Summer Camp is a networking event hosted by People Report, where 200+ people from HR and marketing come together to push the leading edge forward. It’s a remarkable event, run by remarkable people, run for remarkable people.
During the show, I got to wondering about the degree to which social media has changed the way people connect at conferences, so I asked a bunch of folks how they were going about meeting people at Camp. Here’s what came back:
- Build connections pre-conference. Ajax advisor William Tincup takes attendee lists and methodically connects with people on LinkedIn—prior to the conference. He does his homework.
- Do your homework. SmartBrief editor Mary Ellen Slayter also starts with the conference roster. She finds people with shared points of commonality and actively seeks them out first.
- Make luck happen. I actually met Oakley‘s Brianna Nadal at the hotel before the conference began. A chance encounter became an introduction when Brie saw me holding a conference registration packet. (That wouldn’t have happened had I left it in the room!)
- Leverage real relationships. Bryan Wempen, co-host of the daily Drive Thru HR talkshow, was sitting next to master networkers Craig Fisher and William Tincup when I asked him the question. “I just stay closed to these two,” he said.
- Smile. Michael Long, Head of Culture Branding for Rackspace likes to kick it old school.
- Let your guard down and talk to people. Spritely and talented photographer Leigh Caraccioli makes people look great in the digital world, but she also knows looking good means nothing if it’s not backed up with some good, old-fashioned, human interaction. So, she engages people.
- Present. If you’ve got something to say, take the stage. Then, people will want to meet you… says UnMarketer Scott Stratten, who gave a simply incredible closing keynote.
- Give to the givers. Jenny DeVaughn looks at the list of speakers and organizers and figures out how to add value to their worlds through a few thoughtful, well-placed questions. She says too many people ignore the organizers!
- Meet the people you already know from Twitter. This suggestion was made by almost everybody, and spawned a 15 minute conversation between myself, Scott Stratten, and Mary Ellen. The upshot? Those BS conversations on Twitter about the peanut butter and bacon sandwich you ate for lunch build relationships and make live interactions easier.
And here is what you’ll need to do to successfully use these tactics:
- Be profersonal. First impressions are based on both professional and personal factors. Make sure, when you present yourself, you make your whole self look good—not just one side or the other.
- Build a credible online presence. People are now looking at you long before they physically set eyes on you. Look good early.
- Take your time. People can’t see your IQ from across the room, and that’s OK. Don’t blurt out everything about you all at once. Be prepared to let others discover your talents over time.
- Dress the part. More and more, I’m seeing people opt for a “look” to make themselves more readily identifiable in a crowd. It’s a good strategy. Ask yourself, “What’s your thing?” A hat? Your glasses? A color? A look? Own it. Let people know it’s you. At Summer Camp, looks that stood out:
- Amanda Hite: jet black, spiked hair; jeans, black shirt/jacket.
- Michael Long: red shoes
- William Tincup: Ray Bans with clear lenses, monogrammed beanie.
- Jim Knight: spiked hair, high fashion shirt, jeans, and subtle Hard Rock/music-related pendant
- Me: I always take the stage in my blue velvet jacket.
- Draw others out. It’s not about you. When you meet people, online or off, ask about them. You know what it’s called when two people try to draw each other out simultaneously? A conversation.
- Use context to convey who you are. You don’t have time to tell people all the things you need to tell them. Use context clues to communicate soft skills.
Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be sure to be a hit when you come to Summer Camp 2012!
Jason Seiden is CEO of Ajax Workforce Marketing. Ajax amplifies brands by aligning employees' online messaging.