It may sound crazy, but attending a conference put on by a professional organization can be a great way to find a job. Yes, the conferences can be expensive. One of the professional organizations I belong to has a fantastic conference every year with a price tag of about $500 just for the registration. Add travel, hotel, meals and incidentals, and the price tag goes up several hundred dollars. Who can spend all that money when you don’t have a job? Let me ask you this question: Where else can you find more like-minded people in your industry or profession in the same place for several days with lots of planned networking events? Rather than trying to find and then talk to prospects one at a time, consider conferences, which bring together lots of prospects or connections that can pay off long after you get back home. Here are some conference pointers:
- Take and hand out lots of contact cards. Have some made up with your name, contact information and your areas of expertise. A short, two-sentence resume on the back helps remind people what you do. Use an unusual color or make the card read vertically, or use an unusual shape to make your card stand out in the pile.
- Wear a name tag. Let people know who you are. And here’s a little trick. If you’re out of work, and don’t have a company to put under your name, you can create some interest by putting “L.F.W.” under your name. When someone asks what that means, just smile and say, “Looking for Work.” It’s a great conversation starter and you may find someone who has an opening.
- Attend all the sessions and as many workshops as possible. Don’t stay in your room or go sightseeing during the sessions. You never know who you’ll sit next to. Sessions can be interactive, and you’ll get a chance to work with another person or group. If you feel a connection, hand out a card.
- Participate in the sessions. Ask a question or make a comment. Volunteer to participate in a role play or assist the presenter in an activity. This is a golden opportunity to demonstrate your expertise in front of hundreds of people. Make a good impression and you’ll find people looking for you at the break.
- Participate in round table discussions. I signed up for a round table at a conference and met a leading expert in my field who later referred me for some business.
- Stroll through the vendor exhibits and pick up free materials. Put your cards in the “free drawing” boxes at each vendor and look for opportunities to talk about your job search and expertise. I once landed a consulting contract by talking to a major employment consulting company that had a booth at a professional conference. I worked with them for years and still keep in contact.
- Go to the social events too. You may find someone you met at one of the workshops or meet some new people. Let people see the social side of you.
- Find out where the movers and shakers hang out. Every organization has “heavy hitters” who you really want to meet. The superstars. The legends. Soak up the energy and learn from the pros.
When you get home, go through all your cards and send emails or notes to your new contacts just to say you were glad to have met them. Follow up on leads and send out resumes that were requested. Research interesting companies for job leads. Someone you met at the conference just might be your next employer, a new reference or lead to your next job opportunity.