Top 5 Conference Networking Tips

conference networking

Conference season is upon us. Let’s talk about networking. I’m Angie from Team Lucky Break, and I’m here to share my top 5 conference networking tips.

 

Surprisingly, many people don’t really know how to network. Seems simple right? Just go and talk to people! I hate to break it to you my friend, but networking is so much more than being friendly and bubbly. It’s about making meaningful connections in a sea of people. Many don’t realize that to successfully network, you need to have a strategy in place. I’m here to help you take the guesswork out of strategic conference networking.

conference networking

 

Top 5 Conference Networking Tips

I’ve gone to dozens, if not hundreds of networking events, conferences, trade shows, and business mixers. Some were for my business, bobo design studio, a lot more were for my previous roles in media and advertising. Doesn’t’ matter the content of the show, the rules are the same.

 

I’ve outlined five simple conference networking tips that I’ve learned over the years that will make you a smarter, more strategic attendee at your next big event. To help illustrate how one would implement these techniques, we’ll follow along with a hypothetical brand owner named Lucky who designs and creates her own line of adorable dog-themed stickers and stationery.

 

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Things That Keep Us Up At Night (Part 3): The Battle Between Business and Creative Tasks + Small Business Finances

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Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, small business finances, where you turn for advice, how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and what’s keeping you awake at night.

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I’ve been sharing some of the most common responses. I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main umbrellas. In part one of this blog series, I talked about entrepreneur anxiety and the deep-seated fears of failure that many of us harbor. In part two, I dug deep into the daily entrepreneur overwhelm and our difficulty connecting with ideal customers.

 

Small Business Finances | Balancing Creative and Business Tasks

 

But those aren’t the only things rumbling across our brain waves at 1am. We have a few other things that lay heavy on our minds… the information that appears as bulleted items below represents verbatim responses from the Lucky Break community. In the final installment of this blog series, I’m talking about the worries around small business finances and the constant battle between the left + ride sides of our brains.

 

THE CONSTANT BATTLE BETWEEN OUR BUSINESS + CREATIVE TO DO LISTS

  • Keeping on top of the minutia of running a business while also focusing on the tree top-level creativity and visioning of being a CEO.
  • Balancing production work and creativity.
  • Finding a way to step away from production so that I can grow the business side of things, and design more.
  • Wondering how to pull myself into a more hands-off role as designer so I can do more of what I truly love, which has nothing to do with my business.

 

I think it’s fair to say that 95% of my clients are more drawn to the “creative” side of their business. Things like new product development, production, and packaging design light them up.  But the bookkeeping, taxes, marketing, HR side of the business? Most don’t feel even the tiniest spark of inspiration when servicing those aspects of their company.  Sound familiar?  But the creative brands that have staying power pay as much (if not more) attention to the “business” side of the business. Those that don’t either struggle silently for years- working more than they ever imagined for far less profit than they imagined- or they close up shop in years 2-4 after giving the business a good romp.

 

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The less “sexy” side of the business? The one you’re less excited by and less comfortable with? That’s the area where we need to throw most of our muscle. That’s what self-development is all about… challenging yourself. Getting to the root of what makes you uncomfortable. Learning new skill sets. Reframing your perspective. That’s not just some self-help “woo woo”… that’s the heart of entrepreneurship.

 

By year four of my product-based brand, I had transitioned out of all day-to-day tasks: production, scheduling, material ordering, bookkeeping, customer service. My very first hire was a very part-time assistant to package products. My second? A full-time production manager who I taught to make all of our products.  My third? A full-time office manager to answer emails, man the phone, and package shipments while I focused on new product development, marketing, wholesale outreach, and cultivating key relationships.

 

By year six, I had eight employees, including a wholesale account specialist, production assistants, a shipping helper, and someone who worked full-time washing dishes, mopping floors, breaking down boxes, and checking in incoming materials. I started that company as a single mom on food stamps with less a $500 investment. And by year four, we were grinding out more than a million in revenue.  But I knew early on that I’d never get there if I was primarily focused on product creation. No way, no how. Getting yourself out of the daily grind is a must! Eventually, the role I assumed was creative director with some strategic vision thrown in for good measure… it was everything that I’d wanted, but it took a hell of a lot of hustle to get there.

