Many conference organizers provide potential attendees with templates and tools designed to convince the boss to approve their participation. These are cost/benefit tools with boiler-plate copy. Quantifying the expense side is straight forward. The benefits side gets fuzzy real fast.
Hands-down, the most intangible conference benefit of all is networking value, . The professional connections you make and nurture can pay dividends for years and in many ways.
The best way to get credit for your conference's networking value is having social proof that's spread through word of mouth. There are up to four primary attributes that exist in conferences with high networking quotients:
Lots of hugs! The conference is a safe place. Sharing is part of the culture.
Deal-making. Lots of private and semi-private meet-ups. Cards are played close to the chest. Education sessions matter little.
Idea validation and building. Watch the video on the left.
Leadership that takes pride in ensuring each participant makes new meaningful connections.
If your conference doesn't ooze with of one or more of these, increasing networking value should be at the top of your priority list. The biggest reason people come to conferences is because of who else is there.
We've hand-picked a number of articles to help you take your networking design up a notch. Many of these are rooted in recent scientific research. We hope they help strengthen your attendance justification story.
We're continuing our new webinar series at 2:00 PM EST on Tuesday, December 8th. This one will be Equipping Catalyst Changing Conference Committees with Sarah Michel, CSP. If you're interested in participating, click here to review and/or register. All webinars are promotion free, progressive learning opportunities.
Ignoring conference networking and socialization can cause pain. Humans are adapted to be social creatures. But our conferences are not adapted to us. Conferences force us to be outsiders in an institutionalized experience that doesn't align with our brain's natural desire to socialize. When we force people at conferences into jammed packed schedules with no down time, no scheduled networking and no time to connect with others, we are going against the brain's natural inclinations.
Networking is a time-honored tradition. You go to a conference or other event, mix it up, meet new people and expand your circle. Hopefully, one of these random connections will be fruitful and lead to a new opportunity that will make you a richer, more fulfilled person. That does happen, but it's exceedingly rare. Random connections are random for a reason. Most people we bump into have nothing to do with us. They have different jobs, different friends and different interests. People we meet on planes usually just eat their peanuts and then go their own way. Yet network science shows that there is enormous potential much closer to home-the friends of our friends and their friends as well.
After studying a whole bunch of professional conferences, it's very clear to me what separates a thriving event from one on life support. For multi-day conferences, a growing number register and return because of who else will be there. Our attendees have more choices than ever for professional development and acquiring purchasing intelligence. Today, it's difficult to differentiate and grow without strong networking value and a tribe-like vibe.
Instead of focusing on scaling back like most people, Adam Rifkin found a way to dramatically scale up his relationship building without scaling up the amount of time he spent. Most people fail to reach their network's potential because they subconsciously view their relationships within a hub-and-spoke paradigm...
We have known for a while that networking is one of the top reasons people attend conferences. But who knew it actually makes them smarter? According to a new study published by Scientific American on 5 ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential networking was cited as one of the best ways to expose yourself to new ideas, perspectives and knowledge that results in cognitive growth or becoming smarter.