26th of July 2013, 8am.
I just woke up on a couch in a stranger’s apartment in Chinatown in Manhattan. No, this isn’t some weird love story – I was couchsurfing as that was the only accommodation in NYC I could afford at a time. I had just spent all of my savings to secure my spot at my first conference, hosted by an entrepreneur that has taught me everything I knew about running an online business at the time.
As I was driving through the New York morning traffic in a suspiciously smelly cab, my hands were shaking, my heart was beating at a million beats per hour and my palms got sweatier every minute. To say I was nervous would be an understatement.
I dropped out of university just a few months ago to focus full time on my business and had spent all of my savings on this conference. What if I didn’t get anything out of it? What if people there would think I’m boring and wouldn’t want to talk to me? What if it was all just a huge waste of time and money? Thoughts like that were making their way into my head one by one, faster than I could dismiss them.
I took a few deep breaths to try to get myself to relax. I told myself “It’s just a conference Primoz, you’ve got this. This is what you’ve been preparing for for the past few weeks. Now is your time to shine.”. I could slowly feel my hands shaking less and my heart beat drop. I repeated the words in my mind. “It’s just a conference”.
Then it all sank in.
I was in New York. NEW YORK! This is what I’ve always dreamed of while working on my business from my small office with one window in Slovenia. I dreamed of traveling the world, meeting ultra-successful entrepreneurs and living a better life on my own terms. Now all of my dreams were coming true.
As Michael Jackson would say, this was it.
Looking back, this conference was one of the pivotal moments in my business where everything changed. This conference was where I first met Ramit Sethi in person and who later became one of my business mentors. It was the conference where I first started building relationships with other 6 figure entrepreneurs through late night Korean BBQs and Korean Karaoke. And it was after this conference that my business began to rapidly grow.
Attending the “Hack the Met tour” as part of the 100k Summit conference
Within a month of attending this conference, my monthly revenue in my business doubled. Within two months, it tripled. None of this was a coincidence, and similar things happened with every conference I attended in the future. I’ve found countless new mentors, clients, partners and friends through different conferences that helped me further grow my online business.
I never felt like I “wasted my money” by going to a conference because my investment always paid off many times over. Today, I’m going to share with you HOW I did it – it was all a part of a system that I’ve created for myself to get the most out of every conference I attended.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Download the PDF version of this 27,000+ word guide
- 3 PART 1: How to decide if a conference is worth your money
- 4 PART 2: How to prepare for the conference (and 10x your investment)
- 4.1 CHAPTER 2.1: Take the time to “do your homework”
- 4.2 CHAPTER 2.2: Who do you want to connect with?
- 4.3 CHAPTER 2.3: Which business challenges are you trying to solve?
- 4.4 CHAPTER 2.4: How to become the most prepared person at the conference
- 4.5 CHAPTER 2.5: How to prepare great questions
- 4.6 CHAPTER 2.6: How to get on the radar of speakers and attendees before the event
- 4.7 CHAPTER 2.7: How to use the conference’s Facebook community
- 4.8 CHAPTER 2.8: Crafting your perfect introduction
- 4.9 CHAPTER 2.9: How to never run out of things to talk about
- 4.10 CHAPTER 2.10: On-stage hot seats & teardowns
- 4.11 CHAPTER 2.11: Your “conference within a conference”
- 4.12 CHAPTER 2.12: Should you “dress to impress” at the conference?
- 4.13 CHAPTER 2.13: What about business cards?
- 5 PART 3: The ins and outs of attending a conference
- 5.1 CHAPTER 3.1: Connecting with speakers
- 5.2 CHAPTER 3.2: Connecting with fellow attendees
- 5.3 CHAPTER 3.3: Connecting with staff members
- 5.4 CHAPTER 3.4: 8 best networking opportunities at any conference
- 5.5 CHAPTER 3.5: Speeches and Q & A sessions
- 5.6 CHAPTER 3.6: Become a “conference commando”
- 5.7 CHAPTER 3.7: The conference “hall of shame”
- 6 PART 4: What to do after the conference ends
- 7 BONUS: Your Conference Battle Plan
But first, let’s address the elephant in the room:
Who the hell am I (and why should you trust me)?
In case you’re new to my site, you’ll probably wonder who the hell I am, why you should trust me, and why you should keep reading about my Korean Karaoke experiences.
In that case, hi – I’m Primoz:
I help new and established online entrepreneurs grow their audiences by creating high quality premium content – like this 27,000+ word Ultimate Guide. I also love creating the most detailed and comprehensive pieces of content on the internet myself around various topics, which is why I’ve written this guide.
Over the past few years I went from earning $7/h as a programmer in Slovenia to running a 6-figure online business where I sell premium online courses, coach ultra-ambitious online entrepreneurs, and strive to create the best free content online about different parts of starting and growing your online business.
I’ve been featured in publications like Business Insider, Entrepreneur.com and Yahoo Finance, and I’ve been featured as a case study in programs from top online business experts like Selena Soo, Ramit Sethi and Derek Halpern. I’ve also worked with Ramit Sethi for 2 years as a manager and a coach of his 7-figure program called Accelerator, where I coached 800+ online entrepreneurs from all over the world on how to start and grow their online businesses.
I’ve also attended various conferences as an attendee as well as a speaker, ranging from as few as 25 to as many as 500 attendees, and I’ve made the investment from every single conference back many times over.
Speaking at Selena Soo’s Get Known, Get Clients LIVE event in front of 200+ people
Speaking at Ramit Sethi’s Forefront event in front of 500+ people
Hosting a 50+ people event with Ramit Sethi for his Accelerator program
What’s included in this guide (Table of Contents)
Below you’ll find a table of contents with everything that’s included in this 27,000+ word guide. You can either go through it step by step (I highly recommend this) or skip to the part that’s the most interesting to you if you have limited time.
Here’s what you’ll learn from this guide:
Download the PDF version of this 27,000+ word guide
As you can see, this guide is HUGE – it has over 27,000 words. To make it easier for you to read and put into action, I’ve created the PDF version of this guide for you – you can download it, you can download it, save it on your computer, send it to your Kindle, or print it our and read it on your flight to the conference.
I also know that there’s A LOT of information in this guide, and I wanted to make it as easy as possible for you to put it into action. That’s why I’ve created a free BONUS that goes together with this guide – I call it Your Conference Battle Plan.
Your Conference Battle Plan consists of 3 parts:
- The 12-Step Conference Prep Checklist: This checklist includes all 12 steps that you need to take to prepare for the conference as best as possible, in as little as 24-48 hours.
- The Conference Cheat Sheet: This cheat sheet will help you remember all the things you should be doing at the conference in order to get the most out of it. You can even print it out and bring it with you!
- The Perfect Post-Conference Flight: My 2-step system for making sure that I build the right relationships and create massive business breakthroughs after the conference, that you can go through on your flight home (AND have plenty of spare time to watch a movie or two)
In order to get the PDF version of this guide AND Your Conference Battle Plan delivered to your inbox, just enter your name and email address below. Enjoy!
Why I wrote this guide
I’ve first written about my experiences with attending conferences in my Quick Guide to Surrounding Yourself With Successful People, which has been referenced many times as a great resource for attending conferences:
Since writing that guide back in 2014, I’ve attended many more conferences and spoke at a few of them, which helped me further refine my system for getting the most out of them. I’ve also noticed that there’s no one incredible resource on the internet that would really cover EVERYTHING you need to know to make the most out of the conference in great details and actionable steps, and would be incredibly easy to put into action.
So I decided to write one.
I made it my mission to write the most comprehensive and detailed free resource online for attending conferences, by a large margin. I wanted to create the ONLY resource you’ll ever need to read to get the most out of a conference and make your investment back many times over through new friendships, clients, partners and business breakthroughs you’ll find through it.
Who this guide is for
It’s pretty simple. If you’re attending a conference in the next few weeks or months (or even tomorrow), you’ll be able to benefit from this guide. You’ll also be able to benefit from this guide if you have another type of an event coming up in the near future, like a meet up or an in-person mastermind.
It doesn’t matter how large the event is – whether there’s 5 or 5,000 people at it, you’ll be able to use the same principles and tailor them to the size of the conference.
The only thing I ask from you when you read this guide is to commit to putting at least part of it into action, to get the most out of your next conference. Getting the most out of the conference does require work, and the more work you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.
Having said that, getting the most out of the conference isn’t particularly complicated or hard – it’s all about following the simple steps outlined in this guide.
What you can expect to get out of reading this guide
After reading this guide, you’ll never come home from a conference or event feeling like it wasn’t worth your money or your time. You’ll always come home from it feeling like it was worth it 10 times over, AND that feeling won’t go away after the initial excitement and inspiration fades away.
You’ll learn how to optimally prepare for the conference in the days or weeks leading up to it, how to start building the right relationships at the conference, as well as what to do after the conference to stay in touch with the people you loved meeting without it becoming a chore or another thing that you “should do”. No more staring at that stack of business cards without knowing what to do next.
You’ll walk away from the conference with new friends, business partners, mentors, potential clients and business breakthroughs that will make the conference fee, accommodation, flights and the bottle service at the Korean Karaoke bar well worth it.
After you implement what you learn in this guide at your next conference, attending a conference will never feel the same again. Instead of feeling nervous or even overwhelmed by the idea of meeting 500 new people you’ll feel like the conference is your playground. You’ll know exactly how to navigate through it to make sure you’ll get what you want out of it so you can maximally grow your online business.
PART 1: How to decide if a conference is worth your money
Nowadays there’s more conferences out there than ever. You can attend smaller private masterminds, medium-sized conferences with top experts in your field, or even massive events with thousands of people like the yearly Traffic & Conversion summit.
The question is: How do you decide which conference is actually worth the investment?
I use the following 3 questions to help me make this decision:
- Can I expect to find major business breakthroughs at this conference?
- Are experts that I want to connect with speaking at the conference?
- Are there people I want to connect with attending the conference?
These questions help me figure out whether the conference can bring me the business breakthroughs or new business relationships that will make the investment “worth it”.
If the answer to one or more of these questions is YES, I’ll likely attend the conference or event (I attend a few of them every year). If the answer is NO, I usually don’t bother going there. There’re plenty of other events I can spend my money on.
When I attended Ramit Sethi’s 100k Summit event back in 2013, I ran a 5-figure coaching business. I invested $5,000 in the event fee (plus flights and food) because I knew that the topics covered at the event would make the investment well worth it. By acquiring the skill sets that would allow me to become a 6-figure coach, I would be able to make the investment back in no time.
I also knew that the event would be pretty small, with only 20-25 people. At a 3-day event, this would give me plenty of time to build a relationship with Ramit, as well as other attendees which were 5- and 6-figure freelancers and consultants just like me. All of this made the event a no-brainer for me, and it was even worth staying on a stranger’s couch in Chinatown to make it happen.
A different example is this year’s Forefront event that I’m attending. Forefront is a 500-person event that’s also ran by Ramit Sethi, and includes speakers like Ramit, Gretchen Rubin and Shawn Achor. The event also includes different “tracks” where attendees will be able to learn about different topics (like “Million dollar networking” or “Your first 50k”). My track is called “Beyond 6 figures”, which suits my current business really well.
Interestingly enough, I’m not really attending this event to get major business breakthroughs (though some will inevitably happen there) or to connect with speakers (though I might have a chance to do that). At a large event like this, I know that the speakers will be swarmed with everyone trying to talk to them, so I’m not making connecting with them a priority.
The #1 thing I’m looking to do at Forefront is to connect with fellow attendees. I know a lot of the attendees already from my past work with Ramit, and there will be some major influencers on the attendee list like Selena Soo that I want to strengthen relationships with. I also know I’ll likely meet other ultra-ambitious entrepreneurs that I might be able to collaborate with in the future.
When you’re deciding whether you should attend a conference or not, keep things simple. Ask yourself the 3 questions above, and if your answer to one or more of them is a confident YES, then attend it (and then make sure you get the most out of it by preparing well for it). If not, don’t sweat it. There’re plenty of other events you can attend.
CHAPTER 1.1: “Does size of the conference matter?”
Both small and large conferences have their pros and cons. At larger conferences, you can learn about a larger variety of different topics, and meet more people. You can also “be seen” by more people by either speaking at the event or participating in the Q & A sessions and hot seats.
I personally prefer smaller events to bigger ones though. Smaller events are usually more intimate, give you more access to speakers, and allow you to take the time to really build lasting business relationships (vs. talking to a different person every 10min, and walking away from an event with a stack of business cards and no new relationships at all).
Having said that, the size of the event won’t “make or break” the event for me. If the event is about a topic that I’m interested in and there’re speakers or attendees that I want to connect with at the event, I’ll attend it regardless of whether there are 20, 200 or 1,000 people at the event. The 3 questions above matter more than the size.
In short, size doesn’t matter as much as you think. You’re welcome.
PART 2: How to prepare for the conference (and 10x your investment)
My goal with attending conferences isn’t just to “make my money back” with them. I’m always looking for ways to 5x, or even 10x my investment.
In order to make that happen, I realized I need to get 3 things right:
- I need to “do my homework” and prepare for the conference in advance
- At the conference, I need to be at my best and get the most out of my time there
- After the conference, I need to turn the acquaintances into lasting relationships, and the business breakthroughs into actual revenue
Today, we’re covering all of those, and we’re starting with the first step: “doing your homework”.
CHAPTER 2.1: Take the time to “do your homework”
The worst thing you can do at the conference is to “just wing it”. I remember doing that at last year’s Forefront event. At that time, I was still working with IWT (the company that hosted Forefront), and I was attending the event as a staff member. In my mind, I thought “ok, I just need to show up”.
That was a huge mistake. Yes, I did show up, and yes, I did have fun at the event and had a lot of conversations with our students. But as I came home from the event, I had a bitter taste in my mouth. Deep down I knew that I could have gotten more out of it had I prepared for it in advance. I could have connected with the influencers speaking at the event, and asked questions that would allow me to have new personal and business breakthroughs.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS do your homework before the event, no matter the circumstances – because doing your homework is the 90% to getting the most out of it.
Whether you have 2 weeks to prepare for a conference, 1-2 days, or even a 3-hour flight, there are things you can do to make sure that the conference is a huge success. Today we’re going to explore how to make that happen. We’ll talk about all the things that you need to prepare in advance, and how to actually prepare them.
