or any other conference you attend . . .

By Steve Moran

This may not be true for you, but I bet it is . . . the two NIC conferences are the coolest, most intense, and scariest conferences that one can attend in the senior living space. They can be so difficult and frustrating that I know several dozen people who don’t attend.

My first one was three years ago and I was excited and scared to death. Senior Housing Forum was just getting traction and I was essentially a completely unknown person. At that conference I went as an employee of Vigil Health Solutions and my goal was to meet as many people as possible. I was smart enough to know that this was primarily a financial conference and that while brief vendor introductions were ok, any kind of sales pitch was bad form.

Not having any better guidance, I set for myself a goal of meeting 100 people . . . which I managed to do. It would have been a lot better if I had the advice of this article written by Andy Crestodina, titled 34 Ways to Get The Most From A Conference. Here are my favorites:

  • Polish your elevator pitch — He suggests the following:

  • Invite an old contact or friend to go with you — I would add that even better would be to find a friend who already knows a lot of people, someone who can help you with introductions.

  • Have an intriguing question you can start with. My standard is this: What new cool thing are you doing or working on? It has to be one that is of real interest to you and likely to be something others would like to talk about.

  • Sit in the front row of presentations. This is the single best way to have a shot at meeting the speakers. If you are in front you will get there first which gives you your best shot at a conversation.

  • Maybe I shouldn’t list this one, but their number 12 is bail out of bad sessions . . . or just sessions that are not a fit for you. Then go find another session or find someone to have a conversation with.

  • Join someone new for every meal. If you see someone sitting alone ask if you can join them. Hardly anyone really likes to eat alone if only because it makes you feel like a loser (well that is what happens to me anyway). Along the same lines, don’t just eat with people you already know well.

  • Don’t waste cocktail and bar time . . . even if you don’t drink. It is a time of relaxation and people are more open to making new connections.

  • When you meet someone write notes on the back (or front) of their card that will prompt you to remember what makes them important to you. Yep, you can do it right in front of them, they have the same problem of remembering.  

  • Take a selfie with your new friends and post it on social media. They will like it and so will you.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. My favorites right now are some Croc sandals. They look a little weird but at the end of the day my feet are very happy. Besides they might be just the conversation starter you need.

  • Carry and use breath mints . . . no explanation needed here.

Now that you are completely prep’d I am looking forward to seeing you at the NIC Spring Conference in Dallas.