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How to Meet the “Right” People at the Next Accounting Conference

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When you go to accounting conferences, whether they are national or state conferences, or even meetings in your local area, how do you go about meeting the “right” people?

Now I don’t mean “right” in terms of discriminating one person from another; what I really mean is meeting the kind of people who can offer you the most benefits in terms of referrals, business and anything else that adds to your productivity and grows your practice or business.

I’m attending the AICPA’s TECH+/Practitioners Symposium next week and always look to this conference as a way to meet accountants and technology experts who can add to my own business, either by sourcing authors for articles or gaining knowledge for future projects. I’m also seeing many friends and colleagues, so I always hope to renew friendships and spend some time gabbing about accounting and technology.

Of course, I’d like to get a new client or two out of this conference, but that’s not my main goal. I don’t think anyone goes into a networking situation with the expectation that he or she will immediately gain a new client or customer. These things take time.

So what we’re really talking about is networking. As an attendee who may not know very many people at a conference, how can you maximize your experience? Here are some tips:

  1. Go to the receptions and social gatherings. I know the last thing you may want to do at the end of a jam-packed day is smile and hold a drink, but making the effort to do so can make a very big difference in who you might meet.
  2. If you are by yourself without anyone else from your firm, don’t go to your room for dinner! Take pot luck and sign up for group dinners, or take the initiative to ask around if you can join a group that is going out. I know that takes a lot of effort, especially if you are an introvert like me, but please try. Remember that if you are feeling shy, chances are others are shy as well.
  3. Always wear your name tag and always bring business cards. Some conferences have gone high-tech with portable scanning devices to capture contact information. These work great, but there’s nothing like an old-fashioned business card. It’s very easy to carry cards; just put them in the plastic sleeve in back of your name tag. If you don’t have a plastic sleeve, carry them on your person, either in your pocket or in your portfolio.
  4. Following up is extremely important. Don’t let all those business cards fall into a black hole; be sure to follow up with everyone you met, even if is nothing more than a quick e-mail or phone call.

What are some of your tips for meeting others at conferences and gatherings?

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