By the time you’ll make it to the event, you’ll know you’ll be ready. You will have done the hard work, and the conference won’t be this intimidating group of 500 people and a maze of different presentations – it will be your playground instead.
So take as much time as you can to prepare for the conference in advance, and use the exercises below to create your very own “Conference Battle Plan”.
CHAPTER 2.2: Who do you want to connect with?
Besides the delicious food and open bar, there are two main benefits from attending conferences:
- You can build new (and strengthen old) business relationships
- You can solve major business & personal growth challenges through new breakthroughs
You’ll be able to connect with new friends, business partners, potential clients, mentors, and perhaps even romantic partners at conferences. Most of these relationships will form outside of the actual conference (more on that in Chapter 3.4). You’ll also be able to get new business breakthroughs either through talking to other attendees, participating in Q & A sessions and hot seats or listening to the presentations.
If you’re attending a conference that’s teaching you a skill set that you’re not familiar with, then the major business breakthroughs will likely be a priority for you. If you’re attending a conference as a speaker or if you’re one of the more experienced people in the room, you might benefit from the relationships more than from the actual content of the presentations.
But regardless of how experienced you are, it’s always a good idea to take some time in advance and get crystal clear on what exactly you’re looking to get out of the conference.
First, you can think about the RELATIONSHIPS that you want to build at the conference.
Before we dig into that, I to give you a word of warning: Trying to connect with EVERYONE at the conference will likely lead to FEW OR NO great, deep relationships.
I’ve learned this the hard way when I went to the 100k Summit conference from Ramit Sethi – at that conference, I wanted to meet anyone and everyone that would talk to me. I spent 10 minutes talking to one person, then 10 minutes to another. At the end of the conference, I felt excited to have met so many new people… But then soon realized that I haven’t really built any lasting relationships with the attendees.
I did a much better job connecting with the staff members (more on that below), whom I did take plenty of time to talk to – which lead to lasting relationships – and some of those people I’m still in touch with to this day.
What we won’t do today is create a list of 50 people to build relationships with, as that won’t help you build QUALITY relationships. Instead we’ll pick a handful of people that you would really love to connect with, and not worry about connecting with everyone you run into like everyone else might.
Here are a few specific questions you can ask yourself to come up with a list of people that you want to connect with at the conference:
#1 – Which types of relationships am I looking to build?
Before creating a list of specific people that you want to connect with, it’s a good idea to think about what kind of relationships you’re looking to build.
Are you trying to find…
- Business mentors
- Affiliate partners
- Guest post opportunities
- Podcast opportunities
- Coaching clients
- Clients for your online courses
- …or someone else?
Take a few minutes to think about it – and try to get as specific as possible during this step. Instead of saying “I want to find more clients”, say “This conference would be totally worth it if I found 3 new potential clients for my 1on1 coaching program”.
Instead of saying “I want to find a mentor”, you can say “I’d love to connect with someone who runs a 7-figure business and is really great at managing their team, because that’s something I struggle with myself”.
The more specific you are in what you’re looking for, the easier it will be for you to find the specific people to connect with in the next few steps.
#2 – Which speakers do I want to connect with?
Especially at bigger conferences, you don’t have to connect with EVERY speaker that’s speaking at the conference, but there might be 1-3 speakers that you REALLY want to connect with.
To get the best idea of who you want to connect with, you can look at the event page / schedule and go over the list of speakers. This is what that would look like for the Forefront event I’m attending soon:
Here we can see that there are 9 speakers at the event.
If some of these speakers look like someone you want to connect with and build a relationships with, write their names down (we’ll cover how to actually prepare for speaking to them in the following chapters).
#3 – Which attendees do I want to connect with?
The next thing you want to do is find out who is coming to the event as an attendee (that you want to build a relationship with). The old-school way of getting a list of attendees would be to email the organizer, specify who you’re looking to connect with and ask them if there’s anyone you should pay attention to from the attendees.
The much easier way of doing this nowadays is through online communities that are built around conferences. For example, the Forefront event I’m attending has a Facebook group with all of the attendees of the event:
And in every community like this, there are either threads where everyone introduces themselves.
And if there’s no such thread, you’ll likely see people freely introducing themselves in the community:
When it comes to connecting with fellow attendees, I’ve found that quality always trumps quantity. Even if there are 500 people at the event, I recommend you to pick just 3-5 people that you REALLY want to connect with.
#4 – Which staff members do I want to connect with?
Connecting with staff members is one of the MOST valuable things you can do at the conference, and yet almost nobody knows it (or talks about it).
I’ve learned about the importance of connecting with staff members when I first attended Ramit Sethi’s conference called 100k Summit. At that conference I made it a point to connect with Ramit’s team. I connected with some of his product developers and a product manager, and when I applied to work with Ramit’s company, those relationships made it a lot easier for me to secure the interviews and land the position.
Staff members are usually ignored at conferences, and yet they have a wealth of knowledge, so they’re great people for you to connect with.
If you can, make a list of any staff members that you’d love to connect with at the event. You’re most likely to see the staff members of the influencer or company that’s organizing the event (rather than staff members of speakers).
In the upcoming Forefront event, the organizer (Ramit) let us know that he’ll be flying some of his staff to the event, including the head copywriter.
In this case, you could find out who these team members are by going on LinkedIn and searching for “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” (Ramit’s company) to find a list of people who work there.
With a little bit of digging, you could also see that a few staff members are speaking at the event (Will Green, IWT’s copywriter is hosting a presentation about copywriting):
Then, as you find a list of the staff members that are coming to the event, you can think about who it would be the most beneficial to connect with and why:
- You could connect with product developers to find out how the company develops it’s products.
- You could connect with copywriters to get feedback on your copy (or learn about resources you can use to improve your copy).
- You could connect with their assistant to learn about the productivity system that the influencer uses to perform at their best.
- You could connect with their affiliate manager if you want to become an affiliate for them.
- You could connect with their editor if you wanted to land a guest post opportunity with them.
This is where the step #1 from this chapter (thinking about the types of relationships that you want to build) will come in handy.
Once you’ve found 3 staff members that you want to connect with at the conference, add them to your list of people that you want to connect with.
At the end of this step, you should have a list of around 5-10 people (depending on how much prep time you have available), including:
- 1-3 speakers
- 3-5 attendees
- 1-3 staff members
I usually wouldn’t make a list of more than 5-10 people, as it’s unlikely you’ll build more than 3-5 DEEP relationships at the event that’s 1-3 days long anyway, plus doing your research (and remembering it) on more than 10 people will likely take weeks – so if your conference is coming up within a week or two, go for quality over quality.
Now if you do end up with a list of 10+ people, one thing you can do is to separate the list into “top 5” or “top 10” people you REALLY want to connect with (and do deep research on them), and into a list of “nice to connect with”, which you can do some light research on.
NOTE: If the event is longer than 1-3 days (like a week or so), you might be able to build deep relationships with more than a handful of people – in that case, it’s totally ok to make your list a bit longer and spend more time preparing for the conference.
CHAPTER 2.3: Which business challenges are you trying to solve?
Now that you have a list of people that you want to connect with at the conference, it’s also a good idea to come up with a list of personal & business challenges that you want to solve (that can lead to major breakthroughs).
The way that you can come up with these is fairly simple. Simply ask yourself:
- What are 1-3 specific business challenges I’m facing right now?
- What are 1-3 personal growth challenges I’m facing right now?
Business challenges might be things like refining your business idea, getting more traffic to your website, writing great sales copy, hiring a team, or creating a sales funnel. Personal growth challenges might be things like procrastination, staying focused and concentrated while working, developing confidence and self-esteem, getting better at public speaking, and so on.
The key here is to be as specific as possible. Instead of just saying “I struggle with getting more traffic to my website”, try to find the root of the issue.
Ask yourself “what’s so hard about getting traffic to my website?”. The answer to that might be “I create a lot of content, but nobody finds or reads it”. Then you can ask yourself “Why is it that way?”, and the answer to that might be that your content either isn’t good enough, OR you’re not sure how to spread the word about it.
Now we have a REAL challenge that you can tackle at the conference. You can try to get to the root of the issue, then think about the things you’ve tried so far to solve the challenge, things that worked, and things that didn’t, and make notes of all of that.
All of a sudden, you no longer have a vague challenge like “getting more traffic to my website”, but a specific challenge that you can solve when you run into someone who’s amazing at generating traffic to their website with the strategies you’re currently using.
Thinking about these challenges in advance will already help you come up with a few specific questions and talking points for the people that you want to talk to – and make the next steps much easier.
CHAPTER 2.4: How to become the most prepared person at the conference
The one thing I was shocked by at the 100k Summit conference was how little most people actually prepared for it. I was in a crowd of 25 people who each spent $5,000 or more on this event, and yet very few actually seemed to deeply prepare for it – most just seemed like they were winging it.
This showed as most people never (or rarely) participated in the Q & A sessions. They didn’t go up to Ramit or other speakers to ask further questions. And when they did ask the questions, a lot of them felt pretty vague, generic and not well researched (like, you could google the answer to the question in 5 minutes).
Now of course this wasn’t true for everyone – there were a few people that were really prepared – but still, with every conference that I’ve ever attended, there was only a small percentage of people who looked really prepared for it.
The must surprising thing at the 100k Summit for me was that before the conference, Ramit told every attendee to track how much time we’re spending on different parts of our business (on research, sales, marketing, etc.). I expected everyone to do this exercise… And yet when I brought my notes to Ramit, he seemed really surprised that I did it – as most people didn’t.
Taking the time to do little things like this can really help you stand out from everyone else at the conference. Being the most prepared person today was a huge part of me making a great first impression on Ramit Sethi and building a relationship with him. And today I’m excited to share with you my “Ultimate Conference Prep Routine”, so you too can stand out from all the other attendees at the conference you’ll attend.
We’ll talk about how to effectively do your research on the people you want to connect with, prepare great questions for them, and leave a lasting first impression on them that will lead to new business opportunities for you down the line.
Introducing “The Ultimate Conference Prep Routine”
I like to joke around that this part of preparing for a conference is the one time it DOES make sense to be a stalker. When you’re trying to connect with speakers, attendees or staff members at a conference, you can’t leave the things to chance because the more you put into preparing for these conversations, the more you’ll get out of them.
The “Ultimate Conference Prep Routine” consists of two parts:
- The light research
- The deep research
The light research will help you “do your homework” and get an overview of who the person is, what they do and their interests, and generate talking points for you when you run into them. The end result of the light research phase will be a “one page bio” that you can look over to instantly learn or remember more about the person you’d like to connect with.
The deep research will help you craft incredible questions for them that will blow them away, leave a lasting first impression on them and likely lead to further conversations and an amazing, lasting relationship. (I know, I’m talking so much about these lasting relationships that I almost feel like a dating coach).
STEP #1: The light research
The light research is the easier part of preparing for a conference. It’s doing your “due diligence”. Surprisingly enough, most people don’t even do the light research and really just “wing it”, even though this phase doesn’t take that much time.
I encourage you to do the light research for each of the attendees that you’re looking to connect with at the conference from the list of people you created in Chapter 2.2.
The goals of light research are simple:
- You don’t want to look like a dummy who doesn’t know the basic information about the speakers
- You can make an amazing first impression on a fellow attendee (that’s not super well known) by doing it
- It creates potential talking points that can lead to great conversations
The light research will allow you to blow away fellow attendees that you connect with (because you’ll actually take the time to look up who they are, what they do and what their interests are), and to always have something to say and talk about when you “bump into” someone that you want to connect with.
Here’re a list of things you can do as light research:
- Check their Facebook profile (personal and business), to see what they’re posting about
- Check their crbdirect.org.uk profile, to learn more about their background
- Check their Twitter, to see if they still live in the ice age
- Check their website about page, to learn about what they do, who their audience is, if they sell any products or services, etc.
- Check their last few pieces of content they created, to see what they love talking about nowadays
- Google them, because you might find some interesting stuff you wouldn’t find otherwise
As you do this, take notes of whatever is interesting to you, or you could talk to them about. I encourage you to focus both on their business life (what they do, who they work with, etc.), and their personal life (what their interests and hobbies are, what they love talking about, what they’re passionate about, etc.).
For example, if you find out that someone went to the same university as you, that’s a great talking point. If they share the same passion for going to the gym or riding horses, that’s another great talking point. If they offer a service that you might be interested in (like copywriting coaching), that’s an even better talking point.
This research shouldn’t take super long – anywhere between 10-30 minutes per attendee MAX (depending on how much time you have available before the conference). You don’t need to read every article they have on their website or listen to their interviews, at least not at this stage.
By the end of the light research phase, you should have a one-page bio with notes / bullets for each of the people that you want to connect with at the conference available.
You can print these bios out, put them in a folder and take them with you to the event, to easily refresh your memory when you see someone you want to connect with. I swear doing that is not creepy – when people did this to me I wasn’t creeped out, but rather super impressed that they took the time to look me up!
Now, let’s move on to the fun part.
#2 – The deep research phase
This is the thing that 99% of the conference attendees skip on – because they don’t know how to do it, because they don’t make the time for it, and because some of them are just too lazy.
Because of this, doing the deep research is the #1 thing that will help you stand out from everyone else at the conference – you’ll simply outwork them to make a much better impression than them, and make it 10x or 100x easier to get noticed and build relationships with people you’re dying to connect with.
So how does the deep research phase work? Well, it’s a lot of research (which is why you don’t need to perform it for all the 10 people you want to connect with). I like to look at this phase as my unfair advantage over other attendees. Since you’re reading this guide and you’re 5,000+ words into it, I know you’re not a lazy person (the lazy people stopped reading 100 words into it). I also know you love challenges and hard work – so this phase will be perfect for you.
The idea behind the deep research phase is to get a deep understanding of what someone’s business and life look like, get become familiar with their story and area of expertise, and to be able to ask highly thought-out questions that will result in great business breakthroughs and an impressed look on the face of the person you’ll be speaking to.
By doing more research than 99% of the people in the room, you’ll be able to show the speakers, influencers and other attendees that you’re the serious and the person to look out for. You won’t just talk about how great you are, you’ll SHOW them that they’re the type of person they want to be around (top performers like being among other top performers, no matter how much more or less experienced they are).
