At CMWorld this week? Click here to share your best networking tip for a chance to get featured on my next Content Marketing Institute article after the conference:My best networking tip ... #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
Networking at a conference is daunting enough.
The sweat. The awkward silence. The relentless pitches thinly disguised as “getting to know you” conversations.
And of course…the fear.
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
Whatever your temperament, we all experience anxiety walking into a room packed with hundreds–maybe even thousands–of people we don’t know and trying to strike up something more than just small talk.
So connecting with an influencer?
It’s a trap.
But here’s the thing: intimidation is unnecessary even with the heaviest of conference heavy weights. Don’t believe me?
I find your lack of faith disturbing.
The truth is any keynoter or presenter worthy of the title wants to hear from you. They actually want to connect. And to prove that point–as well as to prepare you for battle and steel your nerves–we asked 26 of this year’s CMWorld Conference headliners one question:
“How should you connect with influencers at a conference…without being weird or bothersome?”
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get Mark Hamill–this year’s show closer–to contribute. But this is seriously an all-star lineup sharing their tips on how to network.
So lower your blaster, brush back your hair…and get ready for your approach.
Oh, and do not skip the ending.
Venngage’s Director of Marketing, Nadya, and I are also going be running an epic side-hustle at CMWorld that’s all about you: the attendees.
Follow the instruction at the bottom of this post for a chance to get featured (just like these beautiful people) in my next Content Marketing Institute article rounding up the conference itself.
But wait … there’s more.
Below you’ll find every headliners’ full answer along with a Click to Tweet box and an image you can share to start your pre-conference connecting right now. Be sure to tag your favorites when you post across social, add your own original comment … and follow their advice!
Connect with Influencers Right Now
1. Lars Silberbauer
Global Senior Director of Social Media & Video at LEGO
Hello! Or Hi! Could work…No Joker makeup though.Hello! Or Hi! Could work... No Joker makeup though. @larssilberbauer #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
2. Ann Handley
Head of Content at MarketingProfs
Make eye contact. Smile. Say hello. I go to events like #CMWorld (which is my Christmakwanzakuhly!) because they are my people. Of course I want to meet you, even if you are introverted or shy or you think I don’t.I go to #CMWorld because they are my people. Of course I want to meet you! #ConfJedi @annhandley Click To Tweet
3. Andy Crestodina
Co-founder of Orbit Media
- Sit in the front row
- Be first in line to compliment and ask a question
- Offer to follow up later with a quick/simple request (they’ll likely be too busy at that moment).
I’ve done this a lot and gotten huge traction for it. It doesn’t work if they’re on a big stage, but at smaller events, it’s very simple. Most people are actually super approachable. I once used this approach to get an interview with an New York Times editor. Quick intro at the event. Quick follow up with an email a few days later.Quick intro at the event. Quick follow-up email a few days later. #CMWorld #ConfJedi @crestodina Click To Tweet
4. Jenifer Walsh
Director of Customer Engagement Marketing for Current
Be genuine. Tie your question to their presentation. Respect their time and communication style. Ask to connect. Humor helps.Be genuine. Tie your question to their presentation. #CMWorld #ConfJedi @JLansky Click To Tweet
5. Joe Pulizzi
Founder of Content Marketing Institute
Most keynoters love it when followers come up…just compliment them on something, shake their hand, and thank them. If you want to give a head’s up first, you can tweet them in advance that you’ll be coming by after speech to say, “Hi.”Most keynoters love it when followers come up! @JoePulizzi #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
6. Jay Acunzo
VP of Marketing at NextView
When you see the keynoter approaching, fall upon bended knee and shout, “My Lord and Savior, Keynoter! If it pleaseth thee, might I have just a moment of your holy time?” C‘mon. Let’s cut the charade and avoid the cutesy. Just be a human and say, “Hi!” We’re all out here trying to do good work and be good humans–humans who say hello to each other 😉Let's cut the charade and avoid the cutesy. Just be a human and say hi! @jayacunzo #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
7. Jay Baer
Founder of Convince and Convert
If a keynoter believes that people wanting to ask them questions is bothersome, they won’t be a keynoter very long. Behind that, however, just be mindful of conversation length and depth. Ask a question and get an answer. If you want/need more than that, ask the speaker if you may get their business card to email them later.Be mindful of conversation length. Ask a question and get an answer. #CMWorld #ConfJedi @jaybaer Click To Tweet
8. Andrew Davis
Founder of Monumental Shift
Want to build a relationship with a speaker at a conference? Consume their stuff. Comment on it. Tell them you’re there. I’ll make time for anyone who’s done those three things.Consume their stuff. Comment on it. Tell them you're there. #CMWorld #ConfJedi @DrewDavisHere Click To Tweet
I think a simple three step approach works well for this. (1) Before the event consume their content. Read their book, or some of their online work. Watch their videos and listen to their podcast. (2) Comment on their work in the social world. Build a relationship in the online world first. Write an article or feature their work in your tweets. (3) Then, let them know you’re going to be at the event and that you plan on saying, “Hi.” I’ve learned that online action leads to offline interaction.
9. Rand Fishkin
Wizard of Moz
So long as you follow the immortal advice of Bill & Ted, you’ll do fine: “Be excellent to each other.”Follow the immortal advice of Bill & Ted: Be excellent to each other. @randfish #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
10. Kristina Halvorson
Founder of Brain Traffic
Be confident, be candid, and be brief! Keynoters are typically on-the-go, or there’s a line of well-wishers—it’s important not to monopolize their time.Be confident, be candid, and be brief! #CMWorld #ConfJedi @halvorson Click To Tweet
11. Robert Rose
Chief Content Advisor at Content Marketing Institute
No keynoter should ever think you’re being bothersome by approaching them. If they do, that’s their issue, not yours. So the best way is to simply just walk up and introduce yourself. If you have a question that didn’t get addressed, or just have something you’d like to ask…then you should. That’s why we are there quite frankly.No keynoter should ever think you’re being bothersome. #CMWorld #ConfJedi @Robert_Rose Click To Tweet
The only way it ever gets “weird” is when a person decides that seeking out the keynoter is their chance to do their “speech” for the keynoter. If your intention is to do a 15 or 20 minute “lecture” to the keynoter, then it’s probably best to just simply ask if you can follow up with them separately.
12. Marcus Sheridan
Founder of The Sales Lion
One of the most disappointing emails I get as a keynote speaker are when an attendee writes, “I wanted to come up to you but didn’t want to bother you.” As a speaker, I feel honored to be “bothered” by attendees.
As a speaker, I feel honored to be bothered by attendees. @TheSalesLion #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
13. Scott Stratten
President of UnMarketing
I love when people come up and say, “Hi.” But please don’t pitch. I’ve been handed books, brochures, and asked to do things. It’s awkward. Especially just coming off stage. But please say, “Hi,” and chat. That part is wonderful.Come up and say hi. But please do not pitch. @unmarketing #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
14. Michael Brenner
CEO of Marketing Insider Group
When approaching a keynote speaker or influencer at #CMWorld, just say “You’re awesome!” They’re all starving for compliments. 😉They are all starving for compliments @BrennerMichael #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
15. Bill Connolly
Content at Olapic
Learn something about their personal interests or passions and use it to introduce yourself. Show genuine interest in them, not their title.Show genuine interest in them, not their title. @billconnolly #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
16. Pawan Deshpande
CEO of Curata
Research and mention a unique fact about them (without being too creepy).Mention a unique fact about them (without being too creepy). @TweetsFromPawan #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
17. Andrea Fryrear
Chief Content Officer of Fox Content
We have been rehearsing our talks for weeks. If you suggest a different conversation topic, you’ll be our new best friend. Speakers are just as scared of you as you are of them. Approach with caution and offer chocolate. (This might only apply to me.) Engage on social media before and during the conference. It shows you’re really interested in a topic or idea.Approach with caution and offer chocolate. @andreafryrear #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
18. John Hall
CEO of Influence & Co
Help first. Everybody wants to be a fan boy or ask a favor when in reality you can stand out just by being helpful. Be memorable and be helpful. Maybe feedback on a part you liked in the speech or mention using them in a blog post. #givefirsttakelater.Be memorable and be helpful. #givefirsttakelater. @johnhall #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
19. Arnie Kuenn
CEO of Vertical Measures
Ask them if they will sign a copy of their book. They have all written a book right?Ask them ito sign their book. They have all written a book right? 😉 @arniek #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
20. Joe Lazauskas
Editor-In-Chief at Contently
Come with a specific question in mind. Or a beer. Just whatever you do, don’t get stuck making a face that’s somewhere between smiling and talking.Come with a specific question in mind. Or a beer. @JoeLazauskas #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
21. Justin Levy
Head of Social Media for Citrix
My best tip is to not be scared about approaching presenters. You’re not bothering them and won’t be weird. However, be aware that another session is usually starting so it may be better to try talking to them in the hall right outside of the room following their session.You're not bothering them and won't be weird. @justinlevy #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
22. Brian Massey
Founder Conversion Sciences
The most effective way to approach a presenter is with a wad of bills in your hand…showing just a little bit. It doesn’t have to be too much.
If you compliment their presentation, they won’t believe you. No one is more critical of a presentation than the person giving it. Instead, tell them one thing that stuck with you. You can make this up, as presenters often don’t remember what they just said. If in doubt, say, “I took a ton of notes!” To make them feel really special, start a fight in line. Throw a chair if you can.To make them feel special, start a fight in line. Throw a chair if you can. @bmassey #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
Ultimately, anything you can start that is encouraging will be appreciated. If in doubt, try a few of these gems: “I loved your podium.” Or, “Where did you learn to use a presentation remote like that?” Finally, if you think you might want to meet your presenter, nod throughout their presentation, especially when they look your way. Nothing makes us feel better than someone who agrees with us!
23. Lee Odden
CEO of TopRank Marketing
Approach keynoters with advance warning, courtesy, even gifts of bacon. But no creepy, impatient, self serving attitudes, please!Approach keynoters with advance warning, courtesy, even gifts of bacon. @leeodden #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
24. Roger Parker
Content Marketing Institution Top Blogger
Long before the event, make a list of individuals you’d like to meet. See if they’re speaking, moderating, or on a panel. After the event (not before), introduce yourself and share a specific reason you either like their blog or book or what they just said.After the event (not before), introduce yourself and share a specific reason. @RogercParker #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
25. Mari Smith
Facebook Marketing Expert
Network prior to the event. Tweet a hello with the the hashtag! Then come say, “Hi,” at the event. Ask for a selfie anytime. I <3 my peeps!Say hi at the event. Ask for a selfie anytime. I love my peeps! @marismith #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
26. Christoph Trappe
Founder of The Authentic Storyteller
Never stop tweeting from sessions and then connect offline with those who engage online. Don’t leave things up to luck.Don't leave things up to luck. @Ctrappe #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet
Now it’s your turn to take the stage…
You see. What’d I tell you?
There’s nothing to be intimidated about. In fact, almost all 26 of those keynoters and presenters had one thing in common: just be human. Say, “Hi.” Don’t pitch. Give first. Take later.
Now, about that ending I promised.
If you thought this pre-conference round-up was epic, it’s nothing compared to what Nadya and I are gonna be cooking up during CMWorld itself.
Again, we’ve just got one question. This time for you!
“What’s your single best networking tip at a conference?”
I’ll be selecting the 100 best tips and putting them together for a massive post-CMWorld article on Content Marketing Institute. Share in the comments or jump in on Twitter. We even made our own hashtag for you: #ConfJediMy best networking tip ... #CMWorld #ConfJedi Click To Tweet