Succeeding as a conference producer requires a combination of consistent effort, making connections in the industry, and delivering quality work, every time. Here are a few tips for how to take your conference producing to the next level
Sell yourself first
From the moment you begin working on your first event, you have the opportunity to demonstrate your punctuality, attention to detail, professional demeanor, and a myriad of other qualities that demonstrate your work ethic. Hundreds of people will be first hand witnesses of your ability to multi-task, explain complex topics, and treat them like your most important customer. You don't ask much of them other than attending your events (which benefits them more than you) so in the future, they are likely to take your calls.
Look for any opportunity to follow through and do a bit more than expected. Always personalize emails. Answer emails quickly -- even better, pick up the phone and call.
Be a connector
The best way to benefit anyone is to introduce them to someone who can help them. Fortunately, introducing people is an infinitely sustainable way for you to add value. This is how community and organizational leaders make their impact. Like it or not, you are now a politician. Or at least a connector. Malcolm Gladwell describes Connectors in his book The Tipping Point.
"A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. They usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles. They are people who 'link us up with the world... people with a special gift for bringing the world together.'"
Connectors are a conference producer's best friend. Once you get their buy-in, they will be able to introduce you to other speakers, audience members, and strategic partners to help grow your event.
Hosting the event -- tying things together
The connections people make at one of your events can lead to a billion-dollar deal, depending on the industry. You know all of the speakers, and probably some of the guests. And because you've had thorough conversations with them about their projects, business needs, and professional interests, you are in a great position to introduce them to people with similar interests, or solutions to their problems. Since you've collaborated with your sponsorship sales staff, you're also familiar with what expertise the event sponsors have, and you can introduce them to people who might benefit from their services. This is high-end customer service, to be sure. But it's also socially gracious to ensure that each of your guests has the most valuable experience that you can provide for them.
The ultimate goal is to step out of the way before they actually engage, so that they can connect with someone who can help them advance their career. This could be the moderator of the next panel, a vendor who is running an exhibition booth, or a colleague in the audience who they may want to meet.
But before you step out of the way, you do need to engage their attention.
Reach out through all media at your disposal
Keep yourself on top of your game by connecting with everyone you meet doing the course of producing and running the event. You can use LinkedIn, Twitter, and other appropriate social media outlets. Remember: it's your relationship, and this is how you nurture it beyond the parameters of your job.
Using social media to enhance your relationships gives you the opportunity to develop online expertise. Each platform has a protocol for how to be more effective. Social media gurus such as Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist of Apple, and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk offer helpful books on the topic.
Don't rely on your memory
At an event, you meet hundreds of people, and thousands over the course of a year. You'll only remember a small portion of these. I don't even try. Instead, I maintain a personal Salesforce account where I can track everyone's information and keep notes on our last conversation.
Bill Clinton famously took notes on every single person he met on 3 x 5 cards and kept them in a cardboard box. According to biographer David Maraniss, Clinton "spent time each night combing through the file, placing telephone calls, and writing notes to friends who might help his campaign." George H. W. Bush was known as the Rolodex Kid, because he kept copious notes about his contacts.
An important lesson can be learned from such master networkers: You can maintain contacts through Microsoft Outlook, but I recommend the full CRM so you can note whatever details you need.
A good habit is to make notes on the back of business cards after you exchange them with new colleagues. Write down a few brief words about what you talked about and use that for a personalized follow up, or for future reference.
Developing and maintaining your network will not only make it easier to produce higher-quality events, it will open unforeseen doors for whatever future endeavors come your way. If you maintain it correctly, it is the biggest fringe benefit this job offers. You may even use it to run for president one day.
Enthusiasm for the job will attract like-minded people. If you are there to work hard and have fun, your network will form around you.
David M. Hoffman has produced events across three continents for thousands of investors, innovators, and entrepreneurs. If you're looking to carve a career path as a conference content producer, pick up the first and only book on the topic, Producing Success: A Career Guide for Conference Producers. For more insights visit ForumPlanner.com.