By doing deep research, I was able to connect with major influencers at the Behaviorcon conference I attended – I came to the event with a ton of notes and notecards with well thought out questions that I continued to ask during Q & A sessions and breaks.
When I saw one of the speakers at the end of the event, they were so impressed with me that they gave me their personal email address to email them about how I’ll implement their advice. I did (multiple times), and over time the person became one of my most valuable mentors.
So let’s talk about HOW to perform deep research. There are a few things you can do as a part of it:
- You can read the books they wrote
- You can listen to their podcast interviews
- You can go through their online courses
- You can sign up to their e-mail list and read their free e-books
- You can read 5-10 of their most popular blog articles
For example, when I went to Behaviorcon, I read through the books from a few speakers. With the speakers that haven’t written any books, I listened to their podcast interviews (more or less anyone noteworthy either has their own podcast or has spoken on podcasts before). If I purchased online courses from them in the past, I revisited them.
And what about when someone that you really want to connect with isn’t super well known and doesn’t have their own book or an online course, or do podcast interviews? Well, in that case, you can still think about how you can go above and beyond in learning as much about them as possible. You can read their blog, sign up to their email list and read the free e-books they’ve written – if you put in the effort, you can usually find a way to find out plenty about them.
How much deep research you’ll do (and how many people you want to do the research on) depends on how badly you want to connect with people at the conference and how much time you have available.
If you have a few days to prepare for a conference, you can usually do deep research on 1-3 people (if you have more than that, then 3-5 is possible as well). The deep research usually does take at least a few hours per person, but it’s well worth the time and will help you dramatically with asking great questions and getting amazing business breakthroughs.
I like to do some of the deep research on my flights to conferences, as that’s where I usually have plenty of uninterrupted time to listen to podcast interviews and read books, as well as get into the right mindset for the conference. So even if you only have a day or two before the conference (but are spending 5 or more hours on the plane to get there), you can still get plenty of deep research in.
The end goal of this phase is to know 1-5 people REALLY well, and have the ability to ask them some amazing questions as well as have plenty of talking points when you run into them.
Now let’s talk about how you can use deep research to come up with great questions!
CHAPTER 2.5: How to prepare great questions
Before I went to the 100k Summit conference from Ramit Sethi, I asked my mentor Naveen Dittakavi how he would prepare for it.
He recommended me to go through Ramit’s CreativeLive class (an 8+ hour online class on different ways of making money online), take notes and come up with great questions. I spent tens of hours doing deep research this way, and the end result was that I had a stack of questions ready for Ramit that I continued to ask him during the Q & A sessions and breaks to really get the most out of the event.
I learned the system for coming up with great questions from my mentor, and this is how it works.
As I was doing the deep research through the CreativeLive class I:
- Took notes: I took notes of insights, interesting fact, strategies, tactics and actionable steps I could change in my business in a paper notebook.
- Asked myself how these applied to me: I looked at my notes and I asked myself: “How does this apply to me? How can I leverage this? What can I do in my business to apply this insight TODAY?”
- Prepared questions: Whenever my mind blanked and I wasn’t sure how exactly I could apply something to my business, I wrote it down as a question.
- Tried to answer the questions myself: I first tried to Google the answer to the question. If that didn’t work, I asked myself “What would Ramit do?” and then tried to answer the question again.
With the questions that I still couldn’t manage to answer myself, I used the following process to polish them and make them really great:
- I made sure the questions I was asking were specific: First, I wanted to make sure that my questions were very specific. Questions like “how do I get more testimonials” were vague and would just get vague answers. Instead, I focused on being much more specific and pinpointing the parts of the processes that I didn’t understand. For example, I would ask something like: “What is the exact script that you would use for asking for a testimonial?”, “What is a good timing to ask for a testimonial on a 6-month project?”, “Would you ask for a testimonial via email, at the end of a client call or schedule a separate call just for that?”
- I visualized Ramit’s response: Then, I visualised what the answer to my question would be. I imagine standing in front of Ramit at the conference and asking him the question, and then listening to his response. If my question could be answered with another question, like “what do you mean by that?”, I went and made the question even more specific or added more detail (see below).
- I demonstrated that I did my research: To avoid the “obvious” answers and get really personalised answers, I wrote down what I already tried, what worked and what didn’t. I wanted to show that I’ve done my research beforehand and tried the solutions that I could find on the internet before asking the questions.
- I offered potential solutions: Whenever I already had some ideas what to do but wasn’t sure which solution to go with, I would write down three solutions, choose the one that I felt is best and explained why. (“I’d like to get your thoughts on X. I’m thinking about doing X, Y or Z. I think Z is better because… [insert reason], but I’d love to hear what you think.”)
I used a notebook like this to take my notes and write down questions:
Let’s take a look at an example of what a great question would look like:
“Hey Ramit, I’ve really been struggling with raising my rates with existing clients. More specifically, I’m not sure at when is the right timing for raising my rates.
Here’s what I managed to come up with:
- I can raise my rates after we finish the first project that we do together
- I can raise my rates after the client gets some really good results
- I can raise my rates after a fixed time frame like 3 months
I feel like raising my rates after the client gets some really good results seems best because they will be compensating me for the value that I bring to them and they will be happy to pay me more as I just made them a ton of money. What do you think?”
This is how I used the guidelines to form this question:
- I made sure the question was specific: I didn’t just ask about “how to raise my rates”. I asked about WHEN is a good time to raise my rates with an existing client. There are other things that I could ask, like “What should I say when I try to raise my rates with an existing client?” or “for how much should I raise my rates”.
- I visualized Ramit’s response: You can notice that there’s a huge difference with raising rates with new and existing clients. If I didn’t specify what I’m looking for, I would almost definitely get back the question “are you trying to raise rates with existing or new clients?”.
- I demonstrated that I did my research: By preparing the three solutions, I already show that I’ve done my research and make life easier for Ramit to answer my question (it’s easier for him to just say “you should do X because…” than to explain all of the possible solutions to me).
- I offered potential solutions: By choosing a solution on my own and explaining my thought process behind the choice, I again show that I’ve actually thought about this problem on my own, and I also show Ramit my thought process (in which he might find some holes that I can fix).
Once I’ve written down my questions, I decided to implement a system that would help me keep the questions at hand and keep them neatly organized:
- I bought a hundred small notecards, in 10 different colours. Each of the colours would be for a different topic or a different speaker (there were a few guest speakers that I wanted to ask some questions).
- I wrote down the questions that I had onto the notecards on the flight to US. I left about half of the notecards empty so I could write down additional questions during the event. In the end, I split the notecards into two different envelopes – one with the questions that have already been answered and one with questions that I still had to ask.
- During the event, I had my notecards in a pocket and I could have the questions ready to be asked within seconds. After I got the question answered, I would write down the answer to the back of the card.
This system worked great for me because:
- I didn’t have to rely on my memory to remember the questions
- I could easily categorise my questions with colour coding
- It showed that I was well prepared for the event
- It helped me prepare questions that were really good because I could see them in front of me, on a piece of paper and they weren’t just random words put together in my head
- It made it easy for me to write down the responses to different questions
Whether you end up using notecards or not to prepare for your next conference is up to you – but I highly encourage you to combine the process for coming up with great questions with the deep research phase for the people you really want to connect with.
You can also use the same process for coming up with specific questions for the business challenges you wrote down in Chapter 2.3. The goal here is to have plenty of well thought out questions ready for the Q & A sessions, breaks and for when you manage to get some 1on1 time with the speakers or interesting attendees. This will help you make the most of the time at the conference and lead to some awesome business breakthroughs.
At this point, here’s what you will have already prepared for the conference:
- You’ll have a list of 5-10 people that you’ll want to connect with.
- You’ll have a list of 1-3 major business & personal growth challenges ready to tackle at the conference.
- You’ll have a one-page bio created for each of them (using the list research).
- You’ll have done the deep research on 1-5 attendees or speakers, depending on how much time you have.
- You’ll have a list of great questions created based on the deep research for each of the people that you want to connect with.
- You’ll have a list of great questions created based on your business & personal growth challenges.
Even if you do nothing else to prepare for the conference, you’ll be better prepared than 95% of the people there. Give yourself a pat of the back!
But since you’re a top performer, I know you won’t stop there. You want more – you really want to be as well prepared as you can be to really get the most out of this event and make every penny you spend on it totally worth it. So let’s keep going!
CHAPTER 2.6: How to get on the radar of speakers and attendees before the event
Now that you’ve done your homework and you’re more prepared than 95% of people at the conference, it’s time to take advantage of that.
Since you already know who you want to connect with, have done your research on them and have some talking points and questions ready for them, there’s no need to wait until the conference to connect with them. If you want to stand out from all other attendees, a great way to do that is by reaching out to the speakers and interesting attendees in the days BEFORE the event – so that when you meet them, they already know who you are.
The night before the 100k Summit I sent the following email to Ramit Sethi, the host of the event:
The email included this video testimonial for one of his courses called Earn1k.
I recorded this video testimonial and sent it to Ramit because I knew how valuable it would be for him (very few people record video testimonials even for the biggest influencers out there), and because I wanted Ramit to already recognize my face when he first saw me.
If you’ve got specific results with the advice of someone you want to connect with, sending them a video testimonial before the event is a great way to get on their radar. It’s very likely they’ll open the email and watch the video (because who DOESN’T want to listen about the results someone got with their advice in a video that makes them look awesome?), thank you for it, and remember you when they first meet you.
If nothing else, you can say “Hey NAME, I’m the person that sent you a video testimonial for [YOUR COURSE] yesterday”, which can be a great way to start a conversation with someone you admire.
If you want to create a great video testimonial for someone, you can use these talking points as a guideline (with my example in the brackets):
- Who you are (Primoz from Slovenia)
- The problem that you used to have (Used to work as a programmer in a boring job, earning $7/h)
- Why this was a difficult problem for you to deal with (Because I felt like I wasn’t making any meaningful difference in the world and I was earning very little money)
- How the person’s product or advice helped you solve the problem (Ramit showed me how to start my own business on the side and eventually quit my job)
- Specific results that you got with the product or advice (going from $7/h to $165/h at the time)
- How your life and business changed afterwards (I was able to work less, earn more money and travel more, including the trip to NYC to meet Ramit in person)
I’ve found this to be a great framework for a testimonial, and you can use it to record testimonials for the people you follow as well. Whether you use a script or bullet points doesn’t matter (just use whatever works better for you), but writing your ideas down certainly helps you articulate what you want to say.
You can record a video with something like Zoom.us quite easily, and upload it to YouTube. Make sure you take the time to get this right – it might take you multiple tries to make an interesting video without making mistakes that’s short, crisp and powerful.
The ideal length for a testimonial like this is 1-3 minutes (anything longer will likely become a bit repetitive or boring).
Recording a video testimonial is just ONE of the things that you can do in order to make a great impression on someone. The important lesson here is to go above and beyond what everyone else is doing, be different and stand out (which is how you can get noticed).
I encourage you to think of things that you could do to get on the radar of the people you want to connect with (especially the speakers). It could be things like:
- Being super active and helpful in their online community in the weeks before the event
- Giving helpful tips to event attendees (for example, if there’s a conference in Chicago and you live in Chicago, you can create a list of your favorite restaurants and share them with the attendees)
- Sending them a written or a video testimonial, or a review of their book or their online course
I encourage you to get creative with this step and to think about what would be cool to do or what comes easy for you. For me, sharing my results comes easy, but for you it might be sending a notecard, a gift or being helpful in the community. A question that I like to ask myself is “what would be cool to do that nobody else will likely do?”.
Even this guide is an example of going above and beyond – I’m writing it to help fellow Forefront attendees prepare for the event better – and will add value both to event attendees, as well as to the host (as it will make for a much better conference as the attendees will be better prepared).
If you can’t come up with something super creative or you don’t necessarily have the results from implementing the advice from speakers, don’t give up. In that case I would still reach out to the people that you want to connect with and just tell them how excited you are to meet them and why (because of their speech, because of the story you read in their book, because of their work, etc.). And even here you can go above and beyond by recording a 1-minute video rather than just sending them a regular email.
With the people that you’ve done deep research on, it will be easier to go above and beyond – so those are the people you should try to go above and beyond for. With others that you’ve done light research on, you can still send them a quick Facebook message and tell them how excited you are to meet them at the event and why. Almost nobody does this, and you’ll automatically make yourself stand out by doing it.
Here’s an example of an email you could send to a speaker:
Subject line: Can’t wait to see you speak at [CONFERENCE NAME]!
“Hey [SPEAKER NAME],
My name is… [INSERT 1 SENTENCE INTRODUCTION]
I’ll be attending the [CONFERENCE NAME] this weekend and I’m really excited to hear you speak about [SPEECH TOPIC].
I’ve read [THEIR BOOK NAME], and loved your story about [INSERT STORY]. I’d love to talk to you about that at the event and ask you a few questions – hope that’s ok with you!
I’m so excited to meet you this weekend,
It’s short, crisp, to the point, and doesn’t really ask for anything, which is perfect. I don’t encourage you to copy this email word by word. Instead I want you to look at the length (make sure you keep the email under 10-15 lines as busy speakers don’t like reading long emails from strangers) and the tone of the e-mail: it’s friendly and noncommittal.
You can usually find the email address from a speaker through their website or blog if they have one (if they have an email list, you can just email them to the email they use to send out newsletters), or if they wrote a book you can sometimes find their contact details in there too.
To connect with a fellow attendee, you can send them a message like this:
“Hey [ATTENDEE NAME],
My name is… [INSERT 1 SENTENCE INTRODUCTION]
I saw that we’re both attending [CONFERENCE NAME] this weekend and I’m really excited to meet you because [WHY YOU WANT TO MEET THEM].
I’ve read [THEIR BLOG POST TITLE], and loved your story about [INSERT STORY]. I’d love to talk to you about that at the event and ask you a few questions – hope that’s ok with you!
I’m so excited to meet you this weekend,
It’s usually easier to find the contact details of attendees than of speakers. If there’s a Facebook community available for the event, it might be as simple as befriending the fellow attendees on Facebook and sending them a private Facebook message.
