Few things suck more than leaving a highly anticipated event with no new contacts or connections. It's a lot like being the last kid picked in dodgeball. This can especially suck if the whole idea of the event is to honor your achievement of ranking No. 239 on the Inc. 5000 list. I've had that feeling, and it's not fun.
Because the Inc. 5000 Conference is this week, I want to do what I can to provide some tips to help you make the most of this conference (and any other conference you might attend).
The Inc. 5000 Conference is chock-full of amazing people. (After all, you don't build one of the fastest-growing companies by skating by.) You'll get to meet a lot of these people, so it's important to be memorable and stay top of mind. Focus on being engaging rather than firing off a sales pitch. Don't be promotional; instead, listen. Before bringing up yourself, ask people about their businesses and how you can be helpful to them. Then, communicate what truly differentiates you in a couple of sentences to make you stand out.
My first Inc. 5000 Conference was about five years ago, and I remember showing up with the intention of just selling or forming partnerships. Sure, I made some sales, but I also prevented myself from gaining a good deal of valuable relationships. I've since learned that the best way to succeed at these events is to embrace the community and do what you can to help others in the community. I typically try to write an article summarizing some of the interesting companies from these events in one of my columns because I want to help those I believe in. Don't treat your influencer network relationships like a one-night stand. We're all in this together in some way, and it's important to realize that if you want lasting relationships.
The Inc. 5000 Conference tends to inspire social chatter. There could be something going on at the event that you aren't aware of, so pay attention to social channels by searching for "#inc5000." Then, make sure you offer the community some valuable information if you have it. It's a great chance to familiarize the leaders of the fastest-growing companies out there with your brand.
As PR continues to change, contributors seem to outnumber journalists at these events. This is a great chance to identify who the contributors for the Inc. community are and start forming a relationship. Even if you don't necessarily need or want exposure right now, it's good to start nurturing those relationships. I myself am an Inc. contributor and publish in a variety of other publications that could be a good fit for an Inc. 5000 company to get exposure in.
Obviously, there are notable speakers this year, like Norm Brodsky, and I'm sure Tony Robbins will nail his talk. But don't miss some of the other speakers who have a variety of experiences that you can learn from. I know some of the other speakers personally, including Ragy Thomas of Sprinklr and Steve Baker of Great Game of Business, and they will also deliver great chats. Don't be solely focused on the names you're familiar with. Challenge yourself to learn new things.
Hopefully, this quick guide will help you get on the right path to make the most out of the Inc. 5000 Conference (and other events). I'll be at the Inc. 5000 Conference, so if you're attending, feel free to say hello or reach out to me via Twitter at @johnhall.