Conferences and Conventions: Time Spent Networking is Time Well Spent

By Ed Craine & Dr. Ivan Misner

Contrary to popular belief, attending mortgage conferences, conventions and seminars which place us in the company of competitors, can actually provide incredible networking opportunities. While we all plan to garner -at minimum-information from a conference, convention or seminar; we often overlook the obvious opportunity to capitalize on a prime networking opportunity, even if it is with competitors.

However, when we remember that any chance we’re given to make new contacts, or get our names “out there,” is a valuable opportunity; we can then set about to take advantage of learning new information, and of networking for business growth.

Here are four reasons that attending conferences and seminars will supplement your existing networking efforts.

1. You’ll Make New Friends

Conventions, conferences and even seminars provide a great opportunity for us all to make new friends. But you’ll need to seek them out. Even if you attend a conference with a friend or colleague, make it a point to distance yourself from them. By only talking with the person you attended the event with; you will close the door of opportunities to make new friends.

To avoid being seen as standoffish or closed off from others when you attend a conference with someone, challenge one another to a friendly competition. Try to see who can meet the most accountants for example, if you’re attending a seminar on how to maximize tax benefits of your mortgage. Or similarly, challenge one another to meet the greatest number of first time home buyers attending the seminar. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you’re not only mingling with people you already know.

Another great way to meet new friends is by refusing to sit by anyone you know. Even if you have only met someone once, or just met them before the conference started, don’t sit with them. You’ll be able to speak with anyone you’ve already met at a later time. On the other hand, if you don’t sit with someone new, you may never get to meet them! You may also consider changing seats after designated breaks, meals, etc. This will maximize the number of people you meet at the event.

Of course sitting near someone new won’t make you friends with them unless you make the effort to introduce yourself. This will require that you put forth a bit more effort than merely nodding and smiling, but it will be worth it. Take your seat and immediately introduce yourself by way of a friendly handshake. Once introductions have been made, but before the seminar starts, try to get a business card from each person on either side of you. You’ll need it to follow up with them later.

2. You’ll Meet Your Competition

 

Conferences, seminars and conventions will allow you to meet your competition. Although as a networking coup, this may sound counterintuitive, that’s exactly what meeting the competition is; a coup. By meeting others in your field you’ll be able to hear their elevator speeches, you’ll be privy to their specialties and thus be able to distinguish yourself from them at this and other events in the future. And that’s the worst case scenario!

In best case scenarios you may meet a friendly competitor who just so happens to specialize in an area of mortgage brokering that you don’t. Consider you meet a fellow mortgage broker while standing in line for coffee. Don’t shy away from maintaining conversation with them, even after you find out that like you, they specialize in working with first time home buyers.

Although technically, this competitor is after the same market as you, if you continue to engage in conversation with them regardless of this fact, you may find out that they also specialize in 2-4 unit commercial property loans. If you don’t have any experience in this area of origination, you may have just met a great contact for referring your clients to for assistance with commercial loans. Moreover, you may find that your new friend is desperate to find a broker who has FHA lending experience, a service you would gladly supply to their referrals.

3. Your Voice Will Be Heard

The preceding reasons for using conventions, seminars and conferences to network are only important because they allow for your business message to be heard. While not every person you meet should be viewed as a potential client (as many of them will be direct competitors) every person should be viewed as potential PR agent for your business. That is, by delivering your core business message, mission, or motto you are increasing your brand awareness whether you realize it or not. Each person who receives your message may then share your message with others, acting de facto as a publicist for your business.

4. You’ll Sharpen Your Social Networking Skills

By capitalizing on every opportunity at your disposal to network, you’re doing yourself an enormous favor in terms of potential business growth. Simply put, the more you network and become comfortable with socializing, the better you’ll become at both. You’ll learn what works in networking, and what methods for striking up conversations are most comfortable for you. Sharpening these skills will only make you a better mortgage broker, and therefore a more successful mortgage broker.

No matter which way you slice it, when you recognize the value of networking in all situations, you’ll begin to realize just how many opportunities to do so abound. Understanding that networking –even with competitors- is one of the single greatest ways to further

Ed Craine is CEO of San Francisco-based Smith Craine Finance, an award-winning mortgage brokerage. He was appointed vice president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers in 2007 and also is an executive director for BNI. Contact Craine at (415) 406-2330 or ecraine@smithcraine.com.

Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author; founder and chairman of BNI (www.bni.com); and founder and visionary behind the Referral Institute (www.referralintstitute.com). He can be reached at misner@bni.com.

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