In June I traveled to New York to attend my first IABC World Conference. Okay, so it was New York, but I have to say that being surrounded by 1,500 like-minded professionals anywhere in the world does something for the soul.
The conference made me acutely aware that I’ve become so immersed in the digital space that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to network – I mean REALLY network. As a world Conference first-timer and in the spirit of my favourite late show, here are my top 10 tips for rediscovering the art of face-to-face communication.
The IABC World Conference stands out for its vast menu of concurrent breakout sessions. Try to convince your organization to send more than one delegate, or ask a fellow consultant to attend. Choose different sessions and reconvene to share notes and personal experiences.
2. Be flexible.
IABC doesn’t require you to sign up for conference sessions in advance. Don’t feel like you need to stay in a session if it doesn’t interest you; put away those guilty feelings, get up and move to another room.
3. Use your brain.
I can’t understand why some delegates insist on using open education forums to pitch their products or services. IABC offers sponsorship opportunities for advertisers. You will come across as more credible if you ask a real question rather than promote your latest book or consulting service.
IABC conferences include options for registrants to network while exploring host cities. Sign up to join fellow delegates for ‘Dine Around’ – one of the IABC World Conference’s best kept secrets. Or, take advantage of pre-conference sessions or tours. If you’re a Tweeter or blogger, you’ll find plenty of sharable content and new friends on IABC social networks.
5. Disconnect (at least for a little while).
Employers often question whether or not face-to-face conferences are worth the expense. The 2013 IABC world conference reminded me that indeed they are. Many of us have hundreds of virtual connections; but how connected are we, really? Face-to-face interactions are essential to building trusted relationships.
6. Find your inspiration.
Does the daily grind leave you to wonder why you became a communicator? The IABC World Conference and its blue chip roster of speakers will re-inspire you.
7. Meet the locals.
And I don’t mean those from the host city. In New York I was fortunate to meet and share knowledge with delegates from my own IABC-BC region and across Canada. And now here I am writing an article for the IABC-BC e-newsletter.
8. Join the party.
9. Arrive early.
Especially if you plan to attend a World Conference located across time zones, I strongly recommend getting to the conference early. In hindsight, I would have skipped that red-eye flight and spent the few extra dollars to arrive well-rested and able to take in the pre-conference workshops.
10. Be adventurous.
A caveat to tip # 1: sometimes going to conferences with a group of colleagues can be counterproductive. Make sure to venture out and meet delegates outside of your clique. You might meet the connection of your career.