have a tagline. Identify one line that is used on your podcast’s website or social media. It’s got to be something you’re comfortable with because you will be saying it all the time.
Here’s one version of my elevator pitch. Note that I mention my podcast’s title at the beginning and end.
Provocative: The Micro Empires Podcast is about creating small 'empires' for wealth and stability for the everyday person.
Numbers: My story is I lost everything…twice. I had no money, no job, no car, no place to live and 2 children to care for. I had to rebuild from zero. The second time, I created $1.4m in income-producing investments in just 4 years — with nothing more than a W2 and some grit.
Tagline: I created The Micro Empires Podcast because you don’t have to be wealthy to build wealth.
A good elevator pitch is not easy to come up with. It should have the right amount of information to make someone curious and want to ask questions. But not so much information that their eyes start to glaze over and they begin inching away from you in the direction of the cash bar.
Here’s another example that I recently created for a colleague. Notice that I “name-drop” notable clients.
Provocative: The Audio Footprint Podcast is about creating a new market for any business using audio.
Numbers: My story is that I’ve spent the last 20 years creating an audio presence for organizations like Disney, Morgan Stanley and Tesla. Over 3.5 million people get their news, entertainment and self-help through audio each day. The majority of those listeners are women who earn over $90,000 a year.
Tagline: The Audio Footprint Podcast provides real-life steps for accessing those consumers. Are your customers listening?
Step 3. Effective Networking
Conferences provide very little time to make a positive impression and meet with the right people. I am a believer that if you aren’t going to be effective, don’t bother getting out of bed.
Here are the 3 most important things to do for effective event networking:
Use whatever the universe gave you. If you are tall, wear heels. If you have amazing purple hair, tease it up and make it even more amazing. Wear a bright color, a zebra jacket, or leopard-print pants. If you aren’t comfortable with any of that, do something to make yourself stand out. Maybe carry a bag that is memorable. I used to have a beautiful orange suede jacket that I wore to every conference. People noticed!
Introduce Yourself Before Asking a Meaningful Question
This is one of my favorite tricks for getting your name out there at a conference and it has never failed me. If you have a terrific question for a speaker during a session, you may have the opportunity to ask during a Q&A. Briefly introduce yourself and mention the name of your podcast before jumping in to your amazing question or comment.
Skip the Photo Op or the Book Signing
There may be a specific person you are trying to meet and the only opportunity would be at a book signing or photo op. This may sound radical, but don’t do it. Not if your goal is to make an impression.
Here’s why: They are unlikely to remember you (even if you are wearing purple zebra-print pants). These events are overwhelming for even the most extroverted celebrity. They may have already met hundreds of people that very same day.
Here’s what I suggest if you have a “target” you want to meet:
-Plan to attend all of the events they are involved in.
-Ask great questions that enrich the experience for them and the audience. They will remember you for that. Make sure your questions are relevant and not self-serving. If they aren’t, your target person may only remember being annoyed.
-In advance of the conference, consider reaching out via email or social media to connect at a smaller event or mixer. When you get the opportunity to meet them, make it easy for them to remember you. For example:
“Hi Catherine. I’m Jennifer Grimson. I heard you speak on digital marketing and attended the panel you led on Women in Podcasting. I was the one who asked the question about Dynamic Media Insertion.”
4. You ARE the Brand
In all things, remember that YOU are the brand. It is your personality, professionalism and approachability that will make people, organizations, and sponsors want to work with you. Your brand should be accurately reflected across your podcast, social media, LinkedIn, your website, and video content.
What is your ‘unfair advantage'? What makes you special or qualified as THE authority in your area? For me, it was that I was a single mother who had survived financial ruin…twice. That is a unique perspective.
Protect the Brand (You!): There is a saying that you are only as good as the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Be protective of who you are, your brand, and your idea. Mingle with people who challenge you, who are as motivated, driven and focused as you are, if not more.
The Secret Weapon: Act “As If”
When I went to Podcast Movement 2019, I had nothing more than a business card and an idea. I didn’t have a website and had yet to publish a single episode, but I had formulated a solid pitch.
I am not suggesting you misrepresent the truth — always be honest. My pitch was, “I am creating a podcast called Micro Empires.” Although it was in the planning stages, I had the power of conviction and confidence.
I believed that my podcast was relevant and needed. What I didn’t know is if others would agree. I had to tell myself to act “as if” it was already a huge success. Why? Because confidence is infectious and fosters trust.
I encourage you to “borrow” the confidence you need. Maybe you don’t know exactly what or who your idea will land with, but you should adopt a mindset “as if” you already have a huge following, a waiting list for sponsors and the fortitude to make it all happen. Believe me, it will translate well to others.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and I look forward to meeting you at the next conference. Now, go out there and make it happen!