Everyone has different feelings when it comes to networking. Some are networking pros who understand the benefits that come out of bringing different experts and thought leaders together under the same roof. Others have been to less-engaging and not-so-educational meet ups where they felt like their time was wasted – slowly and painfully. And then there are those who prefer not to network at all. Just because.
For the most part, however, I think we can all agree these events are beneficial; we just don’t know if they’re right for us. We’re marketers, and while there is a fundamental understanding that we need to network, we’re also busy people who can’t afford to waste time.
So what is it about conferences and networking events that make them so worthwhile? Often it’s not just what happens at those events, but what you’re able to do afterward, as well.
1. The Internet Isn’t Always a Perfect Resource
Let’s be honest. Despite the wealth of info we can glean from the web, it’s also the ultimate distraction. In fact, I’d go as far to say there is almost too much information, too many resources to examine and too much to see. A link on one article leads to another and soon enough you find yourself watching a cat video.
See? Distracting. Curse your adorableness, you kittens.
To avoid all the information overload and the distractions, it’s helpful to have a list of key resources on hand, ones you know you can rely on in a pinch. Whether you are able to contact them personally, or simply have access to books or content they’ve created, you have a direct line to a specific source of knowledge.
How do you build this list? (Here’s where networking comes in…)
By filling it with the names of the people you’ve heard speak before or who are known public thinkers others in your network looks up to. After an hour of listening to someone talk, you can tell if they know their stuff. You know whether you can trust them to provide you with solid answers, and they can be a go-to resource for you in the future.
2. Education Is a Two-Way Street
Some speakers seem like the wisest, most profound individuals in the world. But even they had someone to teach them what they know. And that knowledge still took time to develop and solidify through experience and practice. On the other hand, it’s foolish to believe that you’ll ever get to a point when you are the most experienced person in the crowd.
That’s why networking events (both during and after) can be great opportunities to promote the ideal that learning should go both ways.
Here at Quintain, we place an equal value on both continuous learning and continuous education. One of the best things about this is that we have a chance to learn and educate ourselves on a particular topic, and then to teach our fellow teammates all about that topic we’ve studied.
Always be learning, and always be teaching. Learning improves the teaching, and teaching improves your expertise and understanding of what you’ve learned.
3. Grow Your Network
This may seem obvious, but networking events are good for… wait for it… networking!
Conferences help you to meet people from all over who, like you, are experienced in marketing and excited to learn more. These events provide opportunities for building strong relationships and help you build your list of great, knowledgable contacts.
With those new friends who are located in your area, you will be able to continue working and learning and growing with them in person. Those who are more distant are still just a phone call or email away, and their marketing content is still always a great resource for you, since you are now familiar with them and recognize them as a valuable source of marketing know-how.
4. Boost Your Confidence as a Speaker
While attendees benefit from speakers sharing their know-how, these experts also benefit from sharing their knowledge with the audience, as it gives them a chance to continually refine their presentation skills and to grow their ability to speak to large crowds.
Public speaking is rarely a natural talent. Three out of every four people have speech anxiety. That’s 75 percent!
“Public speaking is rarely a natural talent. Three out of every four people have speech anxiety.”
While some of your favorite speakers and public figures might seem like they were born to be speakers all their lives, remember that three-fourths of them had to work just as hard as we do to overcome anxieties and imperfections in talking to large audiences.
When it comes to public speaking, the best way to improve is to just do it. Take up offers to speak at networking events and push yourself to get out in front of a crowd. You know marketing, so take pride in the knowledge you have and share it with the world.
5. Build Your Personal Brand
Just as inbound marketing focuses on sharing brilliant content with an online audience in order to create trusted relationships with clients, conferences and networking events help you get yourself “out there.”
One of my favorite things about conferences is the chance to live-tweet literally every glob of knowledge that I absorb. Because what’s better than hearing brilliant concepts? Sharing them!
I may not have thousands of followers, but I do know my audience. Because of this, I use my social accounts to share the information I’m learning first-hand at these events with my fellow marketers and designers. And you can do the same. Not only does this spread the great info that you’ve learned onto others, but it solidifies you as a source of information in whatever field or topic you’re sharing info about.
6. It’s Good to Escape the Office
Conferences are like intense, compressed vacations for learning and for meeting awesome, new and brilliant people.
Even if the event or class you go to is only a few hours long, it helps to simply take a step back from your typical day-to-day and to view your work from a broader perspective.
And then, when you end up traveling to new cities or countries for these events and conferences, it opens up all-new experiences and opportunities that don’t come out of staying behind the same desk each day.
Expand Your Knowledge Network
Sometimes networking events, summits and conferences can be hit or miss, and you may not know which it will be before attending. The point is to try them out and see for yourself.
I absolutely love attending HubSpot’s Inbound conference with my team each year, but I know that I need to find more events where I can continue to learn marketing and design best practices throughout the year. I also know I need to keep in touch with these real-life experts and not limit myself to the same events.
There is so much great content out there, so I urge you to test out new networking groups and conferences. See what works, what doesn’t and find a few impactful ones to latch onto.
Get out there, start networking, and learn and share knowledge with the brilliant experts you surround yourself with!
Have specific marketing (or design) conferences that you know and love? Share them with me! I’m always looking for new ways to expand my network and knowledge base.
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