Reaching out to speakers and fellow attendees before the event is a great way to stand out, and even if you’re on a limited time schedule I encourage you to do it, share a specific reason why you’d like to connect with them at the event (from your light research) and say hi. This goes a long way towards turning you from a stranger to someone they’re looking forward to meeting at the event.
CHAPTER 2.7: How to use the conference’s Facebook community
A lot of conferences these days offer online communities for fellow attendees. These communities are great for connecting with fellow attendees (as outlined in the previous step), and they’re also a great tool for getting noticed by other attendees at the event and turning yourself into someone that everyone wants to talk to.
I like to think of these communities in a similar way as the stage at the conference. Whenever you post something there, many of the conference attendees will see your post, just as if they would be listening to the speech on stage. Pretty cool huh?
Now before we go into detail on how to use a conference community to get the most out of a conference, let’s get one thing out of the way: you should NOT use the community to promote your website or services. It’s true that these communities usually aren’t heavily moderated, but still – you’ll look like an asshole if you use the community to fish for clients and people will less likely want to talk to you if you do that.
Instead, you can use the community to get noticed by writing an awesome introduction in it or adding massive value to the conference attendees.
First, your introduction. It’s common that these communities have threads where people introduce themselves (we talked about how to use these threads to find potential people to connect with in Chapter 2.2).
You can use these threads to get noticed yourself as well (and make people want to connect with you), and the way to do that is to stand out. The best way to stand out? You should (again) go above and beyond what everyone else is doing.
So instead of throwing together a quick introduction like “Hi I’m Primoz and I run an online business, and I’m really excited to meet everyone!!!”, take the time to craft an incredible introduction. I always like to take at least 15-30 minutes to do this, as writing a detailed introduction will really make me stand out from everyone else and make me look like someone who goes the extra mile (which is who other top performers want to connect with).
Crafting an amazing introduction is sometimes as simple as taking the time and adding a lot of detail about what you do.
Instead of saying “I run an online business”, you can talk about things like what your business is about, who the audience is, which products you’ve created, what’s your yearly revenue (if you’re comfortable with sharing it), your website, etc.
You can also think deeply about questions like what you’re looking to get out of the conference or who the people are that you’d love to connect with. Again, extra detail and specificity goes a long way.
To take things a step further, you can again think creatively about how to stand out. Can you include a photo with your introduction? A meme? A video? Adding some visuals can instantly make people remember you and put a face to your name – and actually recognize you at the event.
Another thing you can do to get noticed in the community is to think about how you can add value to the members of the community.
You can add value to the community members by:
- Inviting them to special events that are taking place
- Recommending your favorite restaurants to them
- Going above and beyond in answering their questions (if you’re from the home city)
- Responding to their introductions with thoughtful responses
- …and more.
Again, get creative with this step and think about what you could do that would genuinely help the conference attendees.
Here are some great examples from the Forefront community:
A great introduction thread that asks fellow attendees to record 2-minute video introductions of themselves (that got 40+ comments!)
Inviting conference attendees to a free workout in your GYM is an awesome idea!
Or giving attendees VIP access to police boats!
You might notice that everything we’re doing so far is in line with “standing out”, “going above and beyond” and “doing the things other people aren’t willing to do”. That’s because those are the exact principles that will help you get the most out of every conference you attend, and we’ll continue to apply those insights throughout this guide in different ways.
If you have some extra time before the conference, definitely pop into the conference community for a day or two and try to add value to the community members. They’ll love you for it, and people will know who you are and start a conversation with you at the event more easily.
CHAPTER 2.8: Crafting your perfect introduction
In the past, I thought I had to prepare one introduction for the event about what I do, along the lines of:
“Hi, I’m Primoz, and I help online entrepreneurs grow their audiences by creating high quality premium content”
Then, I had a conversation with Derek Halpern from Social Triggers who forever changed the way that I think about introducing myself.
You see, when you attend a conference, the people there might not necessarily understand what you do.
- I won’t mention someone that I help entrepreneurs create Ultimate Guides if they don’t know what that means
- If you’re a programmer that helps android developers learn RxJava… Then not many people will have an idea what that is
- If you’re an “email marketing expert”, many people might not be familiar with what that means
I stopped counting how many times people’s eyes glazed over when I talked to them about Ultimate Guides, or hear them say “oh, that’s good for you” and moving on without further asking me about it.
Talking to Derek helped me realize that that was my fault. I always thought I had to introduce myself in the same way to every person I met. He told me that’s actually not the case, and that he actually uses completely different introductions with different people he talks to. He won’t use the same introduction when talking to an online business owner, a professional poker player or an angel investor – he’ll likely say completely different things.
Derek taught me that you should always TAILOR your introduction to the person you’re speaking to, which means that you need to learn something about them before introducing yourself to them. And that can be as simple as you asking them what THEY do first, before they get the chance to ask you (and actually being curious about what it is they do).
Once they get around to asking you what you do, you’ll already know what to say that they’ll actually understand.
For example, I was recently talking to the owner of my favorite restaurant, and he asked me to remind him what I did again. Instead of talking about things like Ultimate Guides that likely wouldn’t be relevant to him, I told him that I’m one of the few people in Slovenia that’s really good at creating online courses. I went on to ask him if he knew the online training from another famous Slovenian chef (he said yes), so I told him “Imagine that, but making it 100x better”.
He was instantly interested in learning more about it, and we’ll grab coffee to see if we could work on a project together.
That’s a difference that a tailored introduction can make, and I encourage you to tailor your introduction to every person you meet, and explain it in their language. This will instantly make you 10x more interesting and want people to talk to you more.
Now of course you should always have your go-to introduction ready in case someone asks you what you do before you have a chance to get some information about them, or in case you’re participating in a Q & A session, a panel or a hot seat.
And how do you come up with a great go-to introduction? Well, just like you can tailor your introduction to the specific person you’re talking to, you can tailor your go-to introduction to the general audience that’s attending the conference (you’ll get the feel for the type of the people that are attending the conference in the language used in speech topics and attendee introductions in the Facebook community).
Here’s how I’d tailor my own introduction to different conferences:
- If I was going to a conference from Leadpages (a company that sells landing pages), I could say something like “I help online entrepreneurs develop incredible lead magnets that help them increase the conversions of their landing pages”
- If I was going to Traffic & Conversion Summit (a conference on online marketing), I might say something like “I help companies increase their organic traffic with high quality content that ranks high on Google”
- If I’m going to Forefront (a conference full of online business owners and other top performers), I might say that “I help top performing entrepreneurs create high quality premium content like Ultimate Guides and $1,000 online courses”.
As you can see, I would tailor my introduction to each specific conference. I would mention landing pages at a conference led by a company that sells landing pages. I would use the marketing jargon at a marketing conference. I would use online business jargon at an online business conference.
Now those introductions above are far from perfect (I wrote them up on the go), so let’s talk about how to actually come up with a great introduction.
In my mind, every great introduction is short, clear, straightforward and in the language / jargon of the people you are talking to. You should never use the words that people in the audience won’t understand, and you should always be able to say your introduction in one breath.
I find that most people overcomplicate their introductions. Instead of keeping them short and sweet, they try to share their whole demographics in one sentence. They say something like “I help 25-35 year old millennial mothers who are in a relationship but don’t have kids…”, and every time I hear that I stop following. Why not just get to the point?
The main things you want to communicate with your introduction are:
- WHO you can help
- With WHAT you can help them
- HOW you can help them (this step is sometimes optional)
And if possible, you want to communicate each of the above in one or two words, creating a short and sweet introduction that will peak the interest of the right people.
For example, if you say “I’m a high performance coach for online entrepreneurs”, an entrepreneur that’s interested will want to talk to you. It’s that simple! You don’t need to overcomplicate it. If you really want to be more specific, you could say something like “I’m a high performance coach for 6-7 figure online entrepreneurs”, which helps you attract a more high end audience.
You can come up with your own introduction by filling out the blanks:
I help [WHO] with [WHAT] by [HOW].
Remember, 2 words at most for who, what and how. If the how feels like it’s stretching the sentence out, I might just remove it. You can also sometimes move the HOW / WHAT around, to make the sentence flow nicer. Test different versions, say them out loud and see what sounds better.
Here are a few great examples:
- I help online entrepreneurs increase engagement of their online communities
- I help fitness & yoga studios get more clients through Facebook ads
- I help online entrepreneurs set up their first website
These are extremely simple and short, and yet they work. If you’re struggling with community engagement, you’ll want to talk to person A to find out more. If you’re a fitness studio owner that’s burning money on Facebook ads you’ll want to talk to person B. If you’re stuck with setting up your website you’ll want to talk to person C.
Again, these are just the go-to introductions that you can use when you don’t have more information about the person you’re speaking to. Once you do, you can tailor these to fit their world.
Keep in mind that the “keep it short and one-breath long” rule is more true for group conversations or speaking on stage than for 1on1 conversations – there you usually have more time to explain what you do as you have the person’s attention anyway.
Before going to your next conference, I encourage you to think of your “go-to introduction” that’s tailored to all the conference attendees, as well as think about the different introductions that you can use when you meet different types of people at the conference (you can even create introductions tailored to people on the list of people you want to connect with that you’ve already done research on).
Then, when you’re at the conference itself, always try to get the information about what the person you’re talking to does first, then tailor your introduction to them on the go.
CHAPTER 2.9: How to never run out of things to talk about
Congratulations, you’ve made it to Chapter 9 of the prep part of this guide! You’re now well over 10,000 words into reading this guide, and well on the way towards making this the best conference you ever attended.
The next thing I want to talk to you about is finding stuff to talk about at the conference, because everyone hates awkward silence (am I right?). To avoid the awkward awkward silence scenario (no typo there), let’s think about some fun stuff you can talk about the conference that will lead to great conversations.
There’s this concept of a “story toolbox” that I learned from my mentor Ramit Sethi.
The idea of the story toolbox is to always come to an event prepared with 5-10 (or, if you’re Ramit, like 5,000) different stories that you can share with other attendees. Everyone loves a great story, and exchanging your personal stories with others is a great way to build a connection fast and really get to know each other, rather than just talking about “hey, what’s the conference like?”.
Before attending your next conference, I suggest thinking about 5-10 different stories or events that happened in your life that will be relatable or interesting to the other attendees. If you have a ton of time available before the conference, you can practice sharing these stories with your friends to gradually get better at telling them, but if not, you should at least come up with them.
Here’re a few interesting stories or conversational topics that I can talk about at Forefront:
- Why I quit Facebook
- How I took a trip to Israel to watch a basketball game
- That I’m considering joining a $25k business mastermind
- What I learned from Slovenia’s national team that won the European basketball championships
- How working with a high performance coach has transformed my business
All of these stories can lead to great conversations because they all have a bigger message behind them. The Facebook story can lead into a conversation about social media and how it prevents us from doing the things that really matter in our businesses. The Israel story can lead into a conversation about serendipitous risks that we take to further improve ourselves. The $25k mastermind story can lead into constantly improving yourself and investing in yourself.
As you’ll share these stories at the conference you’re attending, you can use them to get to know other people better as well. For example, I could ask people if they ever considered quitting social media, if they ever took a serendipitous trip on a 2-day notice, or made a huge investment in themselves. This would help me get to know them WAY better than by just talking about the regular stuff that’s happening at the conference (that everyone is talking about anyway).
To come up with your own collection of conference stories, you can think about interesting events that have happened in your life recently that could lead to great conversations. If you run an online business, these could be stories that you’ve shared in recent blog posts. If not, just think about a few stories that you shared with your friends over the past month that they’ve found interesting.
You don’t need to come up with 30 stories – just 5-10 is enough to get some great conversations (and you can reuse these stories as you talk to different people). Now go ahead and craft those stories!
CHAPTER 2.10: On-stage hot seats & teardowns
At certain conferences, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in an on-stage “hot seats” or “teardowns” where you’ll be able to talk about your business together with a speaker, on stage in front of all the conference attendees.
If you have a chance to do a hot seat or a teardown (applications are usually sent out a few weeks before the conference via a survey), you should always take advantage of it.
- Getting 1on1 feedback on your business from a top expert can lead to some major breakthroughs
- Being on stage automatically gives you a “higher status” – which simply means that many conference attendees will treat you like a speaker and want to talk to you about the topic you discussed on stage
- You’ll be able to share what you do on the stage in front of hundreds of people (and get their full attention), which will dramatically increase your visibility at the conference and the chances of potential clients approaching you
I’m always surprised how few people actually apply for hot seats & teardowns though. You’d think that everyone would jump at an opportunity like this, but the reality is that most people don’t because they disqualify themselves.
They say things like:
- “I just don’t have anything interesting to talk about”
- “I’m sure everyone else will apply, so the chances of me getting chosen are super small”
And when most people say these things to themselves, what happens? Relatively few people actually end up applying (and being on the other side of hosting conferences I know how hard it can be to make teardowns really great if too few people apply).
I even considered not applying for a hot seat at the upcoming Forefront event because I couldn’t think of a good topic to talk about. Then I noticed that that was just my mind telling me to be lazy and not give it my all – so I picked the best topic that came to mind and applied anyway, even though it was a few days after the survey went live. Just yesterday I got an email that I was selected for a hot seat, which made my day:
So how do you make sure that your hot seat or teardown application gets selected? There’re really two things that are important. The first is filling out the application earlier rather than later (they usually collect applications for a week or so), and the other is going way above and beyond in your application (and standing out from all other applicants).
You’d be surprised to see how many people that apply for teardowns do it in a half-assed way. They share 1 sentence as a response to each question, don’t provide any detail at all… And are then surprised they don’t get chosen. With applications like this, effort means a lot. If you show that you’ve taken the time to ask a great question and really thought it out, people will notice that.
The good news is that by the time you’re reading this part of the guide, you already know how to do deep research and come up with great questions. Ideally, you’ve already used the deep research to learn more about the speakers at the conference and come up with great questions for their Q & A sessions. If you’ve done your homework, then making a teardown application will actually be quite easy. All you need to do is to use one of your best questions for the teardown application.
Having said that, there are a few things that you should pay attention to when filling out the application survey, and I thought I’d take the Forefront survey questions as an example to guide you through them.
The underlying theme for thinking about these questions is to always think about (1) how to go above and beyond what everyone else is doing, and (2) what is the question behind the question (full credit to Ramit Sethi for teaching me about that concept).
