1. Make new friends. Don't be a clique and hang out with only your current business associates and friends. If you spread out, you'll cover more ground. Misner suggests challenging each other by coming back together only when you've each met 10 new businesspeople and have their cards. He also suggests requesting two when you're exchanging business cards so that you can share with your associates. "In effect, this doubles the number of contacts you'll both come away with," says Misner.
Also, instead of sitting with people you know or are familiar with at a session, sit next to different people. Force yourself out of your comfort zone. And if you are attending a session where there's a break, when you re-enter the room, sit in a different spot in order to reach more attendees.
If you're going through the effort of sitting near unfamiliar faces, by all means, introduce yourself to those on either side of you. Be verbal and introduce yourself. Don't just politely nod to the person. Always ask for the business card, and as Misner suggests, note the name and date of the event on the back of the card, as well as anything that will help you remember the person later.
2. Meet the competition. When you're attending a tradeshow, again, stretch the norm by making an effort to get to know your competition. You might discover some new opportunities or share some ways to attack business problems that you're both dealing with. And be sure to follow up with them after the show.
3. Let your voice be heard. If you attend professional development sessions or other events where it's a collaborative environment, take the opportunity to speak up. Have questions prepared when the speaker opens up the floor. Participate in conversations where there's a sharing of ideas and make good, solid business points when possible. By taking the initiative, you'll be noticed in the crowd and could soon be sought after for your insight or expertise.
Also make it a point to introduce yourself to the person responsible for booking the topics and speakers for next year's event, or learn about the process for getting accepted as a speaker. This visibility could be the added boost your business needs.
4. Be social. Finally, have some fun. Don't miss the opportunity to attend mixers and other networking events. These are typically more casual settings, and are easier environments for approaching new people and making contacts.
"Don't view these events as the chance to close a deal, but rather as the chance to take the first step down the long, profitable road of friendship and mutual benefit with a new word-of-mouth marketing partner," says Misner. "The most important thing I can impart to you is that you must approach this with a sense of wanting to learn as much as you can about the other people you'll meet instead of trying to tell them all about you."
For a comprehensive list of the networking events and educational sessions at The PPAI Expo 2012, go to www.theppaiexpo.com. There's just one more show day left. Tune in tomorrow for a PCT wrap-up.
Source: Ivan Misner is founder and chairman of BNI, a professional business networking organization headquartered in Upland, California. He is also a New York Times bestselling author.