Next month, thousands of mailing professionals will gather in Nashville, TN for the 2016 National Postal Forum (“NPF”). From Sunday, March 20th through Wednesday, March 23, attendees will be able to attend educational classes, interact with vendors in the exhibit hall and meet with senior US Postal Service officials. And just as importantly, network with fellow industry managers.
Whenever I attend the NPF, I always follow the advice of my good friend, Paul Balbastro, for getting the most out of a conference: the "30-30-30-10 Rule". Paul says you should spend:
- 30% of your time in classes,
- 30% of your time at the exhibits,
- 30% of your time networking, and
- 10% of your time enjoying the host city.
Most people follow only 3 of Paul's recommendations. Too many ignore the most important one – networking. Many times, people attend a conference and leave without getting to know a single new person. They might nod to the person next to them in a class, but they don’t take the opportunity to get to know them.
This year, the NPF and the Berkshire Company are working together to present a free and exclusive webinar on Networking at the NPF in Nashville. This webinar will provide practical advice and tips for first-time attendees and industry veterans alike on getting the most out of your NPF experience.
The webinar will take place on Wednesday, February 17, at 12:00 ET, 11:00 CT, 10:00 MT, and 9:00 PT. Participation is limited to the first 100 registrants, and there are less than 20 spaces left, so you need to register today!
In the meanwhile, here are 6 tips to help you be successful in your networking:
1. Have a positive attitude. People like to meet upbeat people. If you display an attitude of confidence and resolve, people will be drawn to that. Watch what happens in any room. People are drawn to the people who look like they belong, who look like they're happy to be there.
2. Look people in the eye when you’re talking to them, and more importantly, when they’re talking to you. Don't be looking around the room for someone else to talk to. Give them visual signals that you’re listening to what they’re saying. Nod your head if they say something you agree with. Smile when they say something humorous. Let them know that they have your attention.
3. When talking with someone, look for the ways you’re similar, not different. Pick up on what the person says that relates directly or indirectly to you. Acknowledge that you can relate to what they're talking about. Use the conversation to connect, not separate.
4. Years ago, I met Rod Walz, of Walz Mailing Solutions. Rod invented one of the first automated certified mailers, and I hope to see him again at the National Postal Forum. Rod told me, that to be remembered, be interested, not interesting. Don’t try and impress people with stories of your own achievements. Don't try and show how smart you are, or how interesting you are. Let them have the spotlight, and show an interest in what they’re talking about. Ask questions about their area of interest or expertise. Find out why they're interesting. Be the audience for a while.
5. Your mother was right, politeness counts. Show respect to the people you’re talking to. "Sir" and "Ma'am" are still appropriate, no matter what century we're living in. Don’t use off-color language or tell risqué jokes when you're meeting people. Never put down anyone else – any person, any race, any religion, or any nationality. You don’t know who you may offend. This isn’t political correctness, it’s politeness. Oscar Wilde once said, "A gentleman never hurts someone's feelings, unintentionally." Be a gentleman, be a lady. And if you hear gossip, please don’t repeat it.
6. Follow up. Meeting people is only the first step in networking. It's the seed you plant. And you must cultivate the seeds in the garden that is your network in order for it to grow. You must follow-up. You can follow-up with emails or a letter, maybe even a hand-written letter, after meeting someone. If you aren't following up, you aren't networking.
The National Postal Forum is a great opportunity to learn – from instructors, from vendors, and most of all, your fellow attendees. Networking is the key that opens the door to your future success.