Now let’s look at the questions!
Q1: Please tell me about yourself (name, email, phone #)
Nothing tricky here. I do suggest using a real rather than a fake name though.
Q2: 2. Tell me a bit about yourself (occupation, where you live, etc.)
Here, the questions behind the question are:
- How are you interesting and relatable to other attendees?
- How do I know you’re not a weirdo?
This question is great for filtering out weirdos like people who help others build an online business (without having done the same thing themselves), people with some weird business ideas (like MLM people) or people who would be boring on stage.
The question I ask myself here is always “what makes me interesting to the crowd?”, and then I usually paste in my go-to introduction for the event. I might add some detail like “I’ve been a case study for the Zero to Launch, 6 Figure Consulting and Earn1k courses (courses from the host of the conference)” in here, just to add some extra credibility.
Q3: 3. Which area below would you like to discuss? (business growth, starting a business, earning more money, etc.)
The purpose of this question is usually for the conference organizer to select one hot seat out of each categories. You could argue that some of the categories might be less popular than others, but without real data it’s hard to make these assumptions.
I personally wouldn’t overthink this question and just focus on asking the question that I think would be the most interesting to the audience (more on that below).
Q4: What would you like to discuss? Be as specific as possible. If you have real life examples please share them.
Ok, here’s something you need to know about teardowns and hot seats. They’re not actually meant to help YOU 1on1… They’re meant to help the whole AUDIENCE at the conference.
So if you share a question that’s super relevant to you, but irrelevant to almost every other person in the audience (something like “hey, how do I get my website to rank as #1 rather than #3 on Google with SEO” at a conference that’s NOT full of SEO geeks), it’s unlikely you’ll get chosen for the hot seat.
Instead, I like to think about questions that are important and relevant to me… But also to all the other people in the audience. For this hot seat, I chose a question about psychology about money, and developing a millionaire’s mindset. I knew that would be relevant to most people at this conference because (1) everyone there wants to make more money, and (2) we all have beliefs (or people around us) that subconsciously prevent us from making more of it.
Whenever you see things like “be as specific as possible” and “if you have real examples, please share them” in a question, this is a great opportunity for you to provide extra detail about the question (again, you’d be surprised that most people don’t).
In my case, I provided specific examples like “we all have people around us saying things like “money doesn’t make you happy”, “I hope you’re not just doing this for the money”, “I hope you’re not doing anything shady to make your money”, etc.” – these are real examples that relate to everyone.
If you’re asking a question about business growth or earning more money, you can also share some specific numbers that are relevant (your monthly revenues, website traffic, conversion rates… anything that will be relevant to the conversation).
Bottom line – the most important thing is to select a question that’s relevant to everyone, make it a great question, and add in the extra data and relatable examples.
Q5: Why do you think I should select you?
What you don’t want to say here is “because I will take all of your advice and implement it, I promise!!!!!”. Everyone will say that. If you want to go down that route, talk about the things that you have already done and accomplished (SHOW that you have a proven track record of taking action).
But the real question behind the question here is “how will this help the other attendees at the conference?”. In my application, I focused heavily on how having this conversation on stage will help hundreds of other attendees improve their money mindsets and lead richer, guilt-free lives.
With your application, I encourage you to do the same. Don’t think just about yourself – think about how your hot seat will help the whole audience and make the case for it.
Q6: (Optional but recommended) Record a quick 3-minute video of yourself summarizing your question or topic. Once you record your video, upload it to Youtube, and set it as “Unlisted.” Then copy the link to your video, and paste it below:
I love it when people put “optional” in their application surveys, because “optional” is never actually optional. Questions like this separate the lazy people from people that are willing to put in the extra effort (and the people who put in the extra effort get chosen for the hot seats). So whenever something says “optional”, make sure you fill it out to stand out from everyone else who doesn’t.
Beyond that, the reason why this YouTube video question exists is to see if you’re going to be great on stage (or if you’ll be a hot, rambling mess instead). I encourage you to take the time and practice / rehearse this video (just like you’ll be asked to practice and rehearse for the actual hot seat), to make sure you come off as energized, clear and concise. You can do this by doing a few practice runs, and then stopping recording once you end up with a video you’re really happy with.
One last thing I want to say is that the YouTube video will usually be the LAST thing that people will review, not the first one (because it’s easier to skim through the text application within 10 seconds than it is to watch a 3-minute video, or 50 of them), so make sure you don’t just rely on the video. Make sure you put a ton of effort into the other questions as well.
And, as you can imagine, you should never “wing” this video – because if there’re two applications that are equally interesting, the person who puts in more effort and creates a better video will likely be the person that gets the last remaining spot.
Q7: Any other comments or questions?
I don’t think this question has any deeper meaning – apart from the fact that you shouldn’t use it to share things like “I’m not good on stage!” that will reduce your chances of getting chosen. If that’s the case, focus on getting better at speaking on stage for the next few weeks!
Q8: Have you participated in a Teardown before? (yes/no, please give details if yes)
I’ll be honest – I’m not sure if this question will improve or decrease the chances of getting a Teardown, and what they’re looking for here. The only thing I will say is that you should always be honest here. For what it’s worth, I said “yes”, and shared about how I participated in a hot seat at the 100k Summit. But again, I don’t think this question will make or break your application. It’s a small detail.
Well this was fun! Bottom line on teardowns and hot seats is:
- If you have a chance to be featured in a hot seat or a teardown, do it!
- Take the time to come up with a great question that will benefit everyone in the room.
- Put in the extra effort in order to maximize your chances of being chosen.
What about preparing for a hot seat? What might that look like? Well, if you’ve already done the research, came up with a great question and got your application accepted, that’s 95% of the work. The only thing that I’d do at this point is make some time to practice your question so you’re clear and concise on stage. The rest has already been taken care of. Good job!
Ok, on to the next chapter.
CHAPTER 2.11: Your “conference within a conference”
When I attended Ramit Sethi’s 100k Summit conference, one of the questions I asked him was how I could best prepare for his next conference, Behaviorcon. His one piece of advice on that topic was to read the chapter about conferences in Keith Ferrazzi’s book called “Never Eat Alone”.
That’s exactly what I did, and I absolutely LOVED that chapter. I loved it so much that I reread the whole chapter as I was doing research for this guide, and would recommend anyone who’s reading this guide to read that book as well. As a funny turn of events, I was actually invited to Keith Ferrazzi’s party in his mansion in LA a few years later where I was able to meet him – small world!
Ok, enough bragging – the one thing I want to talk to you about is Keith’s concept of the “conference within a conference”. Keith recommends approaching each conference as a “conference commando” that doesn’t necessarily stick with the traditional rules of the conference (like attending every single session) and focuses on getting the most out of the conference on his own rules instead.
One of his ideas that he shares is the “conference within a conference”. The idea is to host your very own meet up (over drinks or dinner) outside of the conference (could be on the day before the conference or after the conference, or for breakfast / dinner as a pre-party or after-party for one of the conference days.
To this meet up, you would invite the people that YOU want to meet, connect with and get to know better. These could be speakers, fellow attendees, staff members, or someone else. It could be people that you already know you want to connect with before the event, or people that you meet during the event.
Private meet ups like this is usually where the magic happens, where the best conversations happen and where the relationships are really built – as you’re not in a room surrounded by 500 people and actually have the time to have a long, deep conversation.
I always make it a point to host at least one such meet up during a conference. At last year’s Forefront event, we hosted a meet up (actually two meet ups) for our Accelerator students (plenty of whom were at the event). We even brought in a few special guests that made the events more special. We hosted one of these before the conference began, and one for breakfast on the day of the conference.
During the upcoming Forefront event, I’ll be grabbing some coffee with my Ultimate Guide System students and am considering throwing another drinks meet up for my close friends + a few people I want to meet. I was also invited to a similar event from a friend of mine – we’re grabbing dinner at a three-star Michelin restaurant Alinea, which will be awesome.
If you have some extra time before the event, I would highly recommend that you host a meet up and invite some people over for drinks or food. It’s a good idea to look for a place in advance and make a reservation up-front. If you’re going to host your very own “conference within a conference”, and you’re following the other steps from this guide, you can even fit this strategy into your outreach.
This means that instead of just reaching out and saying “I’m excited to meet you!”, you can invite people for drinks or dinner right there on the spot (as it’s likely that they don’t have plans for the outside-of-conference activities yet). If you’re into sports, you can even take it a step further and organize a group workout or something similar – we’ve done this during last year’s Forefront too and it was awesome!
Once you have your own special event in place and you’ve invited a few people to it, you can continue to invite more people to the event throughout the conference (you can even mention who’ll already be there). This is a great strategy for getting to know people better at the event and make them feel special (which we’ll talk more about in the next part about attending the conference). It can help you turn a 10-minute conversation into a 1-hour conversation over dinner and get some proper connection going!
Now if you’re not into hosting events and bringing people together (or you’re on a super tight schedule), don’t sweat it. It’s likely that these special events will be happening at the event anyway, so you can instead just keep an eye out for them – and make sure you join one that you’ll be able to benefit from.
CHAPTER 2.12: Should you “dress to impress” at the conference?
I’m no style expert – but I do have friends who are personal stylists and can guide you towards dressing to impress at a conference. If you already know you want to look great at the conference (but don’t know HOW to dress well), check out some of Peter Nguyen’s articles from Essential Man (like this Beginner’s Style Guide) if you’re a man, or check out Hilde Fossen from Get Style Confidence or Clarissa Grace from Waking up in Paris. Clarissa even wrote an article on this exact topic!
Dressing well and looking sharp at a conference does make a difference, as people will more likely approach you than if you’re wearing boring clothes that don’t fit well (especially if they don’t know who you are yet).
As I said, I’m not a stylist, BUT I do know of one thing that makes it SUPER easy for you to meet more people at a conference, and that’s standing out.
Derek Halpern is REALLY good at this. He wears funny t-shirts to events:
Or red or sparkling shoes:
Accessories like this instantly capture the attention of other attendees, and make it way easier for them to approach you and start a conversation. If you can, think about something that will make you stand out at the conference, and then bring it with you!
Here are some ideas for what you can wear:
- Colorful pocket squares (that’s my go-to strategy)
- A dress in a bright color (for women)
- A funny t-shirt that you can start a conversation about
- Interesting / impressing jewelry (I guess this is mostly for women)
- Flashy / super niche shoes (and socks!)
- A different hair color (my girlfriend will be going to Forefront with pink / purple hair)
I’m not saying you need to go batshit crazy on accessories. But I do know that wearing my red pocket square brings me a lot of pocket squares and leads to a lot of cool conversations. So take one cool accessory with you for the conference (or more, if you want to use them on different days), and then figure out how to dress well by reading stuff from my friends Peter, Hilde and Clarissa :). They’re the experts!
CHAPTER 2.13: What about business cards?
I’m sure that at least some of you have noticed at this point that I haven’t even mentioned business cards once in this guide. Why is that?
Well, the short answer is that (like my mentor Ramit Sethi), I think they’re pretty damn useless. The last time I carried business cards with me was back in 2014, and I have never gotten a single referral, paying customer or a call from them – so I simply stopped carrying them.
The reality is that most business cards these days simply get thrown into trash, without being used. So why bother with bringing them with you (and then relying on the OTHER person to do the work and follow up, which, you know, never happens)?
Instead of worrying about business cards, you can use the strategies that we talk about in this guide to actually turn one-time acquaintances into business partners, clients, mentors and friends. I won’t spend too much time on this topic, so if you’re curious what my alternative strategies to using business cards, keep reading.
This concludes the last sub-chapter of preparing for the conference in 1-2 weeks. If you haven’t yet, make sure that you download my Conference Battle Plan, which comes together with the PDF version of this 27,000+ word guide. This extra worksheet includes all the steps you need to take to prepare for your conference in as little as 24-48 hours.
Ok, let’s move on to the next chapter – how to get the most out of the conference (once you’re actually there).
PART 3: The ins and outs of attending a conference
You’ve done the hard work. You’ve come up with a list of people you want to connect with at the conference and a list of personal & business challenges you wanted to solve. You’ve done your research and came up with a list of great questions that you can ask during the Q & A sessions and conference breaks. You reached out to the people that you’re looking forward to connecting with at the conference. Perhaps you’re even throwing an intimate dinner during one of the conference nights for the select few people you want to connect with.
You’re as prepared as ever for this upcoming conference, and you know you’ll have a blast there. The question is… What now?
In this chapter, I’ll show you how you can really make the conference your playground. I’ll show you how to get the most out of Q & A sessions, talking to speakers and breaks, and how to handle different conversations (both great and boring ones), so you walk home from the conference with plenty of new relationships and business breakthroughs.
Are you ready to dive in?
CHAPTER 3.1: Connecting with speakers
Earlier in this guide, I shared with you that there are 3 groups of people you should be trying to connect with at the conference: speakers, attendees and staff members.
Over the next few chapters, I’ll show you how to connect with these different groups of people in different ways, so you can build lasting relationships with them. Let’s start with the fan favorite: speakers.
Speakers are hands down the most popular people at the conference, and the hardest people to build relationships with (as you’re literally competing with EVERYONE else in the room that wants to connect with them and ask them questions). In some cases, the speakers are at the conference for only a few hours as well (and not the whole event), which makes it even harder for you to reach them.
The good news is that most people have no clue what they’re doing when they talk to speakers. I remember speaking at Selena Soo’s Get Known, Get Clients LIVE event in NYC:
After I spoke on stage, roughly 50 people stopped me on my way to the bathroom (I’m not exaggerating here). They wanted to come and say hi and tell me how much they loved my speech, which I appreciated. Some of them were just excited to talk to me, and others shared specific insights I liked. All good so far.
The interesting part of this experience was the amount of people that followed up with me after the conference and that I’ve built lasting relationships with. Can you guess the number of people? Is it 3? 5? 10? Well, guess again. The number is zero. Sadly, for most people, the “meeting the speakers” means just that. Meeting them, saying hi, snapping a photo… And that’s where it ends. That’s the harsh reality of meeting speakers at the events (for most people).
Since I know that you want to get more than just a few selfies out of the conference you’ve spent thousands of dollars on, let’s talk about how to stand out from the crowd and actually use conferences as ways to build lasting relationships with speakers that you admire. First, let’s get the basics down.
