Conference Networking with No Expectations
Last week, along with 20,000 other people, I attended Hubspot’s INBOUND. I intentionally went to Boston with zero expectations. That might sound a little weird to someone who attends a lot of conferences. Most people attend a conference with specific goals to learn something new or quotas of new leads to bring back. I wanted to go in with a clean slate to observe, take everything in, and really figure out what value the event could provide.
After some post-conference reflection, I realized that just about every part of the conference provided value, from the educational sessions to the fun networking parties. Here are a few key takeaways from INBOUND that have helped me understand how to better reach audiences and also helped me be a better marketer for my company.
- Delight your customers: the customer experience is more important than ever, and organizations should make an effort to stand out from the crowd, be memorable, and cater the entire buying process to make it an easy and pleasant experience for customers. Read more about delight in this article from Target Marketing Magazine.
- AI is the new frontier: Artificial Intelligence is just getting more intelligent as it slowly creeps into the marketing space. AI can be used for content creation and optimization, facial recognition and image optimization, messaging and support, and automation. Chatbots are a great way for an organization that is unsure about the idea to dip their toes into the realm of AI. Read more in this article from Hubspot.
- New features within Hubspot: Hubspot used their event to announce some major changes and additions to their platform including the addition of Conversations, Customer Hub, and Hubspot Marketing to help users provide a better experience to their customers. Read about the new features straight from Hubspot in this article.
- Quality over quantity: Another major theme at INBOUND was the emphasis on creating quality content and to stop worrying as much about how much content is being produced. Read more about quality vs. quantity in this article by Business to Community.
Those major actionable takeaways are very exciting, and I’m looking forward to diving in to implement some of them for Convey. All that being said, I found the most value at INBOUND from my general observations of the event and the environment around me. Considering I spent 3 days surrounded by 20,000 people, I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to have a lot of conversations with people and vendors, and using Convey for the first time in a truly organic setting – connecting is what we do after all.
Here’s what I learned:
Conferences, and networking in general, can feel pretty awkward
I like to think I’m a pretty social person, but being thrown into a giant networking situation, is a little intimidating. At INBOUND, attending sessions was one thing, but the networking parties afterwards were a completely different animal. It seemed like everyone knew each other and has already formed their little groups that they stick to, and it was kinda scary to walk up to them and try to chat. There were definitely times where I felt like I was the wallflower at a junior high dance – all the different “cliques” around me and I didn’t know where I fit in.
What did I do about it? I stopped worrying about fitting in, and stepped out of my comfort zone to chat with whoever was around me. Doing that allowed me to make more than a few new connections, not just from the U.S. but from all around the world. It turns out, people at networking events are actually really nice. Go figure!
Reflect on your major takeaways from the conference and come up with an action plan
Conferences are exciting, and INBOUND was no exception. Comfy bean bag chairs. Big-name celebrities. Massage corners. Big platform and feature announcements. Club music. MICHELLE OBAMA. On top of all that, you go to sessions, and a lot of smart people are saying a lot of smart things at you all day. It really is a whirlwind.
My goal was to take something actionable away from that whirlwind. It’s pretty much impossible to come home and implement ALL the new technologies and ideas that come out of a conference, no matter the size of your organization. The important part is to do SOMETHING. Pick the top three things that resonated most with you from the conference and run with them.
People are looking for an easier way to connect with each other
As I mentioned, I did take some time between the conference sessions to network and chat with people and vendors, so it wasn’t all play for me. As a relatively new organization, we have an infrastructure to build, so it was important for me to do some research about what tools people are using and what the best strategies are to use them.
Being in such an intense networking environment reminded me that there really is a struggle with the way we connect with each other in both business settings and in our personal lives. It’s hard to make the ask to exchange information, it’s hard to remember to always keep business cards in hand, it’s hard to take the time to input all those business cards into our systems, and it’s hard to keep in touch with all those contacts after the connection was made.
It has been a great adventure to work with a team that is trying to make some of these struggles of connecting less difficult for all of us. The first step is to rethink how we connect with people. It will be exciting to see how digital tools like Convey will help us shift from just exchanging information to making true live connections with each other.
Want to read more about why we need to adjust our current networking strategies to build better relationships? Check out our blog “Networking” is lame.