Attending a tradeshow is a great way to learn about new technologies in your space, knock out CE credits, and make new connections. At Vision Expo West, it’s no different.
Vision Expo is a fashion and medial eyecare event that focuses on giving eyecare professionals the opportunity to discover the latest trends in eyewear and new advances in technology. This event also provides the ophthalmic community with the chance to network with thousands of eyecare professionals to facilitate professional and business growth.
Whether you’re a seasoned OD, a 3rd or 4th year student, or a new graduate, networking and talking to complete strangers can be difficult and stressful. But, if you follow some of these best practices, you can meet the connection that could become your mentor, your optical practice partner, or your peer.
Below are 7 networking techniques to help you make meaningful connections at Vision Expo West.
7 Networking Tips to Try at Vision Expo West
1. Set Your Networking Goals Early
Talking to complete strangers can be stressful. Not wanting to interrupt a conversation, trying to read people to figure out if they want to be approached, and self-doubt can deter you from making valuable connections. After spending money to travel, lodge, and attend this show, making connections is an important piece of the experience.
When I attend a networking event, even if it’s just a local event, I always set a goal to meet a minimum amount of people. This forces me to go up and talk to someone. Usually, after I hit my minimum I feel comfortable enough that I continue to make new connections.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Strive to meet at least 5 new people each day while you’re at the show.
2. Schedule Meetings With Influencers
Scheduling meetings with influencers and potential mentors before you go to the event can help kick-start the networking mindset. Before you attend Vision Expo West, follow their social media accounts and see what influencers, mentors, or peers you can meet at the event. Are there any influencers, potential mentors, or people with similar experiences that you can bounce ideas off? If so, reach out to them to see if you can meet them for coffee or dinner.
When you reach out to them, let them know why you want to meet, a little flattery can go a long way. If the person can’t meet up with you at that show, you already broke the ice, and maybe you can meet them another time.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Find the mentors and influencers you’d like to meet at the event and reach out to them. Ask if you can meet them at the ODs on Facebook Party on Friday.
3. Come With Icebreakers
One good, open-ended question is all it takes to get a conversation started. Having an “icebreaker” question about the industry, event, or education workshop will open up dialog between you and a new acquaintance. Best of all, if you ask the question first, then you don’t have to think on your feet for a response.
Another good thing to come to the event with is a brief introduction and business cards. People want to know the person they are talking to. This is the time to let them know your best qualities. Before the show, practice your introduction and let attendees know your name, your specialty in the eyecare industry, how long you’ve been in the industry, and why you’re attending the show.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Download the eBook, The Essential List of Questions to Ask Any Practice Management & EHR Vendor: 2016 Edition and modify a question to fit your practice needs. Then, visit software vendors to ask your question, or rework the question so that you can ask a non-vendor their opinion or experience with cloud-based EHR solutions.
Whether you’re asking the questions or being a spectator at one of the events, listen to the person who is talking.
Don’t just listen with your ears, monitor your body language to show that you’re interested in the topic. What this means is:
- Don’t look around the room. Focus on the person talking to you, don’t look past them.
- Don’t cross your arms. When you cross your arms, you are signaling that you are closing yourself off and are no longer interested. Keep your arms at your side.
- Don’t interrupt. You may be tempted to interrupt someone, especially if they mentioned something you’re interested in. But, waiting for them to finish their thought could let them deliver more detail and it will buy you time to craft your follow-up question.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Monitor your body language during conversations. If you find yourself looking around the room while you’re talking to someone, it’s ok. Just try and bring yourself back to focus.
5. Take Notes
You’re going meet a lot of people, see many faces, shake many hands, and learn many names. One of the worst things you can do is walk away from a conversation and think, “Wait, what was their name?”
After someone introduces themselves to you, repeat their name a few times in your head to get it to stick. You can also sprinkle the person’s name into a few of your follow-up questions.
When you leave the conversation, take out your phone, computer, session agenda, or vendor collateral, and write down the person’s name, what you talked about, where you met, and anything else that will help you keep in contact with them. If they handed you a business card, then they already did half of the work for you.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Record the names of the people you meet at the show. Write down the person’s name, what they look like, and what you talked about. At the end of each day, recite from memory the names of every person you met there.
6. Follow Up
Don’t undervalue a connection. You never know who your contact knows or where their paths will take them. After the show send a quick email or connect with the person on a social media platform and thank them for talking to you. Bring up a few of the items you talked about to help draw their memory, and maybe ask a follow up question on the topic.
Set reminders to touch base with your contacts every so often. Monthly, quarterly, yearly, it all depends on your relationship with that person.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Follow up with every person you met at the event.
7. Have Fun
Tradeshows are a great way to make new connections, learn more about the industry, see what technologies are on the brink of solving your problems, or just explore a city you haven’t been to before. Make sure you make some time to have a little fun.
Your Challenge at Vision Expo West: Have fun, smile, and relax. You’re going to this event for you, so make the most of it. Join us on Friday at the ODs on Facebook Party!
Networking and making meaningful connections can be intimidating. Using some of the networking tips above can help you maximize your networking experiences at Vision Expo West.
Are you going to Vision Expo West in Las Vegas on Sept. 15-17? We will be there too! Stop by booth MS9035 and try out some of the networking techniques! Hope to see you there.
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