The best times for approaching speakers during a conference
The worst time to talk to a speaker is right after their speech – as that’s when EVERYONE in the room will approach them and want to talk to them. Good luck with having a deep, great conversation when you’re surrounded by 20 other people who want to do the same thing.
Instead of approaching the speaker right after their speech, try approaching them at the following times:
- Before their speech: One of the best times to approach a speaker is 2-3 hours before their speech (if they’re at the venue already). You should always respect their privacy and ask if they’re ok with talking to you and aren’t in the middle of preparing for their speech (I don’t recommend you approaching them 10-15min before their speech for this reason). At this time, they’ll likely be bored and waiting for their speech to come up, so they’ll appreciate you talking to them.
- After another speech: Once another speaker speaks after the speaker you want to connect with, they’ll instantly become the new shiny person that everyone wants to connect with for the next hour (and the swarm of fans will go their way). At this point, the speaker might still have a handful of people around him (if he’s still around) which makes it a worse time to connect with them than before their speech, but a better time than right after their speech.
- On a day they’re not speaking: If the conference is a multi-day event and the speaker happens to be staying there for the whole thing, that’s awesome news as you’ll have plenty of time to connect with them. Connecting with them on a day when they’re not speaking is one of the best things you can do.
- During the lunch break: Some conferences include lunches, and if the speaker you want to connect with is staying for lunch, finding a seat next to them can help you have a great 30-minute or longer conversation with them. Because the seating is usually fixed, this will be one of the best times to connect with the speakers at a conference and really talk to them for a long time (and ask them all the questions you’ve prepared for them).
Approaching the speakers at the right time is the great first step towards standing out from everyone else. Combine that with asking great questions that you’ve prepared for them, and you’ll already make a great first impression on them.
One extra note I want to share here is how to speak to the HOST of the conference. Back in 2013, when I attended the Behaviorcon conference, Ramit Sethi was hosting it (and had around 12 other speakers there). If you thought that speakers were busy, think again. The host is usually 10x busier (as they need to speak at the event AND organize it), and they’re usually surrounded by people wanting to talk to them all conference long.
In this case, I just like to be really respectful of their time, and perhaps approach them once during the event, when I see they’re not completely swarmed or in the middle of something. A better time to do this is usually towards the end of the conference as well.
At Behaviorcon, that was exactly what I did. On the last day of the event, I approached Ramit and told him that I’ve taken his advice from the 100k Summit (which was a bit more than a month ago), and used it to double my monthly revenue in a month. I also mentioned to him that I flew business class to attend Behaviorcon for the first time, and that it was awesome.
When Ramit heard that, he was so happy and excited about it that he did something radical. He pulled me out of the conference room, into a hallway and lead me behind a corner. Then he whipped out his iPhone and… Wanted me to share with him what I just shared on video:
I knew in that moment that I had made a great impression on Ramit, and it was just one of the many things I did that strengthened our relationship over time.
So if you’re attending a conference and the host is super busy (but you want to ask them an important question or share some amazing results you’ve got with their work), make sure you approach them towards the end of the conference and let them know what’s up!
How to talk to speakers without being weird
The worst thing you can do when talking to a speaker is being weird in one way or another. Things like being super star-struck and asking “can I touch you?”, asking inappropriate questions like “so how much money have you made this year?” or just acting creepy are obviously huge no-gos.
On that note, one thing you should NEVER do is talk to a speaker while they’re in the bathroom. This happened to me at Forefront when someone desperately tried to make conversation with me at the bathroom and it was creepy as hell. Dude, I’m trying to pee here not have a deep conversation with you! I’m not sure if the same rule goes for women as they love their bathroom breaks, but at least for me this is a bit no-go.
Anyhow, how can you talk to speakers and make a great first impression on them without being weird?
Well, the good news is that you’ve already done most of the work by doing the deep research and preparing a number of great questions for them, so you don’t need to worry about “what to talk about” – you already know what to talk about! You can ask them the questions you’ve been dying to ask them for the past few days or weeks. Most people won’t have prepared a number of well researched and thought out questions, so you coming up prepared with your notebook or notecards will make an awesome impression on them.
As far as the actual conversation goes, I follow this simple rule from Ramit Sethi (he calls it the “STFU technique”: I ask the question, shut up, listen intensively, and take notes. After the speaker stop speaking, I either ask them follow up questions or move on to the next question. It’s that simple. People love when you ask them questions, listen and take notes. It doesn’t happen very often, so you’ll again stand out from most people that are trying to pitch them or get them to promote their products.
How to add value to speakers (even if you feel like you don’t have anything to add)
For a long time, when the top influencers in my industry wanted to talk to me, I wondered: why me? What makes me so special? What’s in it for them? How can I possibly add value to them? There’s no advice I could give them that could help them out – they’re 10x or 100x better at what they do than I am and make 10x or 100x more money than I do!
Since this question bugged me, I asked one of my mentors what the hell is going on. His response was simple: People love hanging out with you because you always take their advice and implement it, then let them know about it. There’re so few people who do that these days.
I was surprised – is it really that simple? Could it be that by taking the advice someone gives you, putting it into action, and letting them know about how you applied it is all that you need to do to add value to someone or build a relationship with them? The short answer is yes – it is that simple (and we’ll expand on this later). Coming to people prepared with great questions and taking their advice is something that surprisingly few people do.
When you take someone’s advice and let them know about how it helped you, you’re making them feel like they’re really helping you, which is why they’re running their business and why they do what they do in the first place. Doing this can be more valuable than offering to help them with their website or something else that you feel like you “should” be able to help them. So yes, just taking the advice and putting it into action is a GREAT way to add value to a speaker.
A few months after having this conversation with my mentor, I had a similar conversation with another mentor of mine. He agreed with my other mentor but added something: “You see Primoz, we spent our days helping big companies and really successful people who make 7, 8 or 9 figures and that’s cool. But what we love doing even more than that is seeing TRANSFORMATIONS in people. So when someone like you who’s young, hard working and driven comes up to us and seeks our help (and does the work), we always love helping them out”.
What I learned from that conversation was that if you’re less successful right now (but willing to work your ass off), people might even be more likely to help you (or have more fun helping you) than someone who’s already super successful, because they get to be a part of your transformation.
So if you ever feel like you shouldn’t approach a speaker because you have nothing to add, remind yourself that spending hours and hours doing the deep research, coming up with great questions and then putting their advice into action is MASSIVE for them, because almost nobody else does that for them, no matter how successful they are.
How to get the contact details from speakers
Ok, this is the question that everyone always wants the answer to. How do I actually stay in touch with speakers and build a relationship out of meeting them once? We’ll cover the whole follow-up process in PART 4 of this guide, but before we go into that, let’s talk about one stupidly simple thing that you can do to get the contact details from speakers.
After Behaviorcon ended, I ran into one of the speakers at the event that I really wanted to connect with. I’ve spoken with them a few times during the event, and I’ve taken a ton of notes from their speech that was towards the end of the event. As we were talking, I asked them this simple question: “hey, how can I let you know how I’ll implement your advice from the speech?”, and they said “here’s my personal email, this won’t go to my assistant but directly to me instead. Email me!”.
I did email them later (a few times), and over the past few years we’ve built a great relationship. But the point here is that getting the contact details from an influencer is really as simple as asking them “what’s the best way to let you know how I implemented your advice” IF you’ve done the hard work of doing the research and coming up with great questions. Asking for their contact details is just a formality – as you’ve stood out from the crowd and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t want to hear about how their advice helped them.
I’ve asked this exact same question any time I get to chance a to spend a lot of time with an influencer or when they answer a lot of my questions, and it works every time (plus they LOVE hearing about how they’ve helped me when I email them a few weeks or months later).
Of course this exact same line won’t work if you don’t do the work. If you just come up to them, try to pitch them your product or just say that you loved their speech, then ask them for their contact details, they’ll usually tell you to email support or their team instead of giving you their personal contact details. So don’t be lazy, and do the work that you need to do to earn your way into their circles!
CHAPTER 3.2: Connecting with fellow attendees
Connecting with fellow attendees is generally much easier than connecting with speakers. They’ll be there for the whole event, most of them won’t have 10 people trying to talk to them all the time, and they’re likely at the event for the same reasons as you are – to meet other cool people.
If you’ve done your homework, you won’t be trying to connect with EVERYONE at the event, and will instead focus on building deep relationships with 3-5 people at the event that you REALLY want to connect with, plus you’ll inevitably meet and connect with plenty of other attendees as you run into them.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind when connecting with fellow attendees.
The one icebreaker that never fails
I guess you could go and google 50 different icebreakers that you can use at the conference, but what I’ve found is that to start a conversation, you really just need one go-to icebreaker that you can rely on all the time.
For me, that icebreaker is “what brings you here?”. It’s the one question that will ALWAYS get people talking, as they’ll start talking about why they are attending the conference, what they’re looking to get out of it, etc. – and you can usually take the conversation from there by asking them more about themselves, what they do, etc. (and then, once you have more information, you can introduce yourself to them as well in a tailored way that we already covered in this guide).
Of course there’s other icebreakers that you can use, like “nice shoes!” or “how did you like this last speech?”, and that’s fine – but if you ever aren’t sure what to say, then “what brings you here?” will always help you start a conversation.
How to build a connection with a fellow attendee in 5-10 minutes
Most people at events and conferences just talk about themselves non-stop, try to pitch their services to you, or engage in endless small talk (which I’m not against, but you need more than JUST small talk in order to build really connect and click with someone).
The best way that I’ve found to start a great conversation (and keep it going) is to simply be genuinely interested in other person, and try to learn as much about them as possible. You can do that by asking them “what brings you there”, and then asking them a lot of follow up questions. Follow up questions can be as simple as “oh, tell me more about that!” or “can you share an example of _______?”.
The key to having a DEEP conversation is to go DEEP on one topic (rather than asking 10 different questions about 10 different topics). So instead of going from “what brings you here” to “tell me more about your business” to “what are your hobbies” and “do you have any pets”, try to focus the conversation around ONE theme. Once they mention something that’s interesting to you, dig deeper by asking them, “oh, tell me more about X!”.
Just actively listening and asking a lot of follow up questions can help you start a great conversation and build a connection in 5-10 minutes. This usually won’t be enough to build a long-term relationship, but it lets you learn enough about the other person (and gets their trust) so that it can lead to another, deeper conversation in the future. For example, if you’re really interested in someone’s work, you can invite them to the “conference within a conference” event that you might be hosting within a conference.
How to connect with people more successful than you
At every conference there are usually a few “VIPs” on the attendee list. In the online business conference world, these might be successful entrepreneurs who run 7-figure businesses and are at the event to connect with some of their students or to support the conference host. They might not be speaking at the event, but they will usually have more people wanting to talk to them than most other attendees.
In case you’re trying to connect with someone who’s more successful than you (and add value to them), I suggest treating them in the same way as you would treat a speaker. If you know they’ll be at the event, you can do deep research on them and prepare great questions for them in advance, and have a great conversation with them at the conference.
How to make people interested in what you have to say
If you’ve done your homework, you’ll already have a tailored introduction ready that will get people interested in you, plus a list of potential stories and conversational topics that you can share during the conversations.
Whenever you want to get someone interested in what you have to say, you can simply start sharing a story or talking about a topic that’s relevant to you (and you have a hunch that it will be relevant to them as well).
For example, if I’m having a conversation about social media at a conference, I might mention that I’ve quit Facebook 2 weeks ago – which will inevitably lead to questions like “why did you do that?”, “what is life without Facebook like?”, and “how do you promote your content now if not through social media?”.
If you’re new to sharing stories and opening up conversations, this might feel tricky at first – but with practice you’ll get better. Nobody becomes awesome at social skills over-night, but you can get better by practicing it day by day. And a conference is a phenomenal opportunity to do just that – so take advantage of it!
Don’t know who to talk to next? Try this.
I often find myself lost at an event (usually once I’m done with a conversation), and then I tend to wander around looking who to talk to (or sometimes start looking on my phone). Since I realized that both of those are a pretty big waste of time, I now do the following when I notice myself mindlessly wandering around:
I talk to a person who’s sitting in a corner / bored / on their phone.
You’d be surprised by how many great conversations I’ve had with people that weren’t in the front and center of conversations and were just chilling on a couch. A lot of these people that are sitting by themselves are really smart and interesting people, but for whatever reason (maybe they lack social skills, maybe they’re shy, or don’t know anyone at the conference) they don’t actively go out and approach people.
I know this because for a long time, I used to be one of them (and still am sometimes when I feel super tired). While they might not be in the mood for a large group conversation, they’ll often love seeing you approach them and start a conversation with them that you’ll both end up loving.
So next time you don’t know who else to talk to, talk to that wallflower and see what happens!
How to exchange contact details the non-shitty way
I already explained that I’m not a fan of exchanging business cards as they’re pretty much useless. So when you end a conversation, you don’t want to do that (or just say “we should talk more some time”, because that’s a code for “we won’t because we’ll both be too busy with our lives to follow up after the event”).
I’ve found that if I REALLY wanted to keep the conversation going with someone, I would tell them that right then and there, and try to set up a time to talk more. This might either be at the event itself (I could invite them out for drinks or breakfast) or after the event, by setting up a Skype call.
Since nowadays everyone uses smartphones and most people at conferences have organized schedules and access to their calendars, it’s easier than ever to set up a Skype call with them right there on the spot. To do that, the conversation could go like this:
You: “Hey NAME, I really enjoyed talking to you and would love to talk to you more about TOPIC over the next few weeks. Is that ok with you?”
Them: “Yes, of course, I’d love that too!”
You: “Ok great, do you want to put a Skype call into our calendars right now to make sure we don’t forget about it?”
Then you can work out a time to chat right there and then on the spot, ask them for their Skype name and the email that you should send the Google Calendar invite to, and create the event before parting ways. This will be infinitely better if you want to build a relationship with someone than exchanging business cards, or even following up after the event.
You can take the initiative and do this if you’re interested in just building a friendship with someone, or if they mentioned that they’re interested in your services (this is the way you can actually get new clients from conferences).
And what if they say no to your request to set up a Skype call? Then don’t sweat it. It might be that it’s just not a priority for them to talk to you more, which is fine – and still better than ending up with a business card or an email address from someone who isn’t really interested in having another conversation with you any time soon.
