I was thinking about how networking is more effective for me when I go fully prepared with goals for the event. Especially if an event costs money to attend, I want to activate my story by putting it in action and making the most of my time and money. It’s almost as if I can think of that money as sponsorship, then I’m taking my investment more seriously. After brainstorming some ideas to activate our story at events, I came up with five areas of the story by name, characters, narration, setting, and message.
Sponsors get to place their logo/company name everywhere. Well, we’re not technically sponsors at an event, but we could prominently display our logo on a shirt or badge. Name recognition is huge, because it takes folks several times of hearing or seeing it to get who we are and what we do.
A business story includes several characters that will progress the story of our business, profession, or current project along. Who are these people and what specifically will we ask of them? For an introduction to a certain person? A question about an industry or a how-to? A sponsor typically answers these questions before attending an event.
It’s up to us as storytellers to set the direction of the plot – to offer ourselves as connectors and resources when we network. This builds goodwill and extends our network for mutually beneficial connections long term. We can even place ourselves prominently by volunteering at the event. One time without asking the organizers, I stood at the door and greeted hundreds returning from lunch at a conference. It gave me exposure and a sense of authority. In fact, someone came up to me to ask a logistics question about the conference, as if I were an organizer!
The event type, place, and agenda might affect our story. Is the event primarily other people in our profession? Are there connectors there with a high sphere of influence? The conversation might be different at a sit down dinner than it would at an event of open networking. Follow the rules of good networking, and adapt your story to the setting. Sponsors know in advance what to expect and how to best use that setting to frame their objectives.
Was our presence felt at the event? Did we leave an impression through connecting, sharing, or asking? It’s good for us to know our message and leave a positive impression of it by the end of the event. This is not done by pushing cards or flyers at people. Think of the sponsors that have left an impression on you – isn’t it mostly because they had something to offer or give?
Did I miss anything? What do you think of using the idea of sponsorship as a way to think about our attendance at events?
Dori "Story" Gilbert is Chief Storycologist; passionate about professionals, their journey, and their ability to direct a career story they love.