With the 2017 National Mortgage Conference happening this weekend, it’s important to step back and understand how you should be taking advantage of such events to help lay the foundation stones for successful future business opportunities and activities. We all love the parties, but your core value and your future success depend on many other things.

While most people will tell you to “take lots of notes or recordings” or “speak to as many people as possible,” the true value gathered from an event, especially one filled with networking opportunities, is a lot more organic than that.

1) Keep an open mind

It’s very easy to conclude that you are the expert in your respective field. To be honest, we all want to get to a point where we have strong brand value that people will recognize and respect. It’s part of doing business. However, don’t let your drive to create a strong brand cloud your ability to keep learning from others, no matter where they are at professionally.

By keeping an open mind, you are giving yourself an opportunity to learn, perhaps not new ideas, but new perspectives in how others tackle the same or similar situations in other ways. It expands your own knowledge, while giving you a better understanding of how your peers in the industry are adjusting to or tackling our ever changing channel.

2) Ask a lot of questions

Listening is fantastic, but you are not an information box that is just having knowledge poured in.

Most speakers will craft presentations based on their professional experience, in addition to feedback they have received from audiences over the years. Their job is to provide information that can be applicable, that can add value to the individual and the bottom line.

However, like a tailored suit, sometimes a topic needs to be customized to your situation, and asking questions will help bring clarity to you and your specific business dilemmas. Become curious about the topics being presented by the breakout session speakers and keynotes and actually engage when you get an opportunity to do so.

Also, asking questions is not just limited to the actual sessions or keynotes. Ask anyone questions, especially during networking opportunities. Because, how does a conversation progress without a catalyst?

3) Networking, simplified

I am guilty of not following this advice, but I’ve learned a lot by making this happen

For a growing industry like ours, it’s easy to attend an annual event—especially a conference—and be tempted to seek out your friends and colleagues and end up chatting and catching up the whole time.

Don’t.

The comfort of friends and colleagues is super important, but so is the need to build new relationships and network. Whether you are grabbing breakfast in the morning, attending a breakout session, or just sipping a cocktail at a reception, engage with new faces around you. These are all opportunities to network, because networking is just a fancy way of labeling that you are saying hello to new people. You don’t need a designated event or activity to tell you to do that.

What do you talk about?

Anything. Seriously.

You don’t need to have a complicated elevator pitch, or some profound topic from the news to talk about. Say hello, be positive and engage. Ask questions. The best conversations are those that organically build themselves.

4) It’s not only about business

Yes, here come the eye rolls.

I get it.

It’s all about business, and you want to take advantage of your conference or event attendance to meet with people and find new opportunities for the bottom line. However, speaking with people because you are interested in a good conversation may expand your perspective on things, spark new ideas, create new opportunities not explored before, or even just expand your understanding of the channel.

One of the best places to have a solid conversation is at an event like a trade show. While you may have a list of people you want to speak with, randomly walk into any booth and learn what they do and what they have to offer. In the digital age (and I speak as a digital marketer), it is so easy to just read up on what we want that we don’t take a moment to say “what if” and explore other options and possibilities.

5) Define what YOU want to get out of the event

It amazes me how many people attend an event or a conference “just because.”

Listen, if attending events and conferences is a vacation to you, that’s all good. That is what you want to get out of it, and defining that is very important.

The only way to truly get value out of attending events is defining what you want from it in advance. Whether it’s a specific skill, meeting a number of organizations, forming new partnerships, or simply saying hello to existing partners, defining what you want out of your attendance makes it that much more productive and enjoyable, giving you room to expand your experience.

 

While some people are going to read this saying “duh, no joke,” these are organic elements that many people don’t pay attention to until after the event has passed. Missed opportunities and incomplete experiences are unproductive. With time being a very valuable resource for a mortgage broker, it’s important that we use our time wisely with longer-term goals kept firmly in mind.

For those attending the 2017 National Mortgage Conference this weekend, or any event after that, enjoy your attendance!