Monday, May 27, 2013

Secrets to Better Networking at Conferences

In March 2009, at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, I attended dozens of sessions and parties and and met hundreds of people. But it was a chance meeting with Guy Kawasaki on the trade show floor that had the most impact for me. I saw him, ran up to him and introduced myself, and offered to help him in any way I could to promote his latest book. We exchanged info, and since then, the uber-successful Guy has become a great mentor and friend to me.

Many business professionals spend time every year attending conferences. I've attended and spoken at over 200 conferences in the last fifteen years. And while it's great to be inspired and to learn at conferences, the most valuable asset of a conference is the people you meet and the relationships you can form and nurture. I've met dozens of people at conferences who have had a tremendous impact on my career and life, including Guy Kawasaki, Sheryl Sandberg, Jeffrey Hayzlett, and Randi Zuckerberg. On the heels of one of the most important conferences 

of the year, D11: All Things Digital, here are five secrets to better networking at conferences:

1) Research speakers and attendees ahead of time - and reach out.

A week or two before the conference, look at the speaker list and, if available, the attendee list. Research the people you'd most like to meet and spend time with, and then reach out via email, Twitter or LinkedIn. Figure out how you can truly help them - and then offer your help. By showing your friendship first, you'll be differentiating yourself from everyone else, who just wants to get something from them. Set up a 10-15 minute meeting over coffee or a drink. That way, you won't have to scramble and compete to get their attention once at the conference.

2) Use social media to connect with and compliment the speakers.

Chances are, you want to meet and network with speakers even more than with fellow attendees. But so does everyone else. One of the best ways to grab a speaker's attention is to engage with him or her on Twitter before the conference, and pay him/her a genuine compliment before or during the speech. I'll often then send a private message on Twitter to set up a meeting, so that I don't have to fight through the crowd after his/her speech for 2 meaningless seconds of conversation.

3) Skip a panel or two and hang out in the break room.

As valuable as the content of a conference can be, if you're there to meet people, it can be more valuable to hang out outside the panels, in the break room, trade show floor, or by the coffee or snacks. There, you'll have more time to meet people - a speaker who's just arrived, or an attendee who stepped out to take a phone call, or a sponsor you might be able to partner with. Most conferences have built-in breaks and networking time, which can be very valuable. But consider making more of this time for yourself - you can always get the notes from that panel later.

4) Forget just giving out business cards - collect them.

The traditional thinking for conferences is "Bring lots of business cards to hand out to everyone you meet." I bring my business cards to conferences. But I'd rather be in control of who I connect with - collecting cards from the people I most want to stay in touch with. So, do ask each person you meet for his/her card- and then, do connect with them on LinkedIn - either after the conference, or right then and there. Always include a personal message when connecting.

5) Ask meaningful questions of the people you meet.

Everyone else is asking, "Where are you from?" and "Where do you work?" and other small talk at conferences. 

Larry Benet taught me to ask better questions, such as "What are you most passionate about?" and "What charity do you care most about?" and "Who at this conference would you most like to be connected with?" That way, you get people talking about something they really care about, and you can form a more meaningful relationship faster. Of course, the most important question you can ask of someone is, "How can I help you?" When you ask these questions, listen well, and be genuinely interested. This will make a difference for you.

6) Have a signature style.

I have 21 pairs of orange sneakers and shoes, and I wear one to every conference I speak at or attend. It's noticeable, it's memorable, and it's a often a conversation starter. It was my orange shoes that got the 

attention of a prominent investor at a conference recently, who ended up funding my new company. Of course, this doesn't mean you should go out and buy orange sneakers - but you should think about how you can differentiate yourself. Whether it's a certain color tie you wear, signature earrings, or a blazer - having a signature look will help you stand out from the masses at conferences, meet more people, and be remembered.

Above all else, when you attend a conference, have concrete goals in mind for your networking in advance, be both interesting and interested, and spend time to get to know people and help them. If you follow these simple tips, you'll be able to meet more people and get more out of each conference you attend.


Now it's your turn. Which of these tips have you used before? Which of these tips have you found to be most helpful or successful? And what are your tips for better networking at conferences? Let me know in the Comments section below, and be sure to share these tips with your network.

