To me, the AFP Conference is not just about the typical ‘networking’ approach. It’s about meeting new people that may turn into friends. The professional networking benefits are just a great extra.
I still find it a little uncomfortable to meet new people. But it got easier when I realized that if I don’t make a good impression it doesn’t really matter, because the person probably won’t remember me anyway. And if I do make a good impression, I’ve linked up with a new connection and potential resource for solving work challenges.
Breaking the Ice Before Sessions
At conference, I try to arrive a few minutes early to every session and make a point to sit near someone I don't know.
I introduce myself to the person and ask where they live and what company they’re with. That almost always opens the door to additional conversation. I may know something about the city they live in, the company they work for, or a competitor in the industry. If I know nothing about their organization, that in itself starts up a valuable discussion as I learn more about their company.
With this approach, I learn a lot before a session even starts. If I get the contact info from one or two people before every session I attend, by the end of the conference I’ll have a couple dozen new contacts I can reach out to later for questions and professional support.
Asking the Right Questions
After getting to know the other person a little, some questions I frequently ask include:
• “Are there any sessions you want to be sure to hear?”
• “What’s been your favorite session so far?”
• “What challenges do you have at work that you hope to find answers for at the conference?”
• “What responsibilities do you (or your Treasury Department) have in your company?”
(There are more structures to treasury departments than I could imagine.)
All of these questions help me learn more about the people at conference and the strategies other finance departments are implementing that could add value to my company. It amazes me when I hear about a company in a totally different industry that is working on some of the same issues I am facing.
Exploring the Exhibit Hall
Quite often, the vendors will put me in touch with a practitioner who has solved that issue. So it's a win for them, and a big win for me.
I apply a similar strategy during exhibit hall hours. By finding a few booths where I have no idea what the company does and asking them a little about their organization, I occasionally discover innovative solutions to problems I wasn’t even thinking about.
Successful networking is a game of numbers, just as much for you, the learner, as for vendors trying to make a sale. Talk to as many people as you can at conference, even if just for a few minutes at the Welcome Reception or in the Exhibit Hall. The more people you introduce yourself to, the greater knowledge base you’ll gain to generate solutions for challenges in your profession. Leverage the right connections and you’ll achieve the maximum benefit of AFP 2018.
Brad Larson, CTP
ReCa Treasury Services