 

My advice? Outsource first, delegate second, hire third. You have three solid options when it comes to nudging things off your plate…

1. Explore the possibility of hiring service-based businesses who are experts in their field. Think: attorneys to register and police your intellectual property. Graphic designers to create your packaging and marketing materials. Professional photographers to help your up-level your product presentation. Bookkeepers to keep your finances in order.  True experts are mind-blowingly efficient and you have no ongoing commitment to these pros.

 

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Why Shopping Small is so Important

ShopSmall

Shop small is more than merely a catch phrase.

 

When you choose to spend your holiday dollars with a small business, you empower people, families, and communities in ways that Amazon or Target can’t touch. Here’s how…

 

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SIX REASONS TO SHOP SMALL THIS HOLIDAY

 

 

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  • You foster a more sustainable economy. According to the SBA, big businesses have eliminated 4 million jobs since 1990, while small businesses added 8 million jobs within that same time period. Small businesses are more likely to be people-oriented, more likely to be community-oriented, and more likely to support local causes.

 

  • You support the creation of greater diversity. When you spend money with local, independent businesses, those businesses tend to hire people who represent the demographics of the surrounding community, including historically underserved populations. And it’s not just diversity of people, but a diversity of product, too. Local shops are more likely to carry a varied selection, and local artisans create goods that represent their culture.

 

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  • You build a stronger community. A series of studies by the research firm Civic Economics found that 48 percent of purchases at local independent businesses go right back into the community, compared to less than 14 percent of sales made at chain stores. Supporting small businesses means that the community you call home receives the tax benefits, providing a deeper well of funds for spending on public services like education, libraries, fire protection, road and park improvements.

 

  • You enjoy better customer service. Small businesses deliver more personable, hands-on, and memorable customer service. They take pride in serving their people and deeply desire to connect with you.

 

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Things That Keep Us Up At Night (Part 2): Connecting with Ideal Customers + Small Business Overwhelm

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Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, about where you turn for advice, about how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and about what’s keeping you awake at night.

 

ConnectingWithIdealCust (1)

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I’ve been sharing some of the most common responses. I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main “umbrellas.” In part one of this blog series, I talked about the entrepreneur anxiety that many of us harbor. But that’s not the only thing rumbling across our brain waves at 1am. We have a few other things that lay heavy on our minds… the information that appears as bulleted items below represent verbatim responses from the Lucky Break community.

 

THE DAILY OVERWHELM OF RUNNING A SMALL BUSINESS

  • A “to do” list that’s longer than the time I have in the day.
  • Struggling to manage all the facets of my business at the moment… knowing that I’m not able to do it all as well as I need to.
  • How to grow my business and not having enough time in the day as a one- person show.
  • Making the most of my time.
  • I have so many ideas and not enough time to implement them all. If I’m being honest, it’s because I’m trying to do too much myself instead of figuring out how to outsource it.
  • I need more bodies, but yikes that costs serious money! So here I sit trying to do it all myself.
  • Doing too many things and not finishing them until months later.

 

Raise your hand if you’ve felt like you’re treading quicksand with your business at some point in the last week? See friend? You’re in good company. I think we all feel that way… and fairly often.

 

But delegation is the BFF of the the entrepreneur. I understand that it can be terribly difficult, but the good news is that delegation gets easier the more you do it. I have to lock my Inner Control Freak (ICF) in her cage each and every day, but I’ve realized that focus is my friend, and I look terrible in bodysuits + red patent leather boots. I’m no Wonder Woman and I learned long ago to surrender the ideal that I could do it all.

 

Lost your password to the Lucky Break Virtual Classroom? I won’t be the one replying when you send Team Lucky Break an SOS for a password reset. Looking for a transcript after a Wholesale Matchmaker call? My Operations Manager passes the baton to a third party firm that does it faster and cheaper than we ever could. I outsource the payroll and tax preparation for this business. The graphic design. The coding of my website. I delegate the management of my schedule and the coordination of my speaking engagements.

 

Why? Because I can’t outsource the curriculum creation or the client calls. Those need me, but not much else at Lucky Break does. By bringing on a team of independent contractors, third-party services, and employees, I can focus on what I do best, what generates the most income, and what delivers the most joy. But delegating that first task can be brutal.

 

  • Play to your strengths.  Take out a blank sheet of paper and physically list everything that you do for your company, then rate each task on a scale of 1 to 5 for two factors: How competent do you feel in your abilities? (1 being least + 5 being most competent.) How happy does this task make you? (1 being utterly miserable + 5 being most rapturous joy.) Add those two numbers together and you’ll have a score of 2-10 for each line item.

