Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

How do you make the most of a conference?



I was just asked by the folks at the Eventbrite, a tool for events I use often, if I would offer some suggestions for how to be more successful when networking at a conference. You’ll see the great infographic they created below, but I’d like to emphasize a few of my main ideas on this topic.

  1. It is NOT about what the people at the conference can do for you, it’s about what you can do for them in order to earn the right to have a real business relationship.
  2. Be a connector, imagine the conference as a giant party where you are the host and it is your job to make sure that all of the guests have a great time and meet lots of interesting people. So focus being a superb connector of cool people, they will appreciate your efforts a great deal and in turn will introduce you to their cool colleagues.
  3. When you meet someone, ask about their business, then ask them what are two or three of the big challenges they are facing that they would love to have help with, then do everything you can to connect them with someone that can assist them. There might be a chance that they will mention something that you can help them with, but the goal here is just offer assistance, not try to get a new client right away.
  4. Follow up soon after the conference, not to ask for business, but to say how wonderful it was to meet them and then try to offer more value. Connect with them on social media, connect them with someone you know that you think they’d like to meet, recommend a great book on a topic they are interested in, send them a fantastic article or a link to a great blog – and then send them something else of value every month or so. And then, every now and then, send them something about your company, products or services – not something super  salesy — it has to be something interesting and of real value to them. If they are a great potential customer they will eventually reach back out to you and ask more about your business and how you can help them.

Here are a few more suggestions from the folks at Eventbrite and me…



  1. Hi John,
    My wife, Linda is the best conversationalist I have ever been around at engaging new people in a social situation. She engages a person and ask questions about them and their family. She NEVER talks about herself. I have learned so much about her listening skills, one of my favorites techniques she uses is that whatever is the answer she receives from her co- conversation, she picks out a word in their answer to become the “seed” for her next question ! She moves along seamlessly without a hint of interrogating them!

  2. John,

    Always look forward to reading your email. Your point about asking questions is spot on. I have a few simple questions for conferences that typically gets folks talking;
    1. Why are you hear?
    2. What are your goals for the conference?
    3. How does this conference relate to your day to day role and focus?


  3. Stephanie George says:

    Since a lot of conferences use apps to connect to the venue and the other attendees, I’ve found it helpful to figure out a couple of folks I’d like to meet because they just sound interesting to me.

    I find it most difficult to manage timely follow up since I work alone (currently). Any recommendations on getting the follow up done timely and sincerely?

    • This is from a friend of mine:

      Hi Stephanie, I recommend Always Be In Contact, an iOS app we developed and it’s available on the app store, you can visit our website for a link to download it:

      Whenever you add a new contact in Always Be In Contact, it gets added to your iPhone contacts and you get a reminder to follow up. It also stores the location where you added the contact and you can you include an event or conference name. I would love to hear your feedback on the app, thanks!


  4. I am the founder and CEO of a Women’s Entrepreneur group. Our events focus on making it easy for all to make those important connections. Look for events that offer both structure and informal networking opportunities.

    Many people DREAD networking. Rather, approach networking with an open mind and a sense of confident HAPPINESS. (a fine attitude for just about everything!) You will find yourself more approachable, better able to listen, and others will remember you — and want to help you connect.

    Stephanie, timely follow up is a challenge, and so important to do. My suggestion is to take notes on the back of the individual’s card regarding their interests – both work and personal (gardening, recent vacation, etc). Note also if you have seen a specific business-related match, or have an “ask” to pose to that person.

    Immediately after the conference, find an article that is a match to your notes for your new contacts. Send a brief note; “It was great to meet you, and I thought you would find this interesting.” This initial email shows you listened, and were interested in THEM – not just what they might do for you. A few days later, follow up by phone or email to the contacts you wish to cement for your business.

  5. Barry Hall says:

    As usual John many thanks for a very informative post which is much appreciated.
    Best regards