I recently attended the Atlanta Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conference as part of the social media team. I thought about how to extend yourself — how to stretch to fit the networking situation to make it valuable.
My job? To blog and tweet about the event and showcase information from the program. My formal post highlighting a predominant lesson in several of the sessions I attended, You Don’t Have to Grow the Trees to Build Your Deck, is on the SHRM Atlanta blog…Be sure to take a look to learn what I learned from several presentations.
I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to share some informal insights about the conference. Maybe some of my takeaways will inspire you the next time you attend an event or consider whether or not to take the time to do so.
1. There’s nothing like in-person contact to solidify a partnership or friendship. You can interact with people online and via social media all day long, but sometimes it takes sitting down for lunch or an in-person conversation and handshake to confirm your mutual interests and plan to move ahead. Never underestimate the value of attending conferences and events — if only for this purpose.
2. Make an effort to introduce people to each other — and to introduce yourself. It’s great if you are lucky enough to have someone nearby who can vouch for you and make a generous introduction on your behalf. (Think about how you can do this for other people…Being a connector and putting people together who may have mutual interests is a great way to build your value in your community.)
Even if there is no one around to introduce you, stick out your hand with a smile and introduce yourself. Ask some questions and be interested in the person who is sitting down next to you in a session or who is waiting in line with you to get your picture taken! We’re all focused on what we’re doing next or where we need to be at the stroke of the hour; use that to your advantage. Ask other people where they are going next, or about the key note address. Strike up a conversation; everyone around shares something in common with you if you’re attending your professional conference. Don’t miss the opportunity to meet someone new.Â Once you do — take the time to introduce that person to someone else.
3. Ask how you can help. What a powerful question, and a great way to indicate your willingness to connect with someone else. Just saying the words, “How can I help you?” — imagine how powerfully they will land. Try it. I know I plan to.
4. Keep an open mind and stretch for connections. I’m in an interesting position at SHRM, since I’m not an HR professional. I’m not a good customer for any of the vendors in the exhibit hall — I don’t plan ways to reward employees, I don’t oversee a benefits plan, I don’t engage workers in wellness initiatives and I don’t check references and perform background checks.
However, I do make it a point to think about how I can be of service to the vendors in the exhibit by asking if they may have information or resources to share with the job seekers I normally engage via my online sites. So, maybe a vendor who offers ways to help employers reward employees can share some statistics about trends about employee rewards that can help job seekers. Or, a company that creates benefits packages can offer details about what job seekers should expect in the way of benefits for their next job; this could make it easier to negotiate. A company that does drug testing can share useful details about what they look for and how employers are using the testing.
Thinking outside of the proverbial “box,” I collected information that I hope will benefit my traditional readers and the exhibitors.
What’s the lesson? Stretch your thinking…Where ever you are, think about different ways to make the situation work for you. Think positively and be creative. You never know what opportunity is just around the corner.
photo by mag3737