If You Think Short Copy Sells More, Think Again!

Much of the marketing that is done is based on conjecture with little application of knowledge or bona fide data. Marketers, who never really learned marketing deeply enough, base their judgments on their opinions, which are too often shaped by misconceptions.
One of the most common misconceptions is that people nowadays will not pay attention to ads or communications that have more than a minimal amount of ad copy. The reasons most commonly given to support this notion include people…
Do not like to read,
Have short attention spans,
Are in the habit of reading short messages in texts,
Are too distracted with multiple media channels,
Have their noses buried in mobile devices.
While these reasons are often true, the conclusion that short copy sells better is not.
Everything is relative
Good marketers know that only members of the target audience can decide what is “too long” and what is “too short.” When I saw the movie Titanic, it was over 3 hours long. I thought it was too long. Teenage girls thought it was too short and watched the movie over and over again. Leonardo DiCaprio was not on the screen enough for them. If people are really interested in something, they want more. If they are not interested, they want less. You cannot have too much of a good thing, but any amount of a bad thing is too much. One of my favorite T-shirt’s of all time has a picture of Albert Einstein on it with a headline that reads, “Sit on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit next to a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”
Less can be more since we are busy or lazy
Of course, if the content creator can get the essential information into the consumer’s head with less copy, that is usually a good thing because it saves the consumer’s time – a clear benefit since most of us are either busy or lazy. However, it is nearly impossible to pick out who in the target audience wants more and who wants less. What is a good marketer to do? The answer is format the information into “bite-sized” pieces using sub-headlines and graphic elements. For those that want less, they can read the headline, look at the photo, perhaps read the subheads and then skip to where they can buy it. For those that want more, the longer body text can provide that too.
Yes, less can be more, but the way marketers should look at this is well-written long copy is usually a far more concise version of text that would otherwise be a lot longer. Most importantly, good marketers format it in a way to allow “busy or lazy” consumers to pick out the main benefits without reading, viewing, or listening to the entire content.
What marketing legends say
In his book Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy says, “All my experience says that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short … advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.”
Dr. Charles Edwards, former dean of the Graduate School of Retailing at New York University is quoted as saying, “The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement's chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”
In his book, Tested Advertising Methods, John Caples says, “Advertisers who can trace the direct sales results from their ads use long copy because it pulls better than short copy… Brief, reminder-style copy consisting of a few words or a slogan does not pull inquiries as well as long copy packed with facts and reader benefits about your product or service.”
There are many more quotes from many more experts, but in deference to my recent post, I will stop here.
More recent proof from the fast-paced online world
I know what some of you are thinking. The people I quoted above are “old guys” that are long gone. What they said is no longer relevant in our fast paced, distracted, short-attention span world. While those “in the know” understand that the wisdom of these “old guys” is more powerful today than ever, I need to address this objection head on. The fact is that data shows that long copy typically sells better than short copy online too. Marketing Experiments did a series of tests for clients to show the effect of copy length on Website conversion rates. In all their tests, the long copy outperformed the short copy by wide margins. Need more proof? On the Conversion Rate Experts Web site, they share how they were able to boost Crazy Egg’s conversion rate by 363%. Can you guess how they did it? They made the home page 20 times longer!
Why longer copy typically outsells shorter copy
Even though it is counter-intuitive, why does longer copy typically outsell shorted copy? While the list of reasons could be very long, I will limit them to seven. Longer copy enables the advertiser to…
Provide more benefits, which in turn, shows more people how the product or company can help them.
Show the product or company is more important since it has more capabilities.
Answer more questions and generate more sales since selling involves answering objections.
Target the customer better so those that respond are more likely to buy.
Give those that want more information the information they need so they will be more comfortable buying your product or doing business with your company.
Give those that are “busy or lazy” and don’t want to read a lot the ability to skim the important points without requiring them to read, listen to, or watch it all. This requires good formatting.
Provide more keyword-rich copy to boost organic search engine results.
Hopefully, this post will help you convince the skeptical throngs who still believe that shorter copy sells better. Since it is a counter-intuitive notion, you need proof to support you.