There’s nothing quite like the thrill of attending a conference like DOMAINfest, with a jam-packed agenda of three days of seminars, discussion panels, and networking parties.
The most important aspect of any conference or trade show is, of course, the people you meet — and I don’t mean the celebrities and industry VIPs. Domain conferences present endless opportunities for forging lasting business relationships and friendships, and these are a few of the steps you can take to guarantee you get the most out of your conference experience.
Here is my list of tips so you can network like a pro.
1. Get There Early. Show up to breakfast, coffee breaks, and evening parties 15 minutes early, when the crowd is thin and it’s easier to mingle. Once the room fills up, it will be noisy and a lot harder to strike up conversations.
2. Have a Gameplan. Review the schedule ahead of time and figure out which seminars and panels you’d like to attend, and who’d you like to meet. If your emphasis is on SEO and local search, you may want to plan some meetings with experts in that field. If your focus is on ccTLDs, find like-minded investors to connect with.
3. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity. A couple of years ago, DOMAINfest added Dine with an Expert, where participants could sign-up to have breakfast or lunch with domain “celebs” like Frank Schilling and SEO guru Bruce Clay. These fill up quickly, so it’s best to reserve your spot early on. The same goes for pre-or-post conference meetups and dinner invitations. Say “yes” to everything.
4. Get to Know Everyone at Your Breakfast Table. The guy giving the keynote address probably isn’t interested in what you do, but the guy sitting to your left during breakfast or lunch probably is. Even if you’re not the talkative type, make an effort to introduce yourself to everyone around you. You’ll have more interesting conversations that could lead to lasting relationships down the road.
5. Have Business Cards Ready and a List of Your Domains. People will inevitably ask what domains you own, and it’s a lot easier if you have a list handy (see #5 — if they don’t ask or show any interest, keep it to yourself). Business cards are also essential and you can get inexpensive ones at Inkd and Vistaprint.
6. Do NOT Start Every Conversation with a Sales Pitch. There was a guy in NY who was peddling his list of domains for sale every chance he got. I even saw him interrupt people’s conversations, asking them if they would take a look at his list. People see that stuff coming from a mile away, and looking desperate is NOT the way to sell names. It’s also bad etiquette. When networking, be friendly and engaging, and lead off with something other than a sales pitch.
7. Ask questions. This goes hand-in-hand with #4. People are always interested in talking about themselves, and showing an interest in their background and what they have to offer can be a great ice breaker.
8. Use an App Like Evernote to Write Down Reminders. I always travel with my laptop, and some people prefer an old-fashioned pen and paper, but take time between events to write everything down, from the names of people you met, to interesting domains for sale you’d like to inquire about, and notes from the seminars. I like to use my Macbook for more extensive note-taking, and Evernote on my phone for contacts and action items.
9. Tweet First, Save Facebook and LinkedIn for Later. Following someone you’ve just met on Twitter is a great way to say “let’s stay in touch.” Save the Facebook and LinkedIn requests until you’ve established more of a personal and working relationship.
10. Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up! This is common sense, but only a small percentage of people actually do it. Take all of those business cards you’ve saved, reminders on Evernote, and Twitter contacts, and reach out to people preferably no later than one week after the conference. If you wait too long, you’ll never get around to it, and they might not remember you. A simple, “Hi, John, it was great meeting you at the conference. Keep me posted on Project XYZ and your sale of Widgets.com, and if you ever need anything, you can reach me at (your contact info here),” will do.