It’s that time again! The produce industry is set to converge on Orlando, Fla., for Fresh Summit 2018. Are you ready with the right strategies to deepen your connections and broaden your network?
In the first piece in this series, I talked about strategies for advance planning. Now I’ll switch gears and deliver my top 5 tips for how to connect more effectively during Fresh Summit.
1. Get out of your comfort zone
For industry veterans, it’s easy to spend your time reconnecting with people you already know. If you are new to the industry, it may be tempting to congregate with your co-workers. Remember that your opportunities to connect with someone new are out there, beyond the safety of those familiar faces. Some of my most fruitful industry relationships were made possible because I stepped out of my comfort zone.
2. Refine your elevator pitch
In 30 seconds or less, you should be able to tell someone about yourself in a way that’s engaging and memorable. To get really good at this, write it down, hone the details and practice it out loud until it flows naturally.
Your pitch should tell the listener who you are, what you do and how you make a difference. Depending on the circumstances, you might include a call to action. I’ve found that closing with an engaging question makes you more memorable and smoothly turns the attention back to the listener.
3. Ask great questions
They are the antidote to uncomfortable silence. To get people talking, have a few questions in mind. I’ve found the best conversation-starters are open-ended and thought-provoking, but not invasive. Be the person at the banquet table that engages everyone by asking an interesting question. If this is difficult for you, try jotting down a few ideas in advance and refer to them before you walk into an event.
4. Set your intentions
Think about how you want to “be” during Fresh Summit or any big event. Write down the specific words that reflect how you want to show up and interact. What is the impression you wish to make? I take a few moments to check in with my intentions at the start of each day and as I transition from one event to the next.
5. Work your plan
Keep reminding yourself of who you intended to connect with and take every opportunity to engage with those individuals. I’ve found that the three days of Fresh Summit fly by quickly. If I don’t stay focused, I’ll be disappointed in my results. Keep working your plan to avoid this outcome.
Follow these strategies to be fully engaged and present with your Fresh Summit experience. Be thoughtful about how you connect to make the most of every networking opportunity.
Stay tuned for the final article in this series, which will cover how to squeeze the most value from the event after you return home from Fresh Summit.
Wendy McManus is the former retail program manager for the National Mango Board and is now a leadership coach at Connect 2 Potential.