Introverts need connection. Extroverts need connection.
Ready to deepen your connection? The research shows that we even live longer if we have it. If you missed it, read our article that talks about the risk of depression and combating loneliness in retirement.
So are you getting quality connection in both your personal and professional lives?
I get the unique opportunity to step into other worlds where people are communing with “their people” by delivering keynotes or presentations to associations of like-minded or same-professioned groups. I’ve stepped in to the worlds of accountants, human resources gurus, fiduciaries, law enforcement employees, cancer survivors, higher education folks, women in government, nurses, and more. See the 24 associations Julie has presented to within the last few years.
I notice something with every group. Each person is wanting to commune. They are with people who know the delights and challenges of being in their industry or situation. They come to the event to learn, get answers, and get inspiration.
5 Tips to Connect with Depth
There is opportunity to maximize the experience beyond listening to the presenters. Some conferences, summits, and gatherings support connection, and some don’t. Here are a few ideas to connect with depth, create dynamic community, and leave the event feeling refreshed for returning to your job.
1. 5 minutes early.
Instead of desperately responding to emails during the breaks, arrive to your next session 5 minutes early, and introduce yourself to your neighbor. Get curious. Be more interested in learning about them then telling about them about you. You never know where the conversation could lead. I’ve pushed myself to do this at gatherings of 10-10,000 attendees and have always been glad. Don’t forget to exchange business cards.
2. Separate from your colleagues.
There is a good chance that you came with people you know, and there is a good chance that if you don’t explore on your own, you won’t make new connections. Discuss ahead of time how you could meet up for lunch or plan a get together after the event to reconnect with the people you came with. For me, I always want conference lunches as downtime and don’t want to be bound to any expectations. I like to be spontaneous, take a walk if I need it, explore the vendors if I want, or mentally checkout of the conference sometimes, so I prefer to connect with my colleagues post-event or in the evening.
3. Create one question.
Within the first two minutes of the session (once you know the topic or agenda), write down a question or something you’d like to learn. When we come with curiosity, we listen differently. This helps to listen and learn with more engagement.
4. Address the presenter.
Unless there is a mob of folks doing the same thing, take a moment to talk with the presenter afterward. Tell them what you appreciated, or if you still have a burning question, ask it. Doing this will also deepen the experience and the memory of the presentation.
5. Don’t lose the post-conference opportunity.
Two things here: (a.) shoot an email or LinkedIn invitation to the individuals you met. At the beginning of a relationship, you never can be quite sure where it will lead. I met Jeannie, a trusted and beloved friend, as we both were presenting at the Association for Women in Higher Education conference. It started with the exchange of business cards, and a follow-up invitation to get coffee. (b.) Teach your colleagues back at the office what you learned at the conference. When I do this, I listen and take notes in an entirely different way. And we all know, if we want to learn something more deeply, teach it.
Depth vs. Breath
Of the 3000 people I serve each year, I am consistently hearing that people prefer depth to breadth. Make a few special relationships and develop them. Learn a few important take-aways and teach them. And you just may feel reinvigorated and refreshed to get back to work.
Whether the events you attend are more about developing as an individual or developing as a professional, I see any self-development as professional-development. I encourage all of us to keep learning on this wonderful journey of life.
Not as much of a “people person” and would prefer being outside to going to a conference? Read our article about Connecting with Nature.
Want more ideas?
Read Julie Ryan’s article Empowering Your Leadership Team.