The exception is if they say they’re super busy in the future weeks (which might be true coming back from a conference), in which case you could ask them if they want to set up a call a month from now or so. If they’re up for it, you could set it up immediately. If they say “I’ll get back to you on that”, then I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high.
Oh, one last thing. If you just want to get their contact details for the future but don’t necessarily want to jump on a call with them right after the conference, then one of the easiest things you can do is to add them on Facebook or ask them to add you on Facebook right then and there OR ask them for their email address and shoot them an email with a note about who you are, how you met them, and your own email address right then and there.
This could look something like:
“Hey NAME, great meeting you today at the [CONFERENCE]! I’m Primoz, the guy you talked to about quitting Facebook. Here’s my email address if you have more questions about Ultimate Guides in the future!”
What to do immediately after a great conversation
This step actually applies to everyone you meet with at a conference (that you want to talk to more in the future), and not just the fellow attendees.
What I like to do right after I meet someone and we part ways is to take a few notes in my notepad or my phone. I like to write down the name of the person, contact information (if I managed to collect it), 1-2 things that we talked about, and why I might be interested in talking to them more in the future.
I like to do this to remember who I talked to, and to make it easier for me to follow up after the event if I choose to do so.
CHAPTER 3.3: Connecting with staff members
When I attended the 100k Summit, I noticed that there were quite a few of Ramit Sethi’s staff members at the event. There was his assistant, his product developer and his product manager (that helped him create his 7-figure online programs), and a video crew.
Most of the time, these people were sitting by themselves, quietly eating lunch, taking notes or working on their laptops. Few conference attendees seemed to notice them and connect with them. What most people don’t know is that these people have a HUGE amount of knowledge that they can share with you, as they’re constantly “in the trenches” of the business from the influencers that’s hosting the event.
In fact, you can have some great conversations with them at the event and build valuable connections with them that might lead to future opportunities.
At the 100k Summit, I had a few great conversations with the product manager and product developer of IWT (the company hosting the event), and staying in touch with them allowed me to occasionally ask them a question about their business, meet up with them in person (I met up with a product developer when I later visited San Francisco), and even move through the interview process for getting a position with the company later down the line.
If you see someone at the event with the staff tag (it’s usually a different color than the attendee tag), then don’t hesitate to walk up to them and ask them what they do at the company (then ask them further questions about their work). Beyond that, the process for connecting with staff members is pretty similar to connecting with speakers or attendees.
If you know that the staff members will be at the event up-front, do your research before the event, then start a conversation with them at the event, and use the tips from previous chapters to build a great connection with them in 5-10 minutes, make them interested in you, etc. You could even invite them to your private “conference within a conference” event, or set up a call with them to talk to them more in the future – why not?
One thing I will mention here is to use discretion when asking them questions about working with the company. Of course it’s fine to ask them questions like “what does the process for launching a product in your company look like” if they are willing to share it, but asking questions related to revenue or about future products that they might not be allowed to talk about might make them uncomfortable, so it’s best to avoid those.
CHAPTER 3.4: 8 best networking opportunities at any conference
Interestingly enough, most lasting relationships that are built during conferences aren’t actually built AT the conference itself. Just think about it: from the amount of people that you’ve met during the conferences and talked to for 3-5min, how many of them are you still in touch with? It’s likely that it’s only a handful, if any.
From my experience, the best relationships are built OUTSIDE of the actual conference, rather than at the conference itself. The reason for that is simple: At the conference itself, you usually don’t really have the time to have a LONG, deep conversation about a topic that would really allow you to build a lasting connection with someone. It’s completely different to talk to someone for 3-5 minutes in a conference hallway than it is to talk to them for an hour during lunch.
If you want to build a REAL connection with someone, you need the time and space to make that happen. It also happens if you’re doing something fun together as that helps with the bonding (do I sound like a dating coach now? or more like a Cosmopolitan writer?).
When I attended the 100k Summit, I wasn’t able to build as many lasting relationships as I would have wanted to with fellow attendees because my follow up skills were inexistent (I didn’t know about most of the stuff that I’m talking about in this guide yet).
But one thing I do know is that the things I remember more than anything is the extra activities that happened outside of the conference. One night started by going to “Hack the Met”, an awesome tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that included loads of alcohol. As you can imagine, that was a great start of the night.
After the Hack the Met tour, we moved on to the famous Ace hotel for drinks, and then almost got kicked out of it as we started doing the conga line through the hotel bar (we might have had a LITTLE bit too much to drink that night). As we saw that we weren’t super welcome at the Ace hotel, we moved on to a Korean Karaoke bar where we got ourselves a private room, a bottle of Grey Goose and partied well into the night (because MORE alcohol is always a great idea when you’re already drunk).
Looking back at that night, it was one of the nights that I really remember well and that brought us all closer together – and many of the relationships that I did manage to build at that event came from this fun night, and not from hanging out at the conference itself.
I’ve heard similar stories from other people as well – one of my students went up to the room with a few people one evening at the conference where they mixed their own cocktails and had awesome conversations, and she said that that was one of the best parts of the conference for her.
Bottom line is: If you want to build some real relationships at the conference, that won’t happen during the 15-minute breaks or during speeches. Those relationships will form outside of the main events.
Here are a few places / times where I was able to build some deep relationships with people outside of conferences:
- Private dinners: The “conference within a conference” dinners are a great way to bring interesting people together and connect with them. I strongly suggest you either host a dinner or a meet up like this yourself, or keep an eye out for other people hosting them and attend the ones that include the people you want to connect with.
- Longer breaks: Sometimes during a conference you’ll have a longer, 2-hour break or so for a lunch or coffee. This is a great time so invite someone you want to build a relationship with over for lunch, coffee or a walk, have some 1on1 time with them, and bond with them.
- Breakfast: Most people at conferences grab breakfast outside of the hotel (as hotel breakfasts tend to be quite expensive in some cases). You’ll likely find speakers or VIP attendees grabbing breakfast at the hotel though, and this could be a great way for you to join them and connect with them. Alternatively, you can also invite people you’d like to connect with out for breakfast.
- Pre-conference parties: Many conference attendees might arrive to the venue a day or two earlier, and announce that in the Community Facebook group. This gives you an opportunity to connect with them before all the madness happens by either inviting them for lunch or dinner, hosting a group dinner or drinks meet up, or joining one (people will usually announce these in the Facebook groups).
- After-parties: Similarly to people arriving to the city early, some people will stay in the city for a few days after the event. This is a great chance for you to connect with them through additional drinks / lunches / dinners. Same guidelines apply as for the previous step. Also, there will always be people going out partying or for dinner after each day of the conference, and those parties and dinners can be great for building deep relationships.
- Lunch breaks: Some conferences have lunches included, and usually have tables of around 10 people where you can sit down and talk to fellow attendees. Since the lunch breaks do tend to be longer than the shorter breaks during the conference, you can use these as an opportunity to sit down next to a speaker or an attendee you want to connect with and have a deeper conversation with them.
- Cocktail parties: As long as the music isn’t too loud, these can also be a great way to build lasting relationships with people – as long as you make it a point to really connect with 1-2 people, rather than trying to meet all 500 people at the cocktail party. Sitting down at the table or the bar will usually help you “settle down” into a conversation, rather than bouncing from one person to the other.
- Workouts: There’s a certain group of people that always goes and works out during the conference – either early in the morning before the conference starts, or later on during the break. Going for a joined workout can be a great way to get to know someone better, and you could even run into a few speakers or fitness influencers as you do that that you can then connect with.
These are my favorite opportunities for meeting people at the conference (if there’s something I’m missing let me know in the comment below). The message here is: If you really want to build some amazing relationships, keep an eye out for extra-conference activities, rather than networking at the conference itself. Instead use the short breaks at the conference to get to know people quickly (using the techniques I share in this guide), and then invite them to hang out with you after the conference to start building the relationship with them.
CHAPTER 3.5: Speeches and Q & A sessions
Whenever I’m listening to a speech at a conference, I do two things:
- I take notes of the insights I got from it
- I update my questions or come up with new questions for the speaker
I remember Jim Kwik’s speech at Behaviorcon where he talked about note taking for conferences. He recommended using a simple technique where you draw a vertical line to split your notebook in half.
On the left side, you can write the “insights” that aren’t directly actionable for your business. On the right side, you can write the specific actions you can execute on. These might be the exercises and action steps that the speakers share with you OR ideas that you thought of by yourself for applying the insights to your own business.
When I take notes during the speech, I constantly ask myself “how can I apply what the speaker is talking about to my own business?”. It’s in the back of my mind ALL the time, and I can quickly see the right side of my notebook fill up with things I can implement in my business after the conference finishes. By taking these insights from the 100k Summit conference and putting them into action, I was able to double my monthly revenue within a month of the conference – and you could do the same, so don’t skip this part.
The other reason why taking notes on speeches is useful is because you can use your biggest insights as an icebreaker or a talking point when you talk to a speaker after their speech. You can say “hey, I loved your story about X – can you tell me more about that?”, and all of a sudden you’ll find yourself having this deep conversation with a speaker.
The second part of listening to a speech consists of creating new & updating my old questions. If I’m using my notecard system for storing my questions that I described in this guide, this would look like this.
First, I would keep an eye on the questions that I already have written for that speaker based on my research. If the speaker answers my question during the speech, I write the solution to it to the back of the card. If they give a partial answer, I update the question. I also write new questions that come up for me during the speech, that I can later ask during a break or during a Q & A session.
Now let’s talk about Q & A sessions. I LOVE Q & A sessions, as they’re such a great way to stand out and get noticed by everyone else in the room. In my mind, participating in the Q & A sessions regularly is the third best thing you can do for visibility at a conference – right after speaking on stage and doing an on-stage hot seat.
During the Q & A sessions, I like to follow a few guidelines:
- I try to be the first person to raise their hand as often as possible
- I try to participate in every single Q & A session if at all possible
The reason why I like to be the first person to raise their hand is because it makes it the most likely for my question to be answered, plus more of the attendees will still be paying attention at the first question than at the tenth question. Being the first person to ask a question is easy if you already have questions prepared in advance – and it also helps if you sit close to the stage. During the Q & A I like to ask just one question, and I try to ask a question that’s not just relevant to me, but also to other people in the crowd (similarly to how I prepare questions for hot seats).
The other important thing that I do is that I try to participate in as many sessions as possible. I do this because I want everyone at the conference to notice me, see me and remember me (which makes more people want to talk to me), and because if I’ve paid thousands of dollars for the conference I might as well get the most out of it and get as many questions answered as possible.
Whenever I ask a question, I like to briefly introduce myself first (using the conference-tailored introduction), then I share my question. Then, I like to write down the response from the speaker on the back of my notecard to make sure I remember what they said.
Now if you did your homework properly you’re probably asking yourself at this stage: “what about all the other questions I prepared? How will I get those answered?”. The solution is simple: revisit the chapters on best networking opportunities at the conference and connecting with speakers. What you want to do during the Q & A session is get noticed by the speaker, THEN talk to them some more (and ask the remaining questions) during the lunch break or dinner.
And in the case the speaker leaves the conference right after their speech and you didn’t get a chance to ask them your questions? Well, in that case you could always email them, thank them for the speech, mention that you had a few questions ready for them and politely ask them if they’d be willing to answer them via a quick email or a Skype call.
The email could look something like this:
I just wanted to reach out to you to thank you for your speech at the [CONFERENCE] today. I’m Primoz, the online entrepreneur that asked you the question about [TOPIC] during the Q & A session, with a red pocket square.
I loved these 3 insights from your speech:
[INSERT BULLETS WITH INSIGHTS (FROM YOUR NOTES)]
I had a few more questions ready for you that I was hoping to ask you at the conference, but as you had to go right after the speech we couldn’t really talk.
Would you be open to answering my top 3 questions via email or a 10-minute phone call? If not, I totally understand. If yes, I can email you the questions or call you on your cell phone at a time that works for you.
The email is short, simple, and non-committal. If they say no, there’s no hard feelings, but if they say yes, you can end up having a great conversation with them and start building a relationship with them.
CHAPTER 3.6: Become a “conference commando”
The “conference commando” strategy is my second favorite strategy from Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” book.
The idea behind this strategy is that during the conference, you’re on a mission to get the most out of the conference (find the business breakthroughs you’re looking for and build the relationships you’re looking to build). Instead of feeling just like an attendee, the idea is to feel like you’re “working the conference” as if it was your own turf.
So how do you make that happen? Well, the good news is that if you’ve read up until this point in the guide, you’re already doing it. You’ve identified your goals / target for the conference. You’ve done the research. You know exactly who you want to connect with and which business challenges you want to solve at the conference. You’re ready to go and get what you were looking for out of it.
Having said that, there’s one more thing that you can do to “work the conference” even better – and that’s making introductions. As you meet more and more new people at the conference and connect with them, a great way to add value to them (and other attendees that you meet) is to start connecting them with each other. So every time you meet someone that would benefit from meeting another conference attendee, take the initiative and introduce them right there and then.
You can also take things a step further with bringing people together by inviting them to your “conference within a conference” meet up, or simply inviting them for coffee during a break or for breakfast on one of the mornings. By doing this, you won’t only strengthen the relationships with people you meet, but also become more valuable in their eyes as you’ll constantly be introducing them to people that they’ll love meeting.
CHAPTER 3.7: The conference “hall of shame”
In this guide, we’ve covered a lot of the things you should be doing to get the most out of the conference. Now, let’s talk about the things that you SHOULDN’T be doing there. In no particular order, here are the behaviors that will make you look bad at the conference (or just won’t help you get much out of it).
#1 – The wallflower
Know that person that’s constantly in a corner, checking the phone, and always quiet? I do, since I know I sometimes tend to become one (especially when I’m tired). Well, the harsh truth is that being at a conference and staring at your phone checking email isn’t much better than staying at home in bed doing the same thing.
If you ever catch yourself doing this, then think about why you’re doing it. If you’re bored, then try finding another wallflower and starting a conversation with them. If you’re tired, then go up to your room and get some rest, then come back to the conference feeling refreshed. That’s much better than being in the corner of the room all day long.
#2 – The follower
The follower is the person that follows a person or a group (that they know already) around the conference and rarely meets new people. As you can imagine, following the same person around all the time won’t really help you build new relationships (plus the person might feel weird that you’re around them all the time).
Even if you arrive at the conference and you already know some people there, remember why you’re at the conference in the first place – to meet new people. It’s totally cool to hang out with your old friends and clients for some time, but that doesn’t mean you should spend 3 days following them around. Instead, focus on working through your list of people you want to connect with first – and then spend more time with your existing friends towards the end of the conference (and, even better, introduce them to the new people you’ve met).
#3 – The Instagrammer
There’s a certain group of people that take photos of everyone and everything at the conference. They take a photo with every speaker that they find, and in many cases that’s all that they do. They take photos so they can use them in their social media and marketing materials, which to me feels kind of sad. Sometimes there’s even a huge line of these people wanting to take photos!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m open to taking photos with other attendees. In fact, I too sometimes use them in my marketing materials. But what you don’t know is that I rarely ask people to take photos of me or run around with my phone trying to fill up my Instagram account. They’re usually taken by the photographers at the event when I’m in the middle of having a conversation.
The problem with taking photos or being the Instagrammer is that that’s ALL that some people do. They come up to the speaker, ask to take a photo, then talk to the next person. If your main goal is to get as many photos as possible out of the event, I guess that makes sense. But in my mind, you’d be much better off actually taking the time to talk to these people and build a genuine relationships with (which you can do using the advice in this guide) rather than just taking a photo with them.
#4 – The pitcher
There’s two things I hate at a conference more than anything: people that try to pitch me before I even get to know them, and people who try to force business cards down my throat. There’s some of these people (I call them “the pitchers”) at every event. They come up to you, start a conversation, spend 5min talking about how awesome they are, and next thing you know they’re offering you their services and handing you their business card, before moving to the next person.
These people get the conferences totally wrong. They try to meet everyone because they think that conferences are a numbers game. And their biggest weapon are business cards, which then get thrown straight into trash. If you’ve ever caught yourself doing this because you didn’t know any better, don’t sweat it. But with your next conference, focus on building authentic relationships with people rather than trying to sell them stuff all the time – and you’ll have a much better experience.
#5 – The zombie
The zombie is a person that is never present and constantly darts their eyes left and right, looking for new people to talk to. People tend to become zombies when they enter a conversation that they’re not interesting in. They start looking around for something more interesting as a way to escape the conversation. What they don’t realize is how disrespectful that can look and how bad that can make the other person feel, especially fi they’re talking to someone 1on1 or in a small group.
If you ever find yourself in a conversation you’re not interested in, don’t turn into a zombie. Instead politely tell the other person that it was great chatting with them and that you wish them to have fun at the conference. You can also say you’re going to the bathroom or to get some food, or that you’re tired and that you’ll go to the room to take a break (just make sure you actually do that and don’t lie about it). Then, once you do that, find the next person to talk to.
#6 – The stalker
At the last conference I attended, someone who knew who I was came up to me in the worst place of all – a bathroom. While I was doing my thing he thought it would be a great time to start a conversation with me, and it was awkward as hell, plus annoying (as I tend to use my bathroom breaks to recharge). I probably don’t have to tell you to not do this, right? You know better.
Don’t be the stalker that chases people around to their room or their bathroom – you’ll just creep them out. If you really want to talk to someone, there’s plenty of opportunities at the conference and outside of it to do so. You don’t need to invade people’s privacy just to “connect” with them.
#7 – The teenage girl
Whenever I spoke at the conference, there would inevitably be a few people coming up to me that would be completely starstruck and act like teenage girls. They would say weird stuff like “I can’t believe it’s really you!!!” and “can I touch you?”. Then we would look at each other awkwardly for a few moments, and then they’d say “I gotta go! Have fun!”.
I get it. I know that when you’re meeting someone you admire, you might have the tendency to choke and not be at your best. To prevent that from happening, focus on using your homework to start the conversation. If you’re talking to a speaker, you can share some of your favorite takeaways from their speech with them, how they helped you in the past, or ask them if it’s ok to ask them a few questions. Even if you’re nervous when you start talking to them, you’ll likely get more comfortable with it in a few minutes. It’s a much better option than looking like a teenage girl.
Well, it seems like we’ve made it to the end of the third chapter of this guide. By this point, you should know everything that you need to know about getting the most out of the actual conference – from talking to speakers, to using the Q & A sessions as best as possible, and being aware of the best networking opportunities. If there’s something that’s not clear in this part, just ask a question below in the comments and I’d be happy to answer it for you.
Now let’s move on to the last (but not the least important) part: what to do after the conference to get the most out of it.
PART 4: What to do after the conference ends
The conference is over and you’re on your flight back home. You’ve had a blast, you met a lot of interesting people and got a lot of new insights that you can now apply in your business. You’re excited to keep building the new relationships and growing your business… Until your day to day kicks back in.
I’ve spoken to many people about attending conferences and a surprising amount of them told me that while they had a great time at the conference, everything fell apart once they came back to work or to running their business. Since they were away for a few days, they had to catch up on their work, and things like following up with the people they met at the conference and going through the conference notes slowly got lost on their to-do list, until it felt like it was too late to act on them.
If you’ve experienced any of that yourself, I have great news for you. By focusing on just two things (the following up and creating an action plan for your business breakthroughs), you’ll be able to get exactly what you’re looking for out of the conference. You’ll ensure that you’ll build the lasting relationships you hoped to build, and you’ll be able to use the business breakthroughs to grow your own business faster.
And best of all? You’ll be able to do all of that in a matter of hours – even while you’re on your flight home from the conference if you want to!
CHAPTER 4.1: The subtle art of following up
If you’ve read anything related to attending conferences, you’ll know that everyone recommends the same thing: “Follow up with everyone that you’ve met at the conference! And do it as fast as possible!” Right? Now the question is: What REALLY happens when you hear advice like that?
Chances are you knew that you “should” be following up, but when you’re back from the conference and you have to catch up on work, following up suddenly becomes the item on your to-do list #63. Which in reality means that you never get around to doing it, and then feel guilty as hell for not doing it.
If that has been your experience so far, then I have great news for you: This doesn’t need to happen to you any more!
You see, I strongly believe that the premise of “following up with everyone you meet” at a conference is flawed. At an average conference, you’ll talk to 50 or 100 people over the course of a few days for at least a few minutes. Should you REALLY follow up with 50 to 100 people that you’ve just barely met? And if you should, then how the hell are you supposed to fit 50-100 new people in your life after the conference? You’re already busy with work, and you just don’t have the time to make that work.
And even if you do manage to follow up with people and send them an email about how great it was to meet them, what happens next? Well, if your experience is anything like mine, that’s where it usually ends. They thank you for the email and you agree to “staying in touch”… And that’s all there is.
The good news is that there is a better and much more effective way of following up, and I’m super excited to share it with you today. The better way of following up includes a few rules.
Rule #1: You don’t need to follow up with EVERYONE you meet
That’s right. You don’t actually need to follow up with everyone that you meet at the conference. Whereas it might make you feel good if you do it, it’s unlikely that any tangible results will come out of it (doing this just isn’t the best use of your time).
Instead of trying to follow up with everyone, pick a HANDFUL of people that you REALLY want to stay in touch with (and that you can actually fit into your existing schedule). For most people, this will be 5-10 people at MOST (having 5-10 new people in your life is plenty! Especially if they become your business partners, clients or mentors).
In practice, these will be the people that you were originally looking to connect with at the conference with who you were able to start building a relationship with (makes sense, right?), plus a handful people you might have met at the event that you clicked with.
If 10 people feels like too much for you, then make the shortlist even shorter. Pick a number that you’ll realistically follow through with. I’d rather see you actually follow up with 3 people than to THINK about following up with 10 and not actually follow up with anyone.
Rule #2: Define a clear next step
The “it was so nice to meet you!” follow up emails are nice to receive, but if they don’t lead anywhere, they’re pretty pointless (they result in just another person you “should” stay in touch with).
To make a follow up email effective, think about what’s the logical next step for your relationship. Is it jumping on a Skype call to talk about a topic that you’re both interested in? Is it to talk on Skype about potentially working together? Is it for you to email them a few guest post ideas so you can write a guest post for them? Or is it for you to take their advice and put it into action? You should always know what the next step is when sending a follow up email.
The next thing you want to do is make sure that you make it as easy as possible for them to take that next step. If you’re trying to set up a Skype call with them, share a few times that work for you (or your calendar scheduling link like Calendly) and your Skype name. If you’d like to guest post for them, send them some ideas for a guest post immediately with clearly defined next steps. The one exception here is if you’re just planning on implementing their advice. In that case, you can thank them for the specific advice they gave you and let them know you’ll be in touch with your results.
Remember to use the notes in your phone / notepad that you’ve saved from your conversation during this step to make your life easier.
A sample follow-up email could look something like this:
It’s Primoz (the guy with the red pocket square). I really enjoyed meeting you at [CONFERENCE] yesterday! I loved chatting about [TOPIC] with you and will read the book about [TOPIC] you recommended me to read for sure.
At the end of our conversation, you mentioned you’d like to talk about potentially working together. I’d love to set up a call with you some time next week. Here’s the link to my calendar: [CALENDLY LINK].
I’m looking forward to talking to you more!
The email is short, simple, and has a clear next step.
Rule #3: It’s not about following up, it’s about staying in touch
As I mentioned earlier, I only follow up with people that I actually want to stay in touch with – not with people I “might someday need something from”. That’s why the relationship doesn’t END with a follow up. That’s where it BEGINS.
After the initial follow up email and Skype call, I focus on staying in touch with the people that I want to build a lasting relationship with. If they write a guest post for me, I might invite them to do an interview with me for one of my online courses. If we speak about a topic that we’re both interested in, I try to schedule another call (or a recurring monthly call) with them at the end of that call. If I’m just taking someone’s advice, I’ll make a note to follow up with them once I get some amazing results with it.
This is where most people that actually do follow up mess up. They follow up… And that’s it. There’re countless people I’ve met (or even people that emailed me after reading content) that I loved talking to and working with, only to find them disappear. They would write this one great email about how I helped them and then I’d never hear from them again. It’s nice when it happens, but no lasting relationship comes out of it.
On the other hand, I also have a few students that constantly keep me posted on how they’re progressing (they email me every few months). And guess what? Whenever they ask for my help I’ll usually help them. And if I’m in their town or if I’m attending another conference together with them, I’ll make it a priority to meet up with them (for example, I’m throwing a meet up for my Ultimate Guide System students at Forefront).
Bottom line is: Pick only a few people to follow up with. Set up a call with them or start working on a project together through the follow-up email. Then focus on staying in touch by thinking about how you can further work with them. And that’s the subtle art of following up.
Practically, you can write up all of your follow up emails fairly quickly. It might take you an hour or less to do it. These are simple emails, and you already know what the next steps should be based on the conversation you had at the conference. A great time to work on these emails is either (1) at the event itself, in your hotel room in the evening, or (2) on the flight back home. Regardless of when you decide to follow up, I encourage you to block it out in your calendar (to make sure it actually happens).
CHAPTER 4.2: How to turn your conference notes into business breakthroughs
The second thing you want to do after the conference ends is take some time to go through all of your notes and turn them into business breakthroughs. By doing that, I was able to double my monthly revenue within a month of attending the 100k Summit (and triple it the month after).
To make sure that the conference notes don’t get lost or forgotten, I like to work through them as soon as possible after the conference ends and turn them into actionable steps that I then put into my calendar and other business productivity systems. I like to do this on the flight home as I have plenty of time to do it, but you could also block out an hour or two within the first few days of coming home from the conference to do this.
Here’s what I do during this strategy session:
- I go over my non-actionable insights and think about how I can turn them into actionable steps
- I go over my actionable steps and decide which ones I actually want to implement in my business
- I put the actionable steps into my calendar or other productivity systems I have set up for my business (or I execute on them right away)
I like to act on the steps I can execute on within minutes (like buying a book) immediately, while I like to schedule tasks like writing a blog post further down the line.
Here are a few examples for how that works in action:
- If I have a book recommendation written down, I buy the book on Kindle or the audiobook version on Audible
- If I have a blog post idea written down, I add it to my running list of blog post ideas
- If I have a guest post idea, I put the time to pitch the guest post in my calendar
- If I have a new sales technique written down, I make a note in my launch plan to test it out
- If I have a new course idea, I make a note in my calendar to create a table of contents for it
Now I don’t act on EVERY single insight I get at the conference (I decide which ones I actually WANT to implement in my business immediately), but for every insight that I do have, I make sure it’s in my calendar or another system and that it actually gets done.
It’s simple, but effective – and it gets results.
BONUS: Your Conference Battle Plan
Reading a 27,000+ word guide is one thing. Putting it into action is another. Whether you have 2 weeks to prepare for your next conference or just an afternoon, you’ll LOVE what I have in store for you.
As a free BONUS for this guide, I’ve created “Your Conference Battle Plan”. Your Conference Battle Plan outlines all the major action steps we covered in this guide over just a few pages. By using the Conference Battle Plan, you’ll be able to go through the steps covered in this guide in 24-48 hours and make sure you get the most out of the conference.
Your Conference Battle Plan consists of 3 parts:
- The 12-Step Conference Prep Checklist: This checklist includes all 12 steps that you need to take to prepare for the conference as best as possible, in as little as 24-48 hours.
- The Conference Cheat Sheet: This cheat sheet will help you remember all the things you should be doing at the conference in order to get the most out of it. You can even print it out and bring it with you!
- The Perfect Post-Conference Flight: My 2-step system for making sure that I build the right relationships and create massive business breakthroughs after the conference, that you can go through on your flight home (AND have plenty of spare time to watch a movie or two)
In order to get the PDF version of this guide AND Your Conference Battle Plan delivered to your inbox, just enter your name and email address below. Enjoy!
P.S. If you enjoyed this guide, I’d LOVE it if you shared it on Facebook – on your own wall or in an online community you’re a part of. You can also email it to a friend that’s attending a conference soon or hosting a conference soon – they’ll thank you for it!
P.P.S. If you loved this guide, leave a comment below to let me know what you loved the most about it! And if you have any questions, leave a comment as well – I’ll happily answer all the questions in the comments section!