Get fired up to attend this year’s ASTD International Conference and EXPO! Here are some tips to help you get the most from the conference through networking.

Before: Plan Ahead

Have goals. Many times people attend events without a plan and that’s when it becomes a waste of time. Instead, plan ahead. Who do you wish to meet at this event? If you wish to meet speakers, name them. Who needs to know about you? How many new people do you wish to meet? (I recommend meeting at least three new people.) Plan ahead to ensure you connect and meet your networking goals.

If you’re shy, bring a friend. Introduce them first, and then introduce yourself. Sit at a table with one person you know – and at least three people you don’t. Get to know the new people.

You’ll remember to do these things if you have made a plan in advance. Set networking goals.

Use social media to schedule meetings and gatherings ahead of the conference. Check out ASTD’s LinkedIn page. You’ll see several people are already starting conference discussions. Follow the #ASTD2012 hashtag on Twitter. This will keep you up-to-date on pre-conference and at-conference happenings. Follow people using the hashtag who seem interesting. If they follow back you can direct message (DM) them, contacting them directly and set up a meeting at the conference. I once planned a guest-spot for my conference presentation using Twitter’s DM feature. It’s terrific when you’re not in the same state – or as many attending ASTD’s International Conference and Expo – the same country.

Pack/bring plenty of business cards. Yes, there are cool electronic tools, like Bump and Evernote Hello, however, most people still use business cards and are familiar with them. If you’re unemployed, create your own cards using gotprint.com or vistaprint.com. Have a tagline on them that brands you. Ensure you have all your contact information on the cards so people can connect with you. For those currently employed, have your staff order you extra cards. Bring at least 100 cards (more is better). You’ll use them for drawings as well as for networking. And, if you meet someone you click with, you don’t want to say, “Gee, I ran out of cards going for the iPad.”

During: Engage!

Have a sound bite ready. When people ask, “So, what do you do?” in a gathering of trainers, instructional designers, e-learning gurus, you want to stand out from the crowd. Do so by stating a benefit you provide your learners. (More tips can be found in my website’s newsroom: http://knocks.com)

Get a business card from those whom you meet. On the card, jot down at least one unusual or interesting thing you learned about each of the new people you meet on the back of each person’s business card. You can find out something unique about each person you meet by asking open-ended questions.

For example, “Is this your first meeting?” is not an open-ended question because the person will either say “yes” or “no.” Instead ask, “So, what brings you to tonight’s event?” or “What’s one thing no-one knows about you?” or “What’s one thing you’d like to take away from this conference and bring back to your employer?” And so on.

Also list the date and name of the event (or conference session) where you met.

Use social media during the conference. Twitter is one of my favorite tools for this. At last year’s ASTD ICE conference, Marcus Buckingham tweeted that you could see him at a specific hotel and that he’d be wearing a red baseball cap. At TechKnowledge, a fellow Wisconsinite tweeted that he’d be wearing an Aaron Rodgers jersey and where he could be found. Several Wisconsinites met up with him at the conference. And there’s the Red Feathers group who connected through social media, then attached red feathers to their name badges for easy spotting, and connected during the conference.

After: Follow Up

Follow up. On the back of the business cards you received, list the action you plan to take to follow up with your new connection. For example, you promised the person you’d send them an article on the topic you just discussed, do it!

I typically recommend you send this within 24 hours. If you’re at the conference, send it when you return. You’ll have made a note on the person’s business card, so you can remember and do what you promised.

Use social media to stay connected. Because ASTD has such a vast membership in their LinkedIn group, if you did miss getting a person’s business card, you may be able to connect with him or her using LinkedIn. Additionally, if you clicked with the people you met during the conference and want to stay connected later, LinkedIn is an easy way to do so. Plus, you can learn more about each person via their LinkedIn profile. (Note: if you haven’t updated your own LinkedIn profile in some time, do so before the conference!)

Pick up the phone. Sometimes we can get so busy or so used to using social media, we forget to make it personal. Picking up the phone for a brief call does wonders in solidifying business relations with your new connections.

For those wishing to connect with me at the conference, I’ll be in the career center and presenting “Rock Your Network®,” an interactive networking presentation where you’ll learn how to create an effective sound bite and apply what you learn immediately. Follow me on Twitter @wendyterwelp, use the hashtag at the conference #ASTD2012, and be sure to check out the ASTD group on LinkedIn. See you there!

©2012 | Wendy Terwelp | All rights reserved.