Scan back through and circle the five tasks with the lowest scores… get those things off your plate ASAP. You’re either not very skilled in them or they’re draining your energy. This is your outsource/delegate list and you can keep picking them off one-by-one as the company grows.  Eventually, you’ll retain just the core tasks that you’re fantastically good at really excited about as your daily “to-do” list!

 

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Things That Keep Us Up At Night: Entrepreneur Anxiety

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Each year, I invite my clients to participate in the Lucky Break client survey. I ask you all sorts of things: about your business, about where you turn for advice, about how confident you feel in various aspects of your business, and about what biggest piece of entrepreneur anxiety is keeping you awake at night.

 

Several hundred people rose to the occasion this year (thank you!) and I wanted to share some of the responses with you. Why? Because so very many of us are lying awake with worry/ fear/ overwhelm at night, and there’s a surprising amount of commonality in what plagues us. Entrepreneurship is damn hard and sometimes I don’t think we talk about that enough.  In my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve often taken comfort in community, talking about the “hard stuff” and realizing that my worries and failures are well-tilled ground among the small business set. In fact, that’s the reason that I started a consulting company- to help us connect to one another, pull back the curtain on running a product-centered brand, dish “no b.s.” business advice, and help others benefit from the 3,719 mistakes I’ve made as an entrepreneur.

 

Entrepreneur Anxiety

 

I sifted through hundreds of survey answers to discover that the vast majority of replies fell under one of five main “umbrellas.” Below you’ll find some direct-from-our-mouths answers about what’s rumbling across the brain waves at 1am. The responses are purposefully provided without any identifying information, because the replies could easily have come from any of us!

 

ENTREPRENEUR ANXIETY + FEAR OF FAILURE + JEOPARDIZING OUR FAMILIES

  • Fear holding me back every step of the way. Worried that I’ll waste my family’s money on a failed attempt at entrepreneurship.
  • Every-frigging-thing.
  • Worrying that I’ll fail.
  • Not getting this company I’ve worked so hard for off the ground and where I want it to be.
  • Wondering if it’s all worth it.
  • Are my products good enough?
  • Family balance.
  • Should I continue this business or shut it down? Is it adding to or taking away from my life?
  • Managing anxiety, and managing unfounded doubts about potential success and failure when taking risks.
  • Imposter syndrome.

Mercy… that’s is a heavy list, isn’t it? I put it forward because I think these are the anxieties that constantly dance through our heads, but so rarely roll forth from our mouths. But there is comfort in the commonality… you aren’t alone. You’re not the only one facing that fear, white-knuckling it, and sweating it out.  In my experience (and in the experience of the majority of my consulting clients), struggle is at the very core of entrepreneurship.  But there’s a tremendous beauty in challenging ourselves, pushing outside our comfort zones, and taking a risk. It’s never easy and rarely boring, but there’s almost nothing else I’d rather do with my life at this point.

 

Here’s my advice…

 

Nervous energy isn’t your friend. And I say that as someone whose first grade teacher gave her a book about anxiety at the ripe old age of 6. I’ve ultimately realized that all energy is either productive or destructive, and anxiety is massively destructive energy. That doesn’t mean that we should go running off of cliffs blindfolded in the name of courage. We shouldn’t ignore our gut, but it’s wise to be aware of (and attuned to) our nervous energy. Once we’ve made a decision, stand confidently in those decisions.  Don’t give into panic or stagnation or the negative narrative that your mind wants to produce. Becoming more self-aware is an essential building block of business success.

One of my favorite books to read to steady myself and help me pay attention to the negative narratives that run on a loop in my head is Rising Strong by Brene Brown.  It’s a good read and I hope you might find some value in it, too.

 

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Impostor syndrome is real.  And we all suffer from it. I don’t think there’s any level of success that’s immune from this beast. But the key- I think- is to hear that narrative when it pops up. Be attuned of it, but don’t indulge it. Two things that help me:

  • Keeping a journal of my accomplishments.  Progress is hard to see when it’s incremental and we’re standing so very close to it. But if I keep a notebook nearby (or even a digital note on my smartphone), then I can casually jot down the wins- both large and small- in the moment.  When I feel stagnant and like I’m up against the impossible, I leaf back through those notes and I’m continually reminded of just how far I